Iwai Shijaku I as Osuma no Kata on the right and Bandō Jūtarō I as Sasaya Hanbei in <i>Honobonoto ura no asagiri</i>

Shunbaisai Hokuei (春梅斎北英) (artist )

Iwai Shijaku I as Osuma no Kata on the right and Bandō Jūtarō I as Sasaya Hanbei in Honobonoto ura no asagiri


20.25 in x 15 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese woodblock print
Signed: Shunkōsai Hokuei ga
Artist's seal: Fumoto no yuki ("snow in the foothills")
Carver: surimono hori Kasuke
Victoria and Albert Museum
Yale University Art Gallery This play was performed at the Naka Theater in Osaka in 9/1832.

Honobonoto ura no asagiri ('Daybreak hidden on the bay by morning fog' - 仏暁浦朝霧) is an example of an adauchi mono (revenge tale: 仇打ち物). In this design — one of Hokuei's most dramatic — we see Lady Osuma shining her lantern on Sasaya Hanbei (an accomplice of the villain in the story Karahashi Daisuke). The encounter takes place just after he has murdered the fiancée of the play's hero, Kowari Dennai, by throwing her off a cliff. In making his escape, he flings star-shaped throwing blades (shuriken - 手裡劍) at Osuma.

The figures are printed with saturated colors, and there are metallic pigments on the sword (katana) and sheath carried by Osuma. The background — a rather sparse, forbidding, and somewhat surreal scene — is printed mostly in shades of gray, showing only a rock or cave on a beach with an ominous night sky.

Hanbei is captured in an expressive gesture as he twists his torso to face Osuma, crossing his legs and lifting his sugegasa (sedge hat - 菅笠) to hide his face. The light of the torch brightens the colors where it falls upon Hanbei's robes, while beyond the cone of illumination there is overprinting with gray to simulate diminished light. Hokuei has used the effects of differentiated luminance to heighten the dramatic impact as Osuma puts the spotlight on evil, its incarnation so startled that he has no time to turn his body completely around to confront her." [This section is quoted directly from the website at Osakaprints.com.]

There is a poem written in metallic pigment in the sky on the right-hand sheet (partly rubbed and difficult to photograph) signed by the actor Shijaku, whose haigō was also "Shijaku." It seems to read:

Toukoto no
ōki tabine ya
naku kajika

Wandering the mountains
I sleep during my journey
and hear the croaking of frogs

Kajika were frogs admired for their beautiful sound. The verse possibly describes the heroine later in the story as she tracks down Hanbei.

This diptych is from the first state "surimono-style" edition. The hand-stamped block carver seal at the lower left of the right-hand sheet reads, "surimono hori Kasuke - 摺物ホリ嘉スケ (surimono cut by Kasuke)" and identifies these sheets as coming off wood blocks cut by one of the celebrated names in Osaka printmaking.

The red artist seal at lower left and right is one of many used by Hokuei. In this instance it might have been derived from one that his teacher Hokushū used (which was, in turn, based on a seal used by the Edo master Katsushika Hokusai). The hiragana script reads fumoto no yuki (ふもとのゆき) likely meaning "snow on the foothills."

There is a second state in deluxe-style with the mark of the publisher Iden, but lacking the Kasuke surimono seal.



1) in color in Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in European Collection 5: Victoria and Albert Museum II, Kodansha, 1989, #151.

2) in Ikeda Bunko, Kamigata Yakusha-e Shusei (Collected Kamigata Actor Prints) Volume 2, Ikeda Bunko Library, Osaka 1997, no. 298.

3) in a half-page color reproduction in Japanese Prints by Catherine David, 2010, Éditions Place des Victoires, p. 293. It also appears in a small reproduction in color on the front cover of the book jacket.

4) in a full-page color reproduction in Impressions, no. 20, 1998, pl. 10.
Izutsuya Denbei (井筒屋伝兵衞) (publisher)
Bandō Jūtarō I (初代坂東寿太郎: from 11/1825 to 12/1840) (actor)
actor prints (yakusha-e - 役者絵) (genre)
Kyōto-Osaka prints (kamigata-e - 上方絵) (genre)
surimono - 摺物 (genre)
Iwai Shijaku I (初代岩井紫若: 11/1822-2/1844) (actor)