Japan, Taisho Period - 20th century
H: 1 1/2 inch, D: 3 1/3 inch
Text: The parting of Nanko and his son.
Seal: By Sakura (an artist’s or kiln name)
Text: Nanko Fushi no Wakare.
Seal: Sakura zu (read Sakura no zu)
Nanko is the honorific name of Kusunoki Masahige (1294-1336), a prominent general, Japanese warrior and hero of the cause of imperial resistance to rule by shoguns. He came from an obscure warrior family in Kawachi province and may have been a bandit.
When the plot led by Emperor Go-Daigo to overthrow the Hojo shoguns was discovered in 1331, the Emperor fled to Kawachi, where (according to the chronicle Taiheiki, The Chronicle of Great Peace) a dream inspired him to call Masahige. After Go-Daigo's capture and exile, Masahige, accompanied by Prince Morinaga, waged brilliant guerrilla warfare against shogunal forces. Fighting from a series of mountain forts, he used ingenious ruses to decimate and terrorize his foes, sustaining Go-Daigo's cause and diverting shogunal forces.
The Hojo shogunate collapsed in 1333 after Go-Daigo escaped and Ashikaga Takauji switched sides, and Masahige was received in the capital Kyoto as a hero.
When Takauji revolted against Go-Daigo's incompetent government in 1335, Masahige remained loyal. Doomed by the Emperor's obstinate refusal to evacuate Kyoto, he committed suicide after a last stand against the future shogun at the Battle of Minatogawa in July 1336. Masahige was revered as a paragon of loyalty and inspired subsequent imperial restoration movements, especially the Meiji Restoration.