The "Royal Visit to Ohara" is a famous scene from the final chapter of the thirteenth-century battle epic, Heike Monogatari (Tale of the Heike). Retired Emperor Goshirakawa stands on the porch of the hermitage at Jakkoin, a nunnery in Ohara, due north of Kyoto. In the spring of 1186 he traveled with his large retinue to pay respects to his daughter-in-law Kenreimon'in, mother of the child emperor Antoku, who perished at sea in the final battle between the warring Minamoto and Taira clans. The retired emperor is moved to tears at the sight of the nunnery, which has fallen into disrepair. Kenreimon'in and her former nurse, both now nuns, have been in the hills gathering firewood and flowers. They are shown descending a mountain path at the center of the screen.
The small figure of the heroine is surprisingly hard to find. The emphasis in this screen is on rustic vignettes: a mountain village with a woodcutter at the left and a beautiful garden filling the right-hand panels, for example. Describing a similar screen in the Burke collection Barbara Ford has pointed out that over time the episode of the Royal Visit assumed a life of its own and by the seventeenth century was best known through the poetic text of the No drama based on the tale. That text describes quite literally the scene on the screen, complete with peripheral vignettes, and sets the stage for the sorrowful conversation that ensues between Goshirakawa and Kenreimon'in (Ford, "Tragic Heroines of the Heike Monogatari and Their Representation in Japanese Screen Painting," Orientations, vol. 28, no. 2 [February 1997], pp. 40-47).
The composition seen here is closely related to a single six-panel screen of the same subject in the Tokyo National Museum attributed to Hasegawa Kyuzo (1568-1593) (Yamane Yuzo, et al., Yamato-e kei jimbutsu [Figures in yamato-e style], Nihon byobu-e shusei [Compendium of Japanese screen paintings], vol. 5 [Tokyo: Kodansha, 1979], pl. 45). See also Michael R. Cunningham, The Triumph of Japanese Style: 16th-Century Art in Japan (Cleveland: The Cleveland Museum of Art), no. 24.