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Nakamura Utaemon III (三代目中村歌右衛門) as Hangaku-jo (半がく女)
in Wada gassen onna maizuru

Identifier: 1820s Kunihiro Utaemon
This print commemorates a performance at the Kado Theater in Osaka in 1/1823.

Written by Namiki Sōsuke and premiering in 3/1736 as a ningyō jōruri (puppet play: 人形淨瑠璃), Wada gassen onna maizuru (The battles of Wada and a woman's crane dance: 和田合戦女舞鶴) is a reworking of the hero Asahina's legendary gate smashing during a dispute between Wada Tsunemori (Asahina's father) and Hōjō Yoshitoki. Sharing some of its plot with Chikamatsu Monzaemon's Egara no heita (1692), the play is a prime example of onna budō (female samurai: 女武道). Hangaku is the wife of a shogun retainer named Asari Yoichi and the mother of Ichiwakamaru. Due to complicated intrigues against the shogun and family disputes over alliances with opposing interests, they are barred from the Fujisawa mansion. Events force Yoichi to divorce Hangaku, who in her rage uses her skills in the martial arts and exceptional strength to tear down the mansion gate (Hangaku kado yasburi or "Hangaku's gate smashing"), using her naginata (lit., "long sword," a halberd: 長刀 or 薙刀). Later, she must sacrifice her son for the shogun's heir.

Hangaku presses her hand against the massive gate, which she will soon tear down. Her anger and determination are evident in the mie (pose: 見得) struck by the superstar actor Utaemon III. The simulated wood grain of the doors provides an effective background to complement the colorful robes (patterned with repeated emblems of tsuru or cranes, 鶴).

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