Scenes depicted in ukiyo-e paintings often conjure up images of great beauty. Whether it’s a woman luxuriously garbed in a kimono, or the tendrils of Sagami Bay’s crashing waves hovering over Mount Fuji, ukiyo-e artists looked towards the beauty of life as their muse.

There is, however, a whimsical side to ukiyo-e artists that’s been documented in museums across Japan. Utagawa Yoshitora is one such artist who enjoyed adding diversity and whimsy to his body of work. He lived during the Edo period and was active in the mid-1800s. Paintings of Japanese historical figures, scenes of battle, and foreign cities like London and Paris are just a few examples of what he’s most known for.

Another category of Yoshitora’s work that survives to this day is his quirky imaginings of fictional creatures. For this, we can take a look at his Torakoishi, which debuted in an 1853 painting. Yoshitora combined a rock with the limbs of a tiger to create the Torakoishi, who comes upon understandably and hilariously freaked out Edoites.

The Torakoishi is one of two of Yoshitora’s creatures that have become real plush toys, thanks to a collaboration between Ōta Memorial Museum of Art and online store Felissimo. The Tokyo museum is home to some of Yoshitora’s paintings, including one of a 12-animal hybrid based on the Chinese zodiac. His purpose for this enigmatic creature seems to have been to invoke safety and well-being towards the shrine or temple he dedicated it to.

Yoshitora’s twelve-zodiac creature and Torakoishi certainly make for unique plush toys, but they also serve a practical purpose. The twelve-zodiac creature plushie works as a keychain, while the Torakoishi plushie has two sizes, with the smaller one doubling as a pouch and the larger one being a cushiony hot compress.

All three of the Yoshitora ukiyo-e plushies are currently available on Felissimo’s online store.

By - Jen Laforteza.