Young Samurai Viewing Cherry Blossoms as a Mitate of Prince Kaoru, c. 1767

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This print shows a young man carrying two swords, one long and one short, indicating that, despite his youthful age, he is a samurai. He gazes up at the blossoms of a cherry tree. Yet Suzuki Harunobu, the designer of this print, has embedded within his image a riddle that serves as the key to this picture. A small symbol on the man’s right shoulder is a so-called Genji crest (Genji-mon), one of 54 geometric symbols that each refers to a chapter of The Tale of Genji. A knowledgeable viewer’s recognition of the symbol also means understanding this picture as a parody-picture (mitate-e) of chapter 48, the “Early Ferns,” in which Prince Kaoru (the illegitimate son of Genji’s friend and his wife who had been raised as Genji’s own) regrets having arranged a marriage between his one true love, Lady Nakanokimi, and his friend, Prince Niou. In this witty take on a Genji picture, Suzuki Harunobu transforms Kaoru from classical-period courtier to contemporary samurai.

Young Samurai Viewing Cherry Blossoms as a Mitate of Prince Kaoru
Artist Life
1725 - 1770
Accession Number
Catalogue Raisonne
K759, Ukiyo-e shūka 4 (1979), list #436
Curator Approved

This record has been reviewed by our curatorial staff but may be incomplete. These records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email

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