Lidded vase decorated with scenes from the story of the Heike
onbekend, Japan, second half 19th century
Satsuma ware with overglaze and gold decorations,
The Mesdag Collection, The Hague
The decoration of this large Japanese vase revives ancient stories from Japanese history. The man on the lid is Minamoto no Yoritomo, the cold-blooded leader of the Minamoto clan. In 1192 the reigning emperor appointed him shogun (commander in chief). But in fact, he ruled Japan. He was an unscrupulous man who engaged in pastimes like the one depicted here: holding races with cranes along the coast.
On the body of the vase is a depiction of another member of the clan with his sho, a bamboo mouth organ. On the eve of a battle he plays the melodies he learned as a child from his father.