Artist: Utagawa Toyokuni I (初代歌川豊国)

Print: Pillar print of a Okaru [おかる] looking down at Ōboshi Yuranosuke [大星由良之助] - from the ‘Gion Ichiriki Jaya’ scene (段目) VII of the Kanadehon Chūshingura ('Copybook of the Treasury of Loyal Retainers': 仮名手本忠臣蔵)

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Dates: circa 1800,created
Dimensions: 4.5 in,24.5 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese woodblock print

Signed: Toyokuni ga (豊国画)

Related links: British Museum - another Toyokuni I hashira-e of this scene from ca. 1790; Lyon Collection - another Toyokuni I print from 1811 showing Okaru looking up at Yuranosuke;

Physical description:

Donald Keene translated the puppet play of the Chūshingura from ca. 1748. In Chapter 7 we learn that Okaru, Kampei's wife, is suffering from a hangover and she blames Yuranosuke for having gotten her drunk.

Okaru, envious of other people happily in love, tries to read the letter from upstairs, but it is dark and the letter far away and the writing indistinct. It occurs to her that by holding out her mirror to reflect the writing she can read the message. Under the veranda, by the light of the moon, Kudayu reads the letter as it unrolls and hangs, but Yuranosuke, being no god, is unaware of this. Okaru's hair ornament suddenly comes loose and falls. Yuranosuke looks up at the sound and hides the letter behind him. Kudayu, under the veranda, is still in smiles; Okaru in the upstairs room hides her mirror.


There is another version of this pillar print, also by Toyokuni I but earlier, in the British Museum. (See the link above.) That print is listed in Pins at #951. The museum notes: "A parody of the most famous scene in Act VII, ‘Gion Ichiriki Jaya’, from the kabuki play ‘Kanadehon Chushingura’ (仮名手本忠臣蔵). As a man (parodying Oboshi Yuranosuke) unrolls a long letter scroll, one girl below (parodying Ono Kudayu) secretly reads the end of the scroll as it trails over a bamboo fence, while a second girl above (parodying Okaru) also peeks at it from a nearby balcony."


The give-away for identifying the male character in this composition as Yuranosuke is the round double-tomoe crest on his robes.

There are at least five other images in the Lyon Collection directly related to this crest. See #s 738, 836, 1056, 1101 and 1327.