"At first glance we see the selfless act of a samurai carrying a woman across a river on his back. Look more closely and the print reveals clues to its true meaning. The hero, Omori Hikoshichi - a samurai from the 14th century - is persuaded by a young woman to carry her across a stream. Halfway across Hikoshichi looks down and sees the reflection of a demon’s horns - a hanya demon - in the water in front of him. Yoshitoshi has pictured the moment; we see the reflection of the horns and we see the troubled expression on Hikoshichi’s face as his right hand reaches beneath his robes and prepares to draw his sword.
There are two explanations for the story, the first is straightforward - Hikoshichi draws his sword and slays the demon just in time. The second is not supernatural and tells the story of the daughter of the defeated warlord Kusonoki Masashige seeking retribution for her father’s suicide, putting on a hanya mask before exacting revenge. I am inclined to believe that Yoshitoshi is referring to the former since the subject matter for the series is supernatural and the girl is not holding the mask from which we see the reflection. It is common in Japanese prints for the ghostly aspect of a character to be revealed through the use of mirrors, shadows and reflections.”
Series: New Forms of Thirty Six Ghosts, No. 5
-Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (月岡芳年)