These three scrolls are exact copies of a set painted in 1531 by Kano Motonobu (1476-1559) in the Suntory Museum of Art, Tokyo and formerly in the collection of the Ikeda family, Inaba province (present-day Shimane Prefecture). The text of the originals was transcribed by Konoe Naomichi (1472-1544), Johoji Kojo (1453-1538) and Shoren'in Sonchin (1504-1550). See Sakakibara Satoru, "Suntory Bijutsukanbon 'Shuten Doji emaki' o megutte" [Shuten Doji emaki (illustrated handscrolls) owned by the Suntory Museum of Art], Kokka 1076 (part 1) (1984):7--26; and Kokka 1077 (part 2) (1984):33--61. See also Satake Akihiro, Shuten Doji ibun, Heibonsha Sensho 55 (Tokyo: Heibonsha Sensho, 1977). A seventeenth-century version of the first scroll was sold in these Rooms 24 October, 1991, lot 754. For a later example in the Spencer Collection in the New York Public Library see Miyeko Murase, Tales of Japan: Scrolls and Prints from the New York Public Library (Oxford University Press: 1986), no. 27.
The tale is that of the warrior Minamoto no Yorimitsu (948-1041), or Raiko, who received an imperial order to destroy Shuten Doji, the demon of Mount Ibuki (Ibukiyama) in the province of Omi (present-day Shiga Prefecture). This is the second version of the story derived from the immensely popular original version set at Mount Oe in the Tamba region of Kyoto. Shuten Doji (literally, "drunkard boy") and his evil cronies have been kidnapping beautiful young women from Kyoto and murdering them in their mountain fortress. The warrior band makes its way to the fortress, tricks the demon into a drunken stupor and decapitates him. The heroes release the captive ladies and return to Kyoto in triumph. It is a tale of humor, bloodshed, brutality and miracles, related in graphic detail.
In the opening scene of the first scroll Raiko is shown at the Imperial Palace where he and his companions receive gifts from the emperor, who has ordered him to put an end to the depradations of the demon on Mount Ibuki. Raiko then visits three Shinto shrines to petition the deities for their blessings: Iwashimizu Hachiman Shrine in Kyoto, Sumiyoshi Shrine in Osaka and the Kumano Shrines in Wakayama. The Kumano Shrines and the famous Nachi waterfall are deep in a mountain valley on the Kii peninsula.
Raiko and his four companions are next seen putting on their disguises as itinerant Buddhist priests, concealing their suits of armor in their backpacks, which ordinarily hold scriptures, food and clothing. On their way to Mount Ibuki they encounter three celestial beings disguised as humans who prove to be the gods of Shinto shrines. In consecutive narration, Raiko and his companions are shown twice in two adjacent rooms of the same mansion. First they greet the three Shinto gods, then they receive two gifts. The first gift is wine which will cause Shuten Doji to become drunk and lose his magic powers. The second is a magic helmet which will protect Raiko.
Raiko and his companions then set off on their journey. With the assistance of the deities they discover a passage through the mountains, crossing a deep gorge on a fallen tree trunk. There follows another long section of continuous narration in which they are shown three times, first climbing up the other side of the gorge, then exiting through a cave on the opposite side of the mountain pass, and finally back on safe ground beside a river.
In the first scene of the second scroll, they discover a beautiful young woman wiping tears from her eyes as she pulls the pink kimono of a recent victim from a river, an indication that they are close to the fortress of the demon. They arrive at the demon's camp and plot their strategy. The demon (still in human form) comes out to greet them and treates them to a banquet at which the centerpiece is a woman's leg served up on a chopping board. The warriors are made to partake of this delicacy. Their plan is to get the demon to pass out in a drunken stupor. They pour special sake from the bamboo tubes they have carried with them in their packs. Drunken dancing and revelry are followed by a humorous scene of vomiting in the garden.
In the third scroll two young women lead the warriors (now in full fighting gear) into the demon's lair, his private quarters. He lies sprawled on the floor of his bedroom, quite drunk, and surrounded by a bevy of beautiful young ladies. The warriors take advantage of the opportunity to tie up the demon with rope, then chop off his head. The head flies through the air and lands on Raiko, who is saved by his miraculous helmet. The warriors slaughter the other evil-doers and are subsequently led to the site of the mass burial of many innocent young women, their bodies shown in various stages of decomposition. The heads of the slaughtered evil-doers are carried back down the mountain by the victorious warriors and are paraded through the streets in buckets.