Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: Ichikawa Danjūrō VIII as Arajishi Otokonosuke (荒獅子男之助) beating a man disguised as a giant rat

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Dates: 1847 - 1849,created
Dimensions: 10.0 in,14.5 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Artist's seal: kiri
Publisher: Horimasa
(Marks U078 - seal 25-403)
Censor seals: Kinugasa and Yoshimura

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Physical description:

Here is some background for Otokonosuke:

Arajishi Otokonosuke (荒獅子男之助) is one of the most popular and iconic figures of the kabuki stage and hence the world of ukiyo prints. He is one of the most memorable figures from the play Meiboku Sendai Hagi or 'The Disputed Succession'.

'Arajishi' (荒獅子) means 'wild lion'.

Otokonosuke is determined to protect the life of his young lord, but is prevented from being in the same room as he. In the most dramatic moment in Act IV Otonosuke

"...has taken up a post below the floor of the boy's room. He is waiting there on the alert when he sees a large grey rat coming down through the floor carrying a roll of paper in its mouth. Otokonosuke puts his foot on the rat and tries to kill it with his iron fan. He wounds the beast on the head, but it wriggles away from him and escapes.

The rat vanishes in a cloud of white smoke and in its place is revealed Nikki Danjo, who has occult powers, clad in grey garments and with the document between his teeth. He has a fresh wound on his brow. He traces the character for 'rat' in the air with his finger.

Otokonosuke is powerless against him. Danjo goes off triumphantly having achieved his object of possession of the list of conspirators."


The dark gray background of this print indicates the 'under the floor' or yuka shita scene in the play where Otokonosuke goes to seek out the villain, Nikki Danjō, who has transformed himself into a giant rat.


Large peonies often appeared on the costumes of Danjūrō VII as Otokonosuke and were easily identified as to the actor and the role by his contemporary audiences. Here Danjūrō VIII is wearing somewhat more stylized peonies which are also accompanied by his mimasu crest.


There are at least three other prints in the Lyon Collection with Otokonosuke in them: #577 by a diptych by Hokushū; #779 by Toshihide; and #894 by Kunisada.