Signed: Shunkōsai Hokushū ga
Publisher: Toshikuraya Shinbei
(Marks 539 - seal 25-553)
The play Kotobuki Horaisan ("Long life, Mt. Horai") refers to a mythical mountain (Chinese: Penglai-shan) believed to exist in eastern China, inhabited by Taoist Immortals (sennin or rishi) who sought transcendence and engaged in dietary, sexual, and alchemy regimens in the pursuit of immortality.
Although the plot of this play is unknown to us, the names of the characters suggest a mitate (analogue) given at the start of the new theatrical season featuring the theme of immortality. For example, the "immortal" characters include Izumo no Okuni, widely considered to be the founder of kabuki. She was an daughter of a priestess (miko) at a temple in Izumo whose purported lover was Nagoya Sanzaburô, a samurai actually named Nagoe Sanzaburô (later Kuemon) whose mother was a niece of the primary military unifier of Japan, Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582). Sanzaburô, a samurai who died in 1603, was celebrated as a lance thrower, even becoming the subject of a popular song. He later evolved in the popular imagination as perhaps the most famous of all kabuki mono ("tilted persons"), a type of dashing anti-Tokugawa malcontent (many were rônin or "wave men," masterless or unemployed samurai). Okuni's connection with Sanzaburô was likely a romantic fiction; on the prototypical kabuki stage, Okuni (a kabuki mono in her own right) was said to have danced with the ghost of Sanzaburô. Design
This pentaptych is one of the most dramatic in the Hokushû oeuvre. Fox fires (kitsunebi) burn across all the sheets, emanating from Kojorô kitsune at the far right, who appears at the mouth of a cloud whose source is at the top of the middle sheet. She holds a large folding fan (ôgi) with a long silk tassle, and her hair is decorated with a silver flowering cherry (sakura) ornament. Note, too, the phoenix (hoô) headdress worn by Okuni (fourth sheet), as if bestowing upon her a courtly ranking, and Sanzaburô's Korean-style hat capped by a mythical lion (shishi).
Each sheet is inscribed gomai tsuzuki ("five-sheet series').
The above text was written by John Fiorillo at OsakaPrints.com
This group commemorates a performance at the Naka Theater in Osaka.
Illustrated in Ikeda Bunko, Kamigata Yakusha-e Shusei, (Collected Kamigata Actor Prints) volume 1, Ikeda Bunko Library, Osaka, 1997, no. 108.