Better known by its alternative title, “Tamatori-hime at the Dragon Palace,” Kuniyoshi's “Lifelike Dolls in the Inner Temple at Asakusa” presents the famous diver as she retrieves the stolen jewel from the Dragon King's underwater palace. While initially published with the descriptive title, the title cartouche was changed when the print was included in the series Modern Select Dolls (1855-1856).
In this legend depicted, the Tang emperor presented a sacred jewel as a gift to his father-in-law, Fujiwara no Kamatari (614-669). A powerful storm wrecked the ship that was delivering the offering to Japan, and the jewel sank to the Dragon Palace in the depths below. In the hope of retrieving the lost jewel, Kamatari’s son Fuhito marries the young ama (female pearl diver) Tamamo, who dives into the sea to retrieve the precious jewel. As the Dragon King’s court chases the diver, she cuts open her breast to hide the jewel. Though she saves the jewel, she dies from her wounds when she returns to shore. Kuniyoshi portrays the story of Tamamo, or Princess Tamatori, with strength and determination, jewel in hand as she nears the far left edge of the print. As she glances behind her, knife raised, all manner of sea creatures pursue her, their king furiously stirring the sea overhead.