Monday, 31 December 2018

Happy 2019 - Year of the Boar

 Old Boar in the Snow by Konoshima Okoku

Even a wild boar
With all other things
Blew in this storm
  Matsuo Basho

The boar (inoshishi) symbolises courage, strength, energy and single-pointed focus. While this was admired, inoshishi-bushi – warriors who charged blindly into the fray – were criticised for their inflexible approach.
During Yoritomo's hunting party at the foot of Mt. Fuji, Nitta Shiro Tadatsune kills a gigantic boar by Kitao Shigemasa (Courtesy of Boston MFA)

Boars were key elements in several well-known stories: Nitta Shiro Tadatsune leapt on the back of a giant boar that was wreaking havoc in the shogun Yoshitomo's hunting party, killing it with his short sword. (He was arrested and executed soon after by Yoshitomo – this was seen as a result of killing what was seen as a local god/spirit).

Yamamoto Kansuke Killing a Boar  by Shuntei (

Yamamoto Kansuke, military advisor to Takeda Shingen, was famously lame (and blind in one eye) as the result of a fight with a large boar. This was a factor in his rejection by the fastidious Imagawa Yoshimoto; he later turned to Shingen for employment, in whom he found someone who saw his true value.

Boar A quick sketch by Maruyama Okyo

One last story is about the painter Maruyama Okyo, who was famous in his day for drawing from live subjects. One day, he showed an acquaintance a picture he had just done of a sleeping boar. His friend praised him for depicting a dead boar so accurately. Okyo was a bit put out by this, so he went back the next day, only to find that it was infact a dead boar that he had drawn.