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Nakamura Shikan I (中村芝寛) as Hotei Ichiemon [布袋市右衛門] in the series Ryūkō Go Karigane or 'Five Fashionable Men from Karigane' (流行五雁金)

Identifier: 1818c Toyokuni Shikan

The identification of Hotei Ichiemon as the character on this print is easy to understand. The answers lie in the decorations on his clothing. His tobacco pouch takes the shape of a mallet. On his obi is a repeated image of a fan lying on a large, engorged bag. All three are iconographic identifiers of Hotei, one of the Seven Propitious Gods. This fellow, however, is an otokodate who also carries that name.

There is a Shunsho print from 1780 showing an actor as Hotei Ichiemon. His robe is decorated with the god Hotei's large bags with a fan lying on them. See the link to this print at the British Museum above.


"The Karigane Five (Karigane Gonin) were a notorious gang of at least eleven outlaws led by Karigane Bunshichi, active in Osaka during the early 1700s and who were executed on 26th August 1702. Their violent crimes were associated with similar acts of lawlessness that took place in Edo between 1701 and 1703. Takedo Izumo II dramatized these incidents for the puppet theatre in "Karigane's Five Brave and Chivalrous Men" ("Otokodate Itsutsu Karigane"), first performed in September 1742. Takeda's play mythologized the criminals and transformed them into heroes who fought against oppressive and vindictive samurai in defence of the common townsmen. Numerous other adaptations included the 1788 kabuki play "The Karigane Five in the Brothel Quarter" ("Seiro Itsutsu Karigane") by Baigetsudo Kajihito. Wardsmen ('otokodate') were also known as 'chivalrous commoners' and are usually shown with a flute ('shakuhachi'). This instrument was supposed to indicate that these men were culturally refined but in actuality the flute often was used as a truncheon to deliver beatings."

Quoted from a description of an Utamaro print in the Hunterian Museum of Art in Glasgow.

The actor hikes up his robes as he steps out. His black over pink outer robe is decorated with a large orange bat facing us on the sleeve and other away-facing orange bats flying all around. Bokashi at bottom of outer robe leaves two bats silhouetted in black against a pink ground. A large shakuhachi (bamboo flute) tucked into his obi.

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