His device: (Fieldless) On a hexagon Or a rabbit's head cabossed sable.

Yamato-e -
Classical Painting Style of Japan
by Ishiyama Gen'tarou Yori'ie

Kanji for his name

An exploration of the culture of ancient Japan through the vehicle of service to the Kingdom by creating scroll blanks from tracings of period illustrated scrolls.

It's traditional here in our local SCA Kingdom that court awards at every level are accompanied by a hand-made scroll. Scrolls for higher-level awards like peerages are usually much nicer than those for merit-level awards, but almost everything gets a scroll of some kind. This creates a bottomless need for calligraphy and illumination work, and sometimes the pace set by our beloved ruling class outstrips the pace of production.

The Kingdom scriptorium recently put out a call for more "scroll blanks". These are general purpose, pre-illuminated scrolls to which calligraphy can be added later as needed. For European-style scrolls, this normally means leafy borders and such. I decided to use this challenge as an opportunity to improve my brushwork and teach myself Emaki-style illustrations.

I'm using bottled sumi ink on hosho (mulberry and sulphate) paper. I bought a "sketch pad" of this paper at the art store and it wasn't very expensive. I have an ink stick and suzuri ink stone for making ink from scratch, but I figured until my skills are better there's no sense spending the time making ink for it.

I am working from a few reference books on emaki that I have here at home and some that I have borrowed from the library and others. A bibliography is at the end of this document.

My process of reproduction is as follows. First, I find an image in a reference that I wish to reproduce. Then, I scan the image to a digital file. I enhance the digital image, convert it to grayscale, and print it to a laser printer. (Laser prints are waterproof and not susceptible to bleeding.) Next, I trace the print with a marker to darken the outlines. I place the outlined image on a light table, and cover it with a clean sheet of hosho paper.

I begin my reproduction by tracing the outlines with ink. I use a brush, and bottled sumi ink. Then, if the image calls for it, I use Japanese watercolors to color the image. Typically, the paper distorts as the watercolors dry. I dampen the paper and dry it in a press to flatten it. This process yields attractive handmade results, unhampered by my lack of freehand artistic talent.

In all, I created 60 scrolls blanks from 32 unique images. If you want to use any of these images for anything, please get my permission first. I almost always grant permission to anything not for profit.

Emaki Reproductions

Chojo Giga

The first (of four) Choju Giga scroll begins with the animals bathing in a stream. Then, they participate in archery contests and a meal is brought to them. Then, it appears a priest blesses their beasts of burden, One monkey steals a sacred branch and is chased. Well dressed nobles begin to arrive. There is a bit of dancing. There is a bit of wrestling, and perhaps some betting. Two monkeys leave the scene with a sugoroku set and a full purse. Finally, a monkey appears in court where he amuses some and embarrasses others.

All in all, it looks like an SCA event to me.

Choju Giga 02 01 Choju Giga 02 02
Choju Giga 02 03
Choju Giga 02 04

I took a little license with this excerpt from the Choju Giga. In the original, the figures are facing left, and the expression on their faces is one of dismay. Hideo Okudaira points out that since these scrolls are read from right to left, a reader progressing through the scroll by unrolling with the left hand and re-rolling with the right hand would see this reaction shot first and the chase scene (next) after. I thought that placing these figures on the left of the page (after the text) and having a pleasant reaction to the words on the scroll would be more appropriate.

Nobu Akira 01 01
Nobu Akira 01 02 Nobu Akira 01 03 Nobu Akira 01 04

The Choju Giga scrolls are drawn in the hakubyo style, which uses only black lines. The first two scrolls are attributed to the monk Toba Soujou who lived from 1053 to 1140 CE. These two emaki show mundane and fantastic animals imitating human beings.

chojugiga 03 01
chojugiga 03 02 chojugiga 03 03

Yes, I know that the Choju Giga emaki is just black and white, but I was in a room full of people who were doing illumination, and I succumbed to peer pressure.

chojugiga food 09 01
chojugiga food 09 02 chojugiga food 09 03

This image from the first scroll shows a rabbit servant carrying gifts (of food?) to a monkey who wears the kesa of a buddhist monk. The monk must be reciting sutras, as he is handling a string of prayer beads. I like this image, as it shows devotion to an ideal, as well as quiet support for the work of others. For the third redition, I actually played with the composition a bit more on the scroll blank than is shown. The two images are in diagonal corners of the paper, leaving room between them for text.

chojugiga 04 01

The late period copy of the Choju Giga that is held by the Sumiyoshi family has a fifth scroll that was lost from the scrolls at Kozan-ji temple. [Okudaira] This image from Wikipedia does not appear in the Kozan-ji version, so it must be from that additional "third" scroll. It depicts a monkey who has been armored with leaves, who is receiving a blessing from a monkey priest. A frog holds a lily pad as a parasol to shade the priest from the sun.

chojugiga bathing 01
chojugiga bathing 02 chojugiga bathing 03

At the very beginning of the first scroll, rabbits and monkeys bathe in a stream. It is ostensibly a ritual bath, but they do seem to be enjoying themselves.

chojugiga deerwash 01
chojugiga deerwash 02 chojugiga deerwash 03 chojugiga deerwash 04 chojugiga deerwash 05

The domestic animals also participate in the ritual bath. This kind of deer is considered to be sacred, and it is protected in several areas of Japan to this day. This same kind of deer is being blessed by a priest later in the first scroll.

chojugiga music 01
chojugiga music 02 chojugiga music 03 chojugiga music 04 chojugiga music 05 chojugiga music 06

The scroll may depict a religous festival, but it is still a festival! A fox carries food to the festival, and a rabbit carries a musical instrument (probably a shamisen).

chojugiga wrestle 02 01 chojugiga wrestle 02 02
chojugiga wrestle 01 01

There are also several wrestling matches between frogs and rabbits. In the first, a frog (unfairly!) bites the ears of a rabbit while a nearby rabbit watches. In the second, a frog bellows triumph over a rabbit while nearby frog spectators laugh and cheer. You can tell that the wrestling is all in fun because the thrown rabbit is also laughing. The thrown rabbit is one of the most famous images from the first scroll.

Dojo-ji Engi

Traced from the Dojo-ji Engi ("Legends of Dojo-ji Temple") emaki
16th century, in Dojo-ji, Wakayama Prefecture

dojojiengi 02 01 dojojiengi 01 01
dojojiengi 02 02 dojojiengi 02 03 dojojiengi 02 04 dojojiengi 01 02 dojojiengi 01 03 dojojiengi 01 04

The Dojo-ji Engi ("Legends of Dojo-ji Temple") scroll from the Muromachi period tells the tale of a wandering priest and his tragic relationship with another man’s wife. He flees her and is consumed by the fires of her anger while hiding in the bell of Dojo-ji temple. The prayers of the monks of Dojo-ji re-unite the lovers as spirits in the heavens. This late-period scroll is considered to be of poor artistic quality and "awkward" technique, but it shows a development towards real narrative literature. [Okudaira]

Eshi Zoshi

Traced from Eshi Zoshi (The Story of a Painter)
14th century, in the Imperial Collection

The original of this emaki is colored. My first rendition was just the outline, but subsequent renditions have been in various watercolors.

Eshi Zoshi 01 01 Eshi Zoshi 01 02
Eshi Zoshi 01 03
Eshi Zoshi 01 04
Eshi Zoshi 01 06
Eshi Zoshi 01 07
Eshi Zoshi 01 08

The Eshi Zoshi emaki from the 14th century follows the life of a poor artist in Japan’s Kamakura period. The rest of the tale’s not a pretty one, but in this scene the artist rejoices upon hearing of his appointment as a court painter. [Grilli]

Gaki Zoshi

The Gaki Zoshi scroll depicts the world of the hungry ghosts, one of the six realms of Buddhism. The ghosts exist in the human world, but are invisible. They are unable to acquire food or drink, and are forced to consume spilled liquids and human waste. The sixth section of this emaki contains tales of salvation of hungry ghosts. This particular image comes from a panel that shows Ananda, a disciple of Shakyamuni, teaching an incantation to achieve salvation to a hungry ghost. I have only included the ghost, who belches flames. The original is in color.

Gaki Zoshi 01 01 Gaki Zoshi 01 02

From a copy (dated to late 12th century) in the online exhibition of the Kyoto National Museum.

Heiji Monogatari

Traced from Heiji Monogatari (Tales of the Heiji Wars)
13th century, in the Boston Museum

The original of this emaki is colored. My first rendition was just the outline with a light ink wash to color the bowman's suikan, but subsequent renditions have been in various watercolors.

Heiji Monogatari 01 01 Heiji Monogatari 01 02
Heiji Monogatari 01 03
Heiji Monogatari 01 04
Heiji Monogatari 01 05
Heiji Monogatari 01 06
Heiji Monogatari 01 07

The Heiji Monogatari emaki from the 13th century tell of the tale of the 30+ years of war between the Heike (Taira) and Genji (Minamoto) clans in the 12th century. Only three scrolls remain, showing various campaigns, battles, and events. [Grilli]

Honen Shonen Eden

Traced from the Honen Shonen Eden (Pictorial Biography of Priest Honen) emaki
13th century, in the Zoujou-ji repository in Tokyo

honen Shonen Eden 01 01 honen Shonen Eden 01 02

Priest Honen is a saint of the Joud "Pure Land" sect of Buddhism and a proponent of achieving salvation by chanting the name of the Amida Buddha repeatedly. This emaki relates the achievements of this celebrated priest extols his virtues, and portrays important episodes in his life. The version containing this image is 2 scrolls long. A later version is 48 scrolls! In the original, a young priest paints a vision of the priest Shandao that appeared to Honen. [Murase]

Ippen Shonen Eden

Traced from the Ippen Shonen Eden (Pictorial Biography of Priest Ippen) emaki, a National Treasure of Japan. I'm pretty happy with the way this one came out. The images are fairly small in the original, but enlarging them brought out a bunch of interesting detail. The original detail, the physical attitudes and expressions of the people, the way the positions of their clothing shows motion, this is all fascinating to me from a storytelling perspective.

Ippen Shonen Eden 01 01

Priest Ippen was the founder of the Amidist sect of Buddhism, and this scroll was created soon after his death. The text was written by Ippen’s direct disciple Shikai. The emaki is dated 1299, and Ippen lived from 1239 to 1289. Despite his relatively short lifetime, his biography stretches across 12 scrolls, each at least 30 feet long and made of silk, not paper. Although here I focus on figures, the scrolls are predominantly landscape and poetry.

Grilli writes that in this scene, Ippen instructs the son of another priest. Wikipedia refers to this scene as Ippen and the Warrior and claims that the warrior is a convert to Ippen's "Pure Land Buddhism". To me, it looks like Ippen is remonstrating the warrior, and the warrior doesn't like it one bit. The warrior is preparing to draw his sword, and so is one of his henchmen. The other henchman looks like he's whistling for backup.

Journey to the East

Traced from The Journey to the East
Circa 750 CE, in Toushoudai-ji, Nara Prefecture

Journey to the East 01 01 Journey to the East 01 02

This scroll details events from the life of the Buddha. [Kidder]

Kasuga Gongen

Traced from Kasuga Gongen Reikenki (Miracles of Kasuga Gongen)
Dated 1309, in the Collection of the Imperial Household

kasugagongen 01

This is only one small scene from the Kasuga Gongen Reikenki scrolls that are explicitly dated to 1309. Minister of the Left Saionji Kimihira commissioned this set of twenty (!) scrolls from the painter Takashina no Takakane. They depict the miracles performed by the Shinto divinity Kasuga Gongen around Saionji's family shrine to Kasuga in Nara. The scrolls were kept at the shrine until the family donated them to the collection of the Imperial Family. [Grilli]

kasugagongen 02 01 kasugagongen 02 01
kasugagongen 02 01

This image shows the master carpenter with his long measuring stick, ready to check the dimensions of a framework. I modified one copy of the image to include a representation of the camp gate that the recipient of this scroll helped create. [Coaldrake]

Kawagoe Miyoshino Tenjin Engi

Traced from Kawagoe Miyoshino Tenjin Engi (Legends of Miyoshino Shrine) emaki
Circa 1600, in the collection of the eponymous Miyoshino Shrine

Kawagoe Miyoshino Tenjin Engi 01 01
Kawagoe Miyoshino Tenjin Engi 01 02

In this scene from the construction of the Miyoshino Shrine, a carpenter adjusts the set of his plane's blade. Adjustments to the kanna (plane) are made by tapping the dai (block) of the plane with a mallet Tapping at the ends of the plane deepens or lightens the cut. Japanese planes are pulled, rather than pushed like Western planes, and the carpenter often works while seated. Some consider it easier to pull the plane while seated than while standing. [Coaldrake]

Kegon Engi

Traced from Kegon-engi (Legends of the Kegon Sect) emaki
12th century, in Kozanji, Kyoto

kegonengi 01 01

The Kegon-engi (Legends of the Kegon Sect) emaki is a 6-scroll biography of the lives of the Korean priests who were important in founding the Kegon sect of Buddhism. The text of this scroll was written by the founder of the Kozanji temple, which is today the Toudai-ji temple where the scrolls are still kept. In this scene, the priest Gijyo speaks with Lady Zenmyo in T’ang era China. Variations in artistic style between this scene and others indicate multiple artists worked on the 270 feet of scroll, completing it in the 12th century. [Grilli]

Matsuzaki tenjin engi

Traced from the Matsuzaki tenjin engi emaki, Scroll 4
Dated to 1311 CE

Matsuzaki Tenjin Engi 01 01 Matsuzaki Tenjin Engi 01 02

This set of scrolls shows the construction of the Matsuzaki temple. This scroll in the set specifically shows the erection of the temple's frame. This images shows the Touryou (chief master carpenter) with his long kensao (measuring stick), ready to check the dimensions of the framework. This scroll shows a great deal of detail about Japanese timber frame construction, the tools used, and the practices of the people who use them. [Coaldrake]

The 36 Immortal Poets

During the Nara and Heian periods (8th to 13th centuries), poetry contests (uta-awase) were a popular pastime for courtly nobles. Near the end of the 10th century, two poets argued about who was the greatest poet ever, and decided to record their choices. Thus, competing lists of the 36 Immortal Poets were born.


Traced from The 36 Immortal Poets, Minamoto no Nobukaira
13th century, in the Sumitomo Kichizaemon collection, Kyoto

Nobu Akira 01 01
Nobu Akira 01 02 Nobu Akira 01 03 Nobu Akira 01 04

Owned by the Satake family until 1915, the "The 36 Immortal Poets" emaki from the 13th century comprise two scrolls of 18 poets each, and have been declared an important cultural property.

This poet, Minamoto no Nobuakira lived from 909 to 970 CE and his pensive pose matches the subdued mood of his accompanying poem. [Murase]


Traced from 36 Poets, Kintada, by Nobuzane
Kamakura period (1185 to 1333), in the Freer gallery of Art, Washington

Kintada 01 01

This image is from the second set of "36 Poets" attributed to Fujiwara no Nobuzane. This set shows the poets seated on mats. Kintada lived in the tenth century, so this 'portrait' could not have used the person of Kintada as a model. However, an attempt was made to capture the character of Kintada using a few simple lines, in the nise-e style. [Paine]


From the Narikane version of the 36 Immortal Poets in the collection of the Met Museum, from the Kamakura Period (12-14th cent.)

Kiyotada 01 01 Kiyotada 01 02 Kiyotada 01 03

In the late 13th century, Taira no Narikane compiled and calligraphied his own list of the 36 Immortal Poets, and included the poet Fujiwara Kiyotada. The illustration is by an unknown artist.

The original is "hakubyo" monochrome, but I added color for visual interest. I gave the first one colors to be pretty. I gave the second one colors to match the outfit I wore in Kyoto. I gave the third one the colors of an outfit I hope to have.


Nijou Tameshige is credited with one list from the late 14th century. This image of the poet Kiyohara Motosuke is from that version, though some analysts have their doubts about attributing it to Tameshige, placing it up to 100 years later.

Kiyohara 01 01 Kiyohara 01 02

I love the expressive nature of this original art. The original even has some pale coloration, which I didn't know was allowed for hakubyo art.

Yamabe no Akahito

The Satake family version of the "36 Immortal Poets" scroll was broken up into individual hanging scrolls about a hundred years ago. There was an exhibition of most of the individual panels at the Kyoto National Museum in 2019.

Satake 59 01 Satake 59 02 Satake 59 03

This portrait is of Yamabe no Akahito a poet of the Nara period (710 to 794 CE). He is best known for his anthology "The Man'yoshu", which contains 13 choka ("long poems") and 37 tanka ("short poems"). [Arima] One translation of his poem in the scroll reads: "When the tide rises at Wako in Chigata, when the flying cranes cry together, I fly to the fragrant garden."

Sakura, "Merry Making Under the Cherry Blossoms"

Traced from "Merrymaking Under the Cherry Blossoms" screen, circa 1600 by Kano Naganobu (1577-1654) now in the Tokyo National Museum

sakura 01 01
sakura 01 01 sakura 01 01

This screen by a nephew of the famous Kano Hideyori (of the "Maple Viewing" screen) shows the inheritance of his Uncle's style, with some refinements. This detail shows noble youths practicing their fighting. Other sections of the screen depict nobles dancing, eating, and watching performance, thus demonstrating that the SCA is an accurate recreation of Momoyama era Japan. Portions of an accompanying screen were lost to fire in 1923. [Hickman]

Seiko-ji Engi

Traced from Seiko-Ji Engi (History of Seiko-ji Temple) emaki
Late fifteenth century, by Tosa Mitsunobu

The temple at Seiko-ji houses a statue of the Bodhisatva Ksitigarbha, who is known as Jizou, the savior of children and protector of sinners who suffer in hell. This scroll tells the history and legends of the temple, starting from its foundation by the nobleman Taira Sukechika. [Murase]

seikojiengi 02 01

In this first scene, Sukechika receives a visit from a priest, who instructs him to reclaim a statue of Jizou that has been abandoned in the wilderness, and build a shrine for it.

Sukechika rides out with his retinue to fetch the statue, but when he finds it, he is unimpressed. It is small, and worn from its time in the wilderness. He desires a more impressive statue for his shrine, and returns home without this one. That night, Sukechika dreams of Jizou who is batching his feet by the well of Sukechika's mansion. The next morning, when Sukechika enters his courtyard there on a stone by the well are wet footprints where Sukechika dreamed Jizou had stood.

seikojiengi 01 01

Sukechika honors the wet footprints on the stone which confirm his dream of Jizou. The miracle convinces Sukechika to recover the statue. [Murase]

Sanjuniban Shokunin Uta-awase

The term "Shokunin Uta-awase" means "A Poetry Competition among People of Various Occupations". This type of scroll depicts an imaginary poetry competition between various craftsmen. In this type of painting, all the poetry is actually composed by a single poet, but each poem is illustrated with a portrait of a craftsperson with their tools. This kind of scroll should be contrasted with Uta-awase emaki of actual poetry contests, and Kasen emaki that depict famous (immortal) poets possibly of multiple generations.

[From the article utaawase-e on the Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System, retrieved October 22, 2014 (http://www.aisf.or.jp/~jaanus/deta/u/utaawasee.htm).]


Traced from the Sanjuniban Shokunin Uta-awase Emaki
Circa 1500 CE, this portion in the Sakai collection

Sanjuniban Shokunin Uta-awase 01 01 Sanjuniban Shokunin Uta-awase 01 02
Sanjuniban Shokunin Uta-awase 01 03

This image from the Sanjuniban Shokunin Uta-awase emaki (Muromachi period) depicts an etoki, an itinerant narrator of illustrated stories and explainer of paintings. He is shown with a biwa for musical accompaniment, a box of pictures, and a feathered pointer. This kind of craftsman, or shokunin, was common sight in temples and noble households, presenting narratives and religious stories to those who could not necessarily read them. [Murase]


Traced from the Sanjuniban Shokunin Uta-awase Emaki
Circa 1500 CE, this portion in the Suntory Museum of Art

Sanjuniban Shokunin Uta-awase 02 01 Sanjuniban Shokunin Uta-awase 02 02

These kobiki (sawyers) use an oga (two-person frame saw) to rip a large lumber beam into boards. The kobiki above the beam is the master, who directs the cut according to the markings he has made in ink. The assistant below helps provide the power for sawing. The teeth on most oga face in two directions so that the saw cuts on both the up and down stroke. The presence of this activity in this scroll indicates that by this time, cutting lumber was an important profession. [Coaldrake]

Armor Lacer

Traced from the Sanjuniban Shokunin Uta-awase Emaki
Circa 1500 CE, from a copy in the online archive of the library of Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan.

Sanjuniban Shokunin Uta-awase 03 01 Sanjuniban Shokunin Uta-awase 03 02

This shokunin is lacing armor panels known as "sode" (sleeves). These panels hang from the shoulders and protect the upper arms. The shokunin suspends a sode from the frame to make sure it is hanging evenly. A box of cut lacing ends shows the shokunin's progress. Beside him sits a completed sode and a "jingasa" (camp hat). This shokunin wears a sword to denote his acceptance into the warrior class and nobility.

Nanajuichiban Shokunin Uta-Awase

This emaki also depicts a poetry competition among people of various occupations. Many of the images are similar to those found in the Sanjuniban, but the overall collection is different. This competition has 71 rounds, and 142 different kinds of shokunin are depicted.

This emaki is online as Commoners’ story: Nanajuichiban Shokunin Utaawase on the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of History.

Biwa Player

This image depicts a musician playing a stringed instrument called a Biwa. The strings are plucked with a fan-shaped plectrum. As he is depicted with a walking stick and geta sandals, he is most likely an itinerant musician.

Nanajuichiban Shokunin Uta-awase 04 03 Nanajuichiban Shokunin Uta-awase 04 02
Nanajuichiban Shokunin Uta-awase 04 01


This image depicts a musician playing a small drum called a ko-tzuzumi, The heads of the drum are tensioned with rope. She is depicted with a walking stick and zori sandals, and I’m intrigued by how both this lady and the biwa player thread the walking stick through the straps of their sandals.

Nanajuichiban Shokunin Uta-awase 05 01 Nanajuichiban Shokunin Uta-awase 05 02


This image shows a painter at work on an ink painting. He sits at a low writing table with a suzuribako inkstone box nearby. The original shows a blank piece of paper waiting for inspiration, but I chose to add a miniature emaki scene for visual interest.

Nanajuichiban Shokunin Uta-awase 06 01

Shigisan Engi

Traced from Shigisan Engi (Tales of Mt. Shigi)
12th Century CE, preserved at Chougosonshi-ji Temple, Nara Prefecture

Shigisan Engi 01 01

There are three scrolls in this set, but only the third one is an emaki. All three relate the miracles performed by the Bishamon, the chief of the four heavenly kings. These miracles were frequently performed through the medium Myouren, who lived as an ascetic on a mountain top. The Chougosonshi-ji temple is built where many of the events are said to have occurred. In this image, a servant attends to the horse of a rich merchant who has come to implore Myouren for the return of a storehouse full of rice which has flown to Myouren’s abode. [Kidder]

Sumiyoshi Monogatari

Traced from Sumiyoshi Monogatari (Tale of Sumiyoshi) emaki
Late 13th Century, in the Tokyo National Museum

sumiyoshi 01 01 sumiyoshi 01 02

The Sumiyoshi Monogatari predates the Tale of Genji by about a half century, but it is not as well developed narratively, and only fragments of the original text remain. It is the tale of love between an abused stepdaughter and the middle son of an important family who must go through years of struggle to be together. Here, the young nobleman stands on the white beach of Sumiyoshi, straining to hear the distant koto playing of the princess who will one day be his wife.

One interesting aspect of this emaki is the way both time and space are represented. At one point in the story, the nobleman visits a house where he believes his love to be hiding from her family. The floorplan of the house is presented in its entirety as a single long illustration in isometric view, and the nobleman is represented within that illustration several times to show his journey through the house to where his love waits for him. [Murase]


Traced from "Takaezu", the Jimyoin falconry manual (from a copy made in 1506) by Jimyoin Motoharu (1453-1535) now in the Harvard-Yenching Library.

Takaezu 01 01 Takaezu 01 01

This manual, bound in accordion-book form, illustrates falconry terms and equipment. It details the parts and behaviors of falcons, and the equipment used by falconers in the sport of falconry. The manuscript I traced is a copy of a manuscript from 1506, which is most likely copied from an earlier earlier manuscript from 1328. Thus, the knowledge from almost 700 years ago is transmitted to the modern middle ages today.

Takekurabe Shoshi

From Takekurabe Soshi ("Story about a poetry contest") in the Tokyo National Museum, from the Muromachi Period (15th century) Traced from a photo by Elliott C. Evans of the original scroll, taken October 2016 in the Tokyo National Museum.

Takekurabe Soshi 09r 01 Takekurabe Soshi 09r 02
Takekurabe Soshi 09l 01 Takekurabe Soshi 09l 02

This illustrated scroll portrays a poetry contest consisting of 21 themed matches. Both the themes and the poets are pitted against each other, such as the match between "moonlit night" and "snowy morning". The contest is meant to settle an argument between the Emperor and his Crown Prince, who disagree on whether the spring or autumn is superior.

Takekurabe Soshi panel 22 01 Takekurabe Soshi panel 22 02

Most panels of this scroll portray two poets facing each other, and their competing poetry. Some text-only panels are included, however, and some with full-panel illustrations like the above.

Yamai no Soshi

Traced from the Yamai no Soshi (Diseases Scroll)
12th century, in Kawamoto Kakuzo, Kyoto

Yamai no Soshi 01 01 Yamai no Soshi 01 02
Yamai no Soshi 01 03
Yamai no Soshi 01 04
Yamai no Soshi 01 05
Yamai no Soshi 01 06
Yamai no Soshi 01 07
Yamai no Soshi 01 08

While the 12th Century Yamai no Soshi (Diseases Scroll) mostly depicts people suffering from afflictions like insomnia and obesity, in the background of one scene was this image of a calm servant faithfully carrying her mistress’ burden. [Murase]

Zen Kunen Kassen

Traced from Zen Kunen Kassen (The Early Nine Year War) emaki
From the mid-thirteenth century, National Museum of Japanese History

zenkonenkassen 01 01

Minamoto Yoriyoshi cemented the reputation of the Genji clan by leading a campaign to quash a rebellion by Northern provincial governors in the early eleventh century. This emaki is based on earlier picture scrolls that are now lost, and shows the battles fought during the first part of what was to become a twelve year war. This scene shows the battle drum of the Genji during a night attack by the rebellious Sadatou clan. Nothing is known of the artist. [Murase]

Zuishin Teiki

Traced from the Zuishin Teiki (Imperial Guard Cavalry) emaki
13th century, in the collection of Oukura Kishichirou.

Zuishin 01 01

This emaki representative of the highly realistic "documentary" style of emaki that flourished in the Kamakura period. It is interesting because although it is from the time period when the black-and-white hakubyou style was the dominant expression of Yamato-e, it has light washes of color on the clothing of the rider and the tack of the horse. I have exaggerated the coloring on this copy, but left the horse pure white. [Okudaira]

Other Reproductions


Traced from a portrait of Daruma in the Tokyo National Museum
Fourteenth century, by Issan Ichinei

Daruma 01 01

The Bodhidarma, called Daruma in Japan, was a legendary Buddhist teacher who brought Zen Buddhism to China. Daruma lived during the fifth or sixth century of the common era, and in Japan has become a patron spirit of those who have a goal they wish to achieve. It is believed that Daruma once sat in a cave gazing at a wall in meditation for nine years. Traditionally, Daruma is depicted wearing the red robe of a high-ranking priest. [From the article Daruma Doll on Wikipedia, retrieved October 18, 2014 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daruma_doll).]


Traced from a portrait of Daruma, by Kei Shoki (died 1523)
Muromachi period (1333 to 1573), now in Nanzenji

Daruma 02 01

The painter Kei Shoki was a student of Geiami, founder of the Shubun school of painting. The Shubun style is characterized by its crowded details. Kei Shoki attempts to show the irascible nature of Daruma while suggesting a flash of spiritual realization. Daruma, was a legendary Buddhist teacher who brought Zen Buddhism to China. [Paine]


Traced from a silk painting of Fudou
Ninth century CE, in the Myou-ou-in repository on Mt. Kouya

Fudou 01 01

The deity Fudou is the patron of those who serve as warriors. Fudou is one of the Five Great Kings of Light who were introduced to Japan through the Buddhist traditions of India. Although praised as a destroyer of evil, Fudou is also credited with wisdom, and is invoked to bring rain. He is typically represented as seated on an immovable stone, backed by flames, wielding a sword and a rope. Fudou has sworn to use the sword to destroy evil spirits, and the rope to bind the wicked and coerce them towards good. [Kidder]


Traced from a portrait of Hitomaro that is in the Kyoto National Museum
Original attributed to Takuma Eiga (circa 14th century)

Hitomaro 01 01 Hitomaro 01 01

Hitomaro is one of the most famous and revered poets of Japanese history. He is so revered, that he was eventually made a Kami (divinity) of poetry. Essentially, he is a Patron Saint of poetry. It is customary to hang a portrait of Hitomaro close by when composing or reciting poetry, much like having a bust of Beethoven on your piano. I saw this portrait of Hitomaro in the Kyoto National Museum when we went to see the exhibition of panels from the Satake family version of the “36 Immortal Poets” scroll. I have also mounted a copy of this portrait as a "kakejiku" hanging scroll so he can oversee any poetic endeavors in which I participate.

Prince Shoutouku

Traced from a portrait of Prince Shoutoku, His Brother, and His First Son
Seventh Century, preserved by the Imperial Household Agency, Tokyo

Shoutouku 01 01

Prince Shotoku was appointed regent by his aunt, Empress Suiko, in 593 CE. He is credited with many accomplishments, such as centralizing the government, establishing the 12-level cap rank system for officials, establishing a 17-article constitution, publishing the first Japanese texts (annotated Sutras), and choosing the name “Nihon” for Japan. He is revered today as a protector of Japan, its Imperial Family, and Buddhism. [Kidder]

Autumn and Winter Landscapes, by Sesshu

The painter Sesshu represents a rebirth in Japan of the painting traditions of China during the Muromachi period. Sesshu visited China in his youth and the school of painting he founded back in Japan influenced the next few generations of Japanese painters. These images are from a pair of hanging scrolls known as "The Autumn and Winter Landscapes" that can be considered representative of Sesshu’s mature style.

Traced from Autumn Landscape, by Sesshu (1420 to 1506)
Muromachi period (1333 to 1573), in the National Museum, Tokyo

Sesshu 03 01 Sesshu 03 02


Traced from Winter Landscape, by Sesshu (1420 to 1506)
Muromachi period (1333 to 1573), in the National Museum, Tokyo

Sesshu 01 01

This image is actually a reproduction of a painting by the Chinese painter Hsia Kuei. [Paine]

The Long Scroll, by Sesshu

Traced from the Long Scroll, by Sesshu (1420 to 1506)
Muromachi period (1333 to 1573), Hofu Mori Hokokai Foundation, Yamaguchi

These images are detailed from Sesshu's Long Scroll of Landscapes, that depicts scenes from the four seasons across the countryside of Japan.

Sesshu 02 01 [Kidder]

Sesshu 04 01 Sesshu 04 02 Sesshu 04 03

Samurai Painters

Samurai Painters is a book by Stephen Addis and G. Cameron Hurst III that collects paintings by people who are better known for their mastery of the sword than their mastery of the brush.

Musashi 'Cormorant' 01 Musashi 'Shrike' 01 Musashi 'Dove on a Red Plum Tree' 01

Miyamoto Musashi is a legendary late-period swordsman. He lived from 1584 to 1645, but his martial teachings and philosophy are immortal. Many stories are told about the skill and wisdom of Musashi, and his paintings are admired for their bold execution and harmonic compososition. In Japanese, the cormorant is a wild bird pressed into service, pulling fish from the river in a practice known as Ukai. Addis and Hurst note that for many reasons, Mushashi's Shrike is considered a classic example of Samurai art. They also note that the plum tree, pictured here with a peaceful dove, is a symbol of endurance.

Masayoshi Hawk 01

The book has no biographical information about Masayoshi or the current location of the original painting. It notes that there are many paintings of hawks.

Non-Period Images

These three scroll blanks are traced from a frame captured from The Tale of Princess Kaguya a 2013 animated film Studio Ghibli. This film is beautiful, and has a large number of beautiful images in it.

This modern animated film is based on an anonymous 10th-century folk tale called "Tale of the Bamboo Cutter". It follows the life of a mysterious baby girl who is found in a shining bamboo stump and raised to be a princess by a poor childless couple.

For almost a decade following its release, this was the most expensive Japanese film ever produced, possibly due to the art style that is based on the Yamato-e style of emaki. In 1999, director Takahata published a book called “From a Painting” in which he explored traditional Japanese art and its ties to his animation.

In this image, the devoted maidservants of the Princess ready her cart for travel.

In this image, the devoted maidservants of the Princess ready her cart for travel.

Original Images

These images are all based on photographs. Some of them are based on photos of plants or animals. Some of them are based on photos of objects. I did not take all of the photographs; I have attempted to give photo credits when I can. I refer to them as "original" images since this is their first time appearing as paintings. They may be derivative copies of photos and objects, but they are original paintings.

Rabbit Netsuke

Yamato-e traced from a photograph of an antique ivory netsuke, inspired by the hakubyo style drawings of the Choju Giga emaki.

Usagi Netsuke 01 01

Original artwork is an Albino Hare Netsuke in the collection of the Maridon Museum in Butler, PA

Horse Netsuke

Yamato-e traced from a photograph of an antique ivory netsuke, inspired by the hakubyo style drawings of the Choju Giga emaki.

Ema Netsuke 01 01

Original artwork is an Ivory Katabori Netsuke of a Horse lying down, unsigned.

Rabbit Sculpture

Yamato-e traced in the hakubyo style from a photograph of a glazed porcelain sculpture in the Tokyo National Museum.

Rabbit Porcelain 01 01 Rabbit Porcelain 01 02

Original artwork is by Tsuda Shinobu (1875-1946) from 1934.

Azalea Blooms

I was able to snap a nice photo of the azalea shrubs blooming in Her Ladyship Hara's garden, and thought that maybe I could trace that photo for an ink painting. I think the one that is just colorful outlines is probably my favorite.

Azalea 01 01 Azalea 01 02 Azalea 01 03

Original photograph by Elliott C. Evans, April 2020.

Tourism Photos from Japan

These paintings are based on photos I took when we were in Japan for the 'Fourth International Conference on Braids' in 2019. After the conference, we spent a few days in Kyoto, and wound up viiting a nice little garden that is right in downtown.

Bird Tree 01 Duckpond 01 Turtle Rock 01 03

The first image shows a bird in a tree. I was trying to capture the texture of the leaves, but I don't think I 100% succeeded. The bird came out well, though.

The second image is actually a mash-up of two different images. I had one image of the ducks from close up, and another of the buildings on the far side of the pond. Combining them into a single hakubyo image like this really helps create some of the depth that Sesshu was so good at.

I tried to re-create in this third image the success I had with the duck pond, but a turtle on a rock with some more rocks in the background just is not as inspiring. It's just a lump on a lump with more lumps in the background. Maybe I can use the turtle part in another painting some time, but this one is pretty much a failure.

Original photographs by Elliott C. Evans, October 2019.

Giant Squid

In May of 2021, the town of Noto in Japan's Ishikawa Prefecture used some of their COVID-19 recovery grant money to build a 30 foot long sculpture of a giant squid. No, really. They did this to promote tourism to their quiet seaside municipality, and truth to tell it is a glorious thing. So glorious, that I needed to make it into a painting,

Giant Squid 01 01 Giant Squid 01 02

Original photograph by TheTonarinopoti@Youtube via REUTERS and CNN.com.


The story here is that the "Order of the Pelican" is a SCA peerage order, much like a Knighthood is for fighting, but for service to the society. I saw a terrific photograph of a pelican in a page about "best wildlife photographs of 2021", and I realized that the image would make a great Yamato-e scroll blank. Maybe not for a peerage, but maybe for a "writ", an invitation to consider entry into the order.

This photo was one of the top 50 photos in the CEWE photo awards competition of 2021. I saw this photograph of a pelican, and just thought it would make a good writ scroll or other recognition of service. The dignity of this noble bird shows through, as does the dignity of those who perform service in the society. I traced the photo and colored it in the “tsukuri-e” (built up paint) style.

Pelican 01 01 Pelican 01 02
Pelican 01 03 Pelican 01 04

Original photograph by Christoph Schaarschmidt, 2021.

This next image was the result of a web search for "pelican in flight". All credit where it is due, any vibrancy and splendor in my image is entirely based on the original image.

Pelican 02 01 Pelican 02 02 Pelican 02 03

Original photograph by Ken Chan of Awesome Sasquatch, 2013.

Descendants of Samurai

Ryotaro Horiuchi was visiting the Soma region of Fukishima prefecture, when he witnessed a festival they have been celebrating for over 1000 years. They call it the Samurai festval, and the people of Soma, who are descended from Samurai of old, celebrate their heritage and the Samurai way of life. During the festival, hundreds of modern men and women recreate the traditions and dress of the Samurai class. Horiuchi sought to capture how the Samurai spirit shines through these modern people, and occasionally how the modern cannot be suppressed. I love this photo of a contemplative Samurai interacting with his smartphone and its Supreme phone strap, and I extended the anachronism.

Horiuchi 'Descendants of Samurai' 01 02 Horiuchi 'Descendants of Samurai' 01 02

For more photos from this series, visit - Descendants of Samurai


There is a story, I assure you, but I will not tell it here. Instead, a song:

    Duckdor was a duck.
    I mean, it was a dragon-duck.
    Maybe it was just a dragon,
    But it was still DUCKDOR.


    Duckinating the Pennsic camp.
    Duckinating with its presence.
    Duckinating all the peoples
    In their canvas camping tents.
Duckdor 01 01 Duckdor 01 02 Duckdor 01 03

Original photograph by Elliott C. Evans, August 2021.


Addiss, Stephen and Hurst, G. Cameron III
Samurai Painters
New York, NY
Kodansha International

Arata, Shimao
Sesshu's Long Scroll of Landscapes
Tokyo, Japan
Shogakukan, Inc.

Arima Yosoko and Horie Reiko (Fujiko?)
Satake Version of the 36 Immortal Poets (Satakemoto Sanroku Kasen)
Kyoto, Japan
2019 (Heisei / Ryowa)

Coaldrake, William H.
The Way of the Carpenter
New York and Tokyo
Weatherhill, Inc.

Grilli, Elise
Japanese Picture Scrolls
New York, NY
Crown Publishers, Inc.

Hickman, Money L. (editor)
Japan's Golden Age: Momoyama
New Haven, CT
Yale University Press, in cooperation with the Dallas Museum of Art

Joseph, Lisa A. (sca: Saionji Shonagon, OL)
Emaki: the illuminated manuscripts of medieval Japan
Berkeley, California (Kingdom of the West)

Kidder, J. Edward
Art of Japan, The
New York, NY
Park Lane

Murase Miyeko
Emaki; Narrative Scrolls from Japan
The Asia Society

Okudaira Hideo
Emaki: Japanese Picture Scrolls
Rutland, Vermont & Tokyo, Japan
Charles E. Tuttle Company

Okudaira Hideo (Kaneko Shigetaka, translator)
Choju Giga; Scrolls of Animal Caricatures
Honolulu, Hawaii
East-West Center Press

Paine, Robert Treat and Soper, Alexander
Art and Architecture of Japan, The
Baltimore, MD
Penguin Books
1960 (1955)

Please view other areas of Ishiyama's SCA pages.

Ishiyama Gen'tarou Yori'ie is known mundanely as Elliott C. Evans. He can be reached via email to ishiyama{at}ee0r.com