The Chinzei Hachirô Tametomo (1139-70) of legend was seven feet tall, a celebrated archer whose bow was more than eight feet long and required the strength of three ordinary men to bend it. He could shoot arrows — their heads as large as spears — with such force that they could sink an enemy ship. Said to have chased away the god of smallpox, Tametomo's image acquired talismanic powers against the disease, leading to his portrayal in "smallpox prints" (hôsô-e).
The historical Minamoto Tametomo joined his father, the general Tameyoshi, in the seminal Genpei wars. In the first major battle — the Hôgan Incident of 1156 — Tametomo fought against Taira forces led by his brother, Yoshitomo. The victorious Yoshitomo ordered the execution of Tameyoshi and the exile of Tametomo. During his banishment to the island of ôshima in Izu, Tametomo conquered some of the neighboring islands. This brought forth an imperial expeditionary force to hunt him down. With no escape, Tametomo took his own life, said to be the first recorded instance in which a samurai committed ritualistic suicide by cutting open his abdomen (seppuku).
The Tamemoto depicted in Shibakuni's print is based on an epic tale written by Takizawa Bakin (1767-1848). It was published in fiction-book format in 29 volumes from 1807-11 under the title "Strange Tales of the Crescent Moon" (Chinsetsu yumihari zuki). In this version, Tamemoto finds refuge in the Ryûkyû Islands. When Tametomo shipwrecks at Okinawa in the Ryûkyû archipelago, he defends Princess Neiwanjo against a minister plotting to take over her throne. He then marries her and fathers a son who becomes the first in a lineage of Okinawan kings, the ancestors of Ashikaga Takaiji (1305-58), who established the Ashikaga shogunate, reigning from 1336 to 1568. Tragedy strikes, however, when Neiwanjo dies. Tametomo then follows her to heaven, leaving their son to rule.
This may be the scene in which Chinzei Hachirô Tametomo meets Princess Neiwanjo (who would be visible on a left sheet if there were one). She is often depicted riding a water buffalo or ox along the Okinawan shore.
The inscription above reads: "The origin of the skillful art of the powerful bow is in the painting of Tametomo. In memory of his achievements, Seikotei Ishinao." (Tsuyo yumi no amatsuta gei no Minamoto ya Tametomo no e o tsuizen ni shite:つよ弓のあまつた芸のみなもとや為朝の絵を追善にして 西光亭石直).
This is a fine deluxe print featuring Tametomo. Seated on a rock, the great archer holds his battle fan (gunsen 軍扇), grips his sheathed bow (wakyû or yumi 和弓), and assumes a posture of readiness.
References: IBKYS-II, no. 87; MFA Boston (11.36196)