Ushiwaka overcoming Benkei at the Gojo Bridge
This triptych illustrates an episode from the life of the popular hero Yoshitsune (1159-89), who was also known as Ushiwaka-maru (young ox).
On one of his nightly outings from the temple, 12-year-old Yoshitsune encountered Benkei on the Gojo Bridge in Kyoto. Benkei, a wild giant of a man, had been told by a sword-smith that he could forge a magic sword from the tips and cutting edges of a thousand blades. He obtained the swords by attacking samurai warriors crossing the Gojo Bridge.
One night he saw the young Ushiwaka approaching; he was carrying what would be his one-thousandth sword. Benkei attacked him without delay, but the youth was too quick for him and managed to defeat him. Benkei was so impressed that he promised to serve and follow Ushiwaka.