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Diptych: The Cat Witch Demon with Iwai Hanshirō V (岩井半四郎) as Katsusaya Kojorō (かつさや小女郎) on the left and Onoe Kikugorō III (尾上菊五郎) as Tamaya Shimbei (三浦屋新兵へ) on the right in the play Shinjū to tare mo yūdachi (心中誰夕立)

Identifier: 1830s Kunisada cat witch

Sarah Thompson wrote of this theme: “The story of Tamaya, a young man from a wealthy merchant family in Echizen Province who ruined himself financially for the love of the Kyoto courtesan Kojorō, was already a subject of romantic ballads in the late seventeenth century. In the eighteenth century, it became the basis for books and plays as well.” Thompson even describes one version in which Tamaya was caught shorthanded in Kojorō’s brothel and therefore was punished by being put in a barrel with a small, cut-out window (an okebuse) facing the entry to the pleasure district.

Two actors under umbrellas look up fearfully at the apparition of the Cat Witch Okabe flying above them through a thunder-cloud. A fine dramatic composition.

The word 'yūdachi' (夕立) means 'sudden shower'. 'Shinjū' means 'double suicide'.


The name of the actor on the left is the same in each of the examples shown at the Mead Art Museum and the Hankyu Culture Foundation, but the name of the role at the later is different from the one in Amherst and in the Lyon Collection. The Hankyu character is Katsusaya Kojorō (かつさや小女郎). Clearly this would indicate different editions of this diptych.

Notice also the difference in the inking of the robes this example and those at the Hankyu Culture Foundation. This strengthens our argument for different editions. Which of the two is earlier is still up in the air. (JSV)

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