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Segawa Rokō III (瀬川路考) as the courtesan Yūgiri (夕きり) of the Ōgiya house

Identifier: 1805 Toyokuni I p976
Description:

Segawa Rokō III (Segawa Senjo) performed this role in the 8th month, 1805.

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Yūgiri was a real person who attained the highest level among the courtesans, the tayū, a rank above an oiran. Although she died young at 22 her impact was felt strongly through Japanese culture via literature, bunraku and kabuki. Even Ihara Saikaku was said to have met her and wrote about her in 1684.

"Early in 1678, just after Yūgiri died, Sakata Tōjūirō, the famous Kyoto Kabuki actor and master in lover roles (wagoto), came to Osaka to perform at the Kaneko Rokuemon Theatre, in the play Farewell to Yūgiri at New Year (Yūgiri nagori no shōgatsu). He played opposite the star female impersonator Itō Kodayū II in the part of Yūgiri. Tōjūirō, as Izaemon the effeminate lover, was a great hit, giving birth to the famous theatrical pair Yūgiri-Izaemon. The play was such a success that it was repeated several times during that year. Each time, over the eighteen different performances during his lifetime, Tōjūirō added or altered elements to the Yūgiri-Izaemon love story; through Tōjūirō's acting, the Yūgiri plays became an indispensible part of the Kabuki repertoire."

Quoted from: 18th Century Japan: Culture and Society by C. Andrew Gerstle, p. 12.

Yūgiri's death memorialization in kabuki did not go unnoticed "...by the Jōruri world. Chikamatsu Monzaemon wrote the first one , Memorial to Yūgiri (Yūgiri Sanzesō, 1686), putting it into the typical plot of the oiesōdō (disturbance in a grand house) genre, the 'Yoshidaya' act being the most famous. The work, which became the basis for later Yūgiri plays is, however, Chikamatsu's, Yūgiri and the Straits of Naruto (Yūgiri Awa no Naruto, 1712). The 'Yoshidaya' act again was later rewritten for Kabuki as Letter from the Pleasure Quarter (Kuruwa bunshō), the version known to audiences today, first performed at the Edo Nakamura Theatre in 1808." Ibid., pp. 12-13.

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