Sacred Space and Japanese Art at the Spencer Museum of Art
Entry by Sherry Fowler
Located in Uji, Mimurodoji is the tenth stop on the Saikoku Kannon pilgrimage route. Below Hiroshige II’s framed panel showing the temple grounds, Kunisada illustrated a legend about the power of the Kannon image from Mimurodoji temple. According to the text in the print, a farm girl from Kawada village was very devout in her practice of chanting the Lotus sūtra and because she fervently believed in the Mimurodoji Thousand-armed Kannon she never killed a living thing. One day she came across a village man who was about to kill a crab, but she convinced him to let it go. Later when the girl’s father was plowing his field, he came across a snake trying to swallow a frog. He tried to convince the snake to release it by saying in jest, “If you let the frog go, I will give you my daughter.” The snake then spit out the frog and disappeared into a field. That night the snake, who had transformed into a man, said, “As promised, I have returned.” In shock, the father asked him to come back in two or three days. During that time his daughter sealed herself within her room and chanted the Lotus sūtra with a deep faith in the Mimurodoji Kannon. When the snake returned and smashed the door down with his tail, a swarm of crabs suddenly appeared and sliced him to pieces with their claws.
The scene shows the girl concentrating on reading the sutra. Her incense burner has toppled onto the floor as the snake, who looks like a kabuki actor, rushes into her room, only to be attacked by the crabs. While the story demonstrates that prayers directed to the powerful Mimurodoji Kannon can save one from peril, it is also a moral tale about repaying kindness. If a mere crustacean can repay a merciful act, then humans certainly should be able to do the same.
Mimurodoji (Number 10) from the seriesSaikoku sanjūsansho, Kannon reigenki ( Thirty-three temple pilgrimage of the western country, chronicle of Kannon miracles)
Japan, Utagawa Kunisada (1786–1864) and Utagawa Hiroshige II (1826–1869)
1859, Edo period (1615–1868)
36.4 x 25.5 cm