Artist: Shunkōsai Hokushū (春好斎北洲)

Print: Nakamura Utaemon III as Ishikawa Goemon in the play Kinmon Gosan no Kiri (The Temple Gate and the Paulownia Crest) [金門五三桐]

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Dates: 1822,created
Dimensions: 10.2 in,15.4 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: color woodblock print

Signed: Shunkōsai Hokushū ga
Publisher: Toshikuraya Shinbei
(Marks 539 - seal 25-553
Carver: Horiko Yamaichi (彫工山市)
Printer: Matsumura (摺工松村)

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Waseda University; Tokyo Metropolitan Library; Hankyu Culture Foundation;

Physical description:

Schwaab wrote of this print:

"Hokushū designed five compositions for this play, including a striking bust portrait of this role... This print is somewhat of an oddity because it lacks both the actor's name and role but bears the seals of the publisher, the engraver Yamaichi, and the printer Matsumura Kinji, as well as an unidentified seal, possibly of the printseller; the brilliant and expensive pink color also suggest some importance. It is possible that this is the upper sheet of a vertical diptych..."


In a March 5, 2010 review of a production of this play by Rei Sasaguchi in the Japan Times the writer says:

...Oinosuke decides to have Hisatsugu killed and — surrounded by Hisayoshi’s soldiers — he writes a letter to this effect to his son, So Soyu, before entrusting it for delivery to a white eagle that comes to life from its image painted on a hanging scroll — and then himself committing hara-kiri in front of Takakage.

The fatal encounter between Ishikawa Goemon and Mashiba Hisayoshi at the main gate of the Nanzenji Temple is featured in Act III. This finds Goemon, gorgeously dressed and coiffed, sitting on the balcony of the gate, holding a pipe. He then opens the letter just delivered by the white eagle and realizes not only that Oinosuke has failed in his plot against Hisayoshi [based on the real-life Hideyoshi], but that he was also his long-lost father. Goemon swears that he will avenge his father’s death. The splendid, two-story red building is then raised slowly from under the stage — with a standing figure of Hisayoshi, dressed as a pilgrim, in front of it. Goemon greets the pilgrim by throwing a knife at him, which Hisayoshi catches.


Illustrated in:

1) Osaka Prints by Dean J. Schwaab, #43, p. 84.
2) Ikeda bunko, Kamigata yakusha-e shūsei (Collected Kamigata Actor Prints), vol. 1, #116, 1997.

2) a small black and white reproduction in the Illustrated Catalogues of Tokyo National Museum: Ukiyo-e Prints (3), #3926.