Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Thirty-six Good and Evil Beauties: Jigoku Dayu (Hell Courtesan)
This Kunichika print of Jigoku Dayu shows her wearing a robe depicting Enma, the Japanese God of the underworld.
Enma is not only the ruler but also the judge of the underworld and passes judgment on all the dead. His minions include a judge who holds in his hands a brush and a book listing every soul and the allotted death date for every life. Ox-Head and Horse-Face, the fearsome guardians of hell, bring the newly dead, one by one, before Him for judgement. Men or women with merit will be rewarded with good future lives or even revival in their previous life. Men or women who committed misdeeds will be sentenced to torture or miserable future lives, hence Jigoku’s punishment of wearing a heavy cloak. The spirits of the dead, on being judged by Enma, are supposed to either pass through a term of enjoyment in a region midway between the earth and the heaven of the gods or to undergo their measure of punishment in the nether world. Neither location is permanent and after a time, they return to Earth in new bodies.
The picture of Enma that Kunichika has used, embroidered on Jigoku’s robe, is generic, although Yoshitoshi used Kunichika’s drawing pretty much verbatim in his triptych of the torture of Taira no Kiyomori that was made in 1883, pictured below…
Enma has been used to subjugate and frighten children for centuries, but he has had a less fearsome revival in a more wholesome form in the popular manga series Demon Prince Enma, where he has assumed human form with three other demons (Yukihime, Kapaeru and Grandpa Chapeauji), in order to form the group known as the Enma Detective Agency. They go after demons and monsters that have escaped from Hell into the human world.