Important Cultural PropertyTsuchigumo no Sōshi Emaki (Narrative picture scroll of the story of earth spider)

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  • 1 scroll
  • Color on paper
  • 29.2x975.7
  • Kamakura period/13th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • A-18

This is a picture scroll depicting a story of a battle between Tsuchigumo (a demon in the shape of a giant ground spider) and Minamoto no Yorimitsu, a general in the mid-Heian period. The story is well known as an episode in Taiheiki (a warrior tale) and the Noh song "Tsuchigumo."
One day, Yorimitsu saw a skull flying in the sky and chased it with Watanabe no Tsuna to Kaguraoka, Kyoto. In a run-down house there, they found various monsters. Then a giant creature appeared in front of them. Yorimitsu and Tsuna fought together and finally defeated it. Then the creature showed its true colors: it was a giant ground spider.
Set in the run-down house, the scroll skillfully depicts the wide variety of monsters that appeared one after another and how Yorimitsu fought against them. This scroll is considered to be one of pioneering works leading up to Otogizoshi emaki (picture scrolls of popular short stories) that became prevalent in the Muromachi period.
While most of the paintings in Otogizoshi emaki were simple in style, the paintings in this picture scroll bear the characteristics of the authentic painting styles of the Kamakura period and traditional yamato-e (classical Japanese painting style), which makes this valuable historical material.