Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳) (artist 01/01/1797 – 04/14/1861)

Onoe Kikugorō III (尾上菊五郎) as the ghost of Oiwa in Irohagana Yotsuya Kaidan


9.75 in x 14.75 in (Overall dimensions)

Signed: Ichyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Publisher: Kawaguchiya Shōzō
(Marks 231 - seal 25-355)
Censor's seal: kiwame
Lyon Collection (earlier Hokushū version)
Waseda University

This print commemorates a performance at the Ichimura Theater in the fourth month of 1833.

Another example of this print was shown in Japan in 1994. The catalog from that show, Ukiyo-e from The Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, MA identified the subject, "The Actor Onoe Kikugoro as the Ghost of Kasane"

In any event, there is an uncanny resemblance to another print in the Lyon Collection by Hokushū (see 'related entities' below).


Often in kabuki theater ghosts are represented by figures in white robes, but not always. The white robe is similar to a katabira, a summer robe, but it is referred to as a kyōkatabira (経帷子). After a person died their body was washed, often by female family members, and prepared in a certain way. At the end, whether Shintō or Buddhist, they were dressed in a white garment to start them on their next (spiritual/afterlife) journey. "Three women of the community followed strict rules in making the death robe. They measured the cloth by hand instead of with a ruler, tore the cloth instead of cutting it with scissors, sewed the seams so that the stitches were visible, left the ends of the threads unknotted, and made no collar. Making the garment different from the clothes worn by the living emphasized the contrast between life and death..." That is why we see the figure of Oiwa in a loose white robe in this print.


Illustrated in black and white as figure 12 in 'Kuniyoshi's "Minamoto Raikō" and "the Earth Spider": Demons and Protest in Late Tokugawa Japan' by Melinda Takeuchi in Ars Orientalis, Vol. 17, 1987.

Onoe Kikugorō III (三代目尾上菊五郎: 11/1815-3/1848) (actor)
Kawaguchiya Shōzō (川口屋正蔵) (publisher)
actor prints (yakusha-e - 役者絵) (genre)
Yūrei-zu (幽霊図 - ghosts demons monsters and spirits) (genre)
Oiwa (お岩) (role)
Tsuruya Nanboku IV (四代目鶴屋南北) (author)