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Oiwa (Oiwa-san), from the series "One Hundred Ghost Tales (Hyaku monogatari)"

A work made of color woodblock print; chuban.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of color woodblock print; chuban.




Katsushika Hokusai 葛飾 北斎 (Japanese, 1760-1849)

About this artwork

This pale-skinned head emerging from a worn paper lantern is a depiction of Oiwa, a character from Yotsuya Kaidan, a famous Japanese ghost play (kaidan mono). In the story Oume, a woman who wants to steal Oiwa’s husband, sends her a topical poison disguised as a face cream. The poison immediately scars Oiwa, and her eye begins to droop, as seen in the center of the image here. When she realizes the deception, Oiwa becomes hysterical and accidentally kills herself. After her death, she seeks revenge on not just Oume but also her husband and others. The inscription on the lantern begs us to pray for her soul.

The Art Institute’s collection boasts one of the most well-preserved and appreciated editions of Katsushika Hok usa i’s One Hundred Ghost Tales series (1831–32). The artist apparently planned to produce a full hundred images, but the series was not completed and only five prints are known. The title refers to a game in which people would gather at night to tell scary stories, putting out a candle after each tale until the room was completely dark. These small-format works feature a bright-blue color made possible by Berlin blue pigment (often called “Prussian blue”), which had become affordable shortly before their production. Although this hue may seem cheery to us, Hokusai’s original audience would have associated it with death and the occult.


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Arts of Asia


Katsushika Hokusai


Oiwa (Oiwa-san), from the series "One Hundred Ghost Tales (Hyaku monogatari)"


Japan (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Color woodblock print; chuban


25.6 × 16.1 cm (10 1/16 × 6 5/16 in.)

Credit Line

Clarence Buckingham Collection

Reference Number


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