Shunbaisai Hokuei (春梅斎北英) (artist before 1837)
Nakamura Utaemon III (中村歌右衛門) as Tonbei, the ferryman at Yaguchi (Yaguchi no Watashi - 矢口ノ渡し守頓兵衛) - left-hand panel of a diptych from the play Shinrei Yaguchi no Watashi (神霊矢口渡)）
10.25 in x 14.75 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese woodblock print
Signed: Shunbaisai Hokuei ga
Publisher: Honya Seishichi (Marks 123 - seal 25-527)
Waseda University - the right-hand panel
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg
Hankyu Culture Foundation
National Museums Scotland
National Museums Scotland - right-hand panel
This scene is based on a famous jōruri play first produced in 1770. The author was Fukuuchi Kigai (福内鬼外), aka Hiragi Gennai (平賀源内 - 1728-1780).
"Events during the fourteenth century are the basis of this historical play (jidaimono). It was originally written for the puppet theatre in Edo. The first kabuki version was performed in Edo's Kiri-za in 1794. The author was Fukuchi Kigai, the theatrical writers [sic] name of Hiraga Gennai. This play largely owed it popularity to the actor Ichikawa Danjūrō VII. He played the villainous ferryman Tonbei in the 1831 performance at the Kawarazaki-za in an exaggerated bravura style (arragoto). The story revolves around treason, loyalty and unrequited love, with a touch of magic."
Quoted from: Heroes of the Kabuki Stage by Arendie and Henk Herwig, p. 225.
The introduction to the summary at Kabuki21 lays out the bare outline of plot of this play:
"During the reign of the Emperor Godaigo, the wicked Ashikaga Takauji attempted to dethrone the Emperor and set up a pretender in his place. A great battle was fought on the Plain of Musashino, near what later became Edo. The commander of the Imperial army was Nitta Yoshioki, a famous soldier. He and his troops fought courageously, but were defeated through the treachery of a man whom Yoshioki believed to be his friend. Yoshioki himself was murdered by this same false friend at Yaguchi, where a ferry crossed the Rokugô River."
In the background to Act IV, Scene 3, Tonbei's house, Kabuki21 says: "There is at the Yaguchi ferry on the Rokugô River the house of Tonbê, the ferryman, who has received a large sum of money as a reward from Ashikaga Takauji when he helped to kill Nitta Yoshioki by scuttling his ferry."
Illustrated in Ikeda Bunko, Kamigata Yakusha-e Shusei, (Collected Kamigata Actor Prints) volume 2, Ikeda Bunko Library, Osaka, 1998, no. 364.
Nakamura Utaemon III 三代目中村歌右衛門 (actor)
actor prints (yakusha-e - 役者絵) (genre)
Kyōto-Osaka prints (kamigata-e - 上方絵) (genre)
Honya Seishichi (本屋清七) (publisher)