Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国)

Artist: Miyagi Gengyo (宮城玄魚)

Print: Ichikawa Ichizō III as Tenjiku Tokubei (天竺徳兵衛) from the series Matches for Thirty-six Selected Poems (Mitate sanjūrokku sen - 見立三十六句撰) - image in the upper left is by Miyagi Gengyo

Bookmark and Share
Dates: 1857,created
Dimensions: 8.75 in,13.5 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese woodblock print

Signed: Ichiyōsai Toyokuni ga
Artist's seal: toshidama

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Waseda University; Tokyo Metropolitan Library; National Diet Library; Lyon Collection - Toyokuni III triptych dealing with Tenjiku Tokubei;Lyon Collection - Yoshitaki painting of Tenjiku Tokubei;Lyon Collection - Toyokuni III of Tokubei standing on an origami toad;Lyon Collection - Toyokuni III print of Tokubei atop a toad;

Physical description:

Tenjiku Tokubei means Tokubei from India. A major play about him, Tenjiku Tokubei Ikoku-Banashi debuted in 1804. Earlier plays were based on the account of an Edo adventurer Takamatsu Tokubei who traveled to India and returned to Japan on a Dutch ship in 1633. "For decades, these plays had been performed in summer as so-called water plays (mizu kyōgen), which used real water to distract audiences from the heat. Nanboku also used water and added numerous spectacular tricks (keren) to emphasize his transformation of the tale into a, at times, chilling ghost play (kaiden mono), in tune with the summer Obon (bon) festival in which the spirits of the dead were briefly welcomed home by their families.

The success of the 1804 production of Tokubei from India not only resulted in a series of revivals but also ushered in a whole slew of ghost plays. Previously ghosts had appeared in kabuki to express the yearning of a departed soul. Nanboku — inspired by the new taste of theatregoers for the bloodthirsty and bizarre, an effect of the Bunka-Bunsei (Kasei) era's (1804-1830) social decadence — wrote a series of ghost plays that aimed to terrify audiences….

The play is renowned for its spectacular tricks and unusual costumes, which represent magic and foreign influences on Japan. The play is also unusual for the multiple and rapid scene changes that contribute to the sense of supernatural uncertainty.”

Tokubei doesn’t realize it but he is the son of a Korean warrior who is hell-bent on killing the shogun. His father is in the possession of several powerful tools which help him perform magical feats. Before killing himself the father hands off these magical tools to Tokubei. The spectacles that follow in this play are astounding.

“The play is remarkable not only for preposterous magic and visually brilliant special effects, but also for the dramatic concept of supernatural chaos…”

Source and quotes are from: Kabuki Plays On Stage: Darkness and Desire, 1804-1864, volume 3, pp. 33-35.


The publisher is probably Iseya Kanekichi.