Tametomo banishes the smallpox demon from the Island of Oshima. Colour woodcut by Yoshikazu, 1851/1853.
- Utagawa, Yoshikazu, active 1848-1863.
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About this work
Chinsei Hachiro Tametomo was a powerful historical figure of the twelfth century AD to whom many legendary feats were attributed. His political enemies cut the sinews of his arms to end his skill in archery and exiled him to the island of Oshima in the west of Japan. There, according to legend, he repelled the demon of smallpox who was preparing to enter the island: in response to his ferocious threats, the demon, on the left of the picture, is said to have shrunk to the size of a pea and floated out to sea. The story reflects the wishful thinking of the smallpox-ravaged centuries before the disease was finally eradicated in the late 1970s with the aid of Jennerian vaccination