fan crest   title
Home •  Recent Update •  Sales Gallery •  Archives
Articles •  Varia •  Glossary •  Biographies •  Bibliography
Search •  Video •  Contact Us •  Conditions of Sale •  Links

Ashikuni (芦國)

Nakamura Utaemon III as Yusuke nyôbô (Yasuke's wife: 女房) Osode in Yayoi ni hiraku ando no funahashi, Kado Theater, Osaka
Ashikuni ga
Poet's seal: kakihan used by Shikan (Utaemon III)
No seal
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
38.4 X 25.4 cm
Excellent (with metallics and embossing)
Excellent color and very good condition (unbacked; a few minor creases, marks, and wrinkles along top edge, tip of lower left corner repaired)
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry: ASK02 


Yayoi ni hiraku ando no funahashi (三月開 嬉心船橋) is an adaptation of the play Hachinoki (The potted trees: 鉢木). The lord of Kamakura, Hôjô Tokiyori, while traveling in disguise as a priest, seeks shelter from deep snow and freezing temperatures at the house of Tsuneyo, the former lord of Sano, who is impoverished following the confiscation of his lands by kinsmen. Tsuneyo sends the priest away, claiming he has no room, and suggests that the priest look for lodging in the next village. Tsuneyo calls the priest back, however, when his wife admonishes him, saying their wretched state is the consequence of their past sins and that more unkindness will bring ruin in their next life. When the night cold keeps him awake, Tsuneyo sadly cuts his cherished potted trees (bonzai) of plum, cherry, and pine, setting them on fire to keep the priest warm. When Tokiyori asks why Tsuneyo does not stake his claim before the lord of Kamakura, Tsuneyo replies that he has heard his lord is away on a pilgrimage. He adds that he would gladly don his broken armor, take up his rusty spear, mount his weakened horse, and defend his lord from harm. In a later scene, Tokiyori sends orders for all the lords of the eastern provinces to gather at Kamakura. He then asks to see the most ill-equipped lord, whereupon Tsuneyo, poorly attired, walks toward Tokiyori, thinking he is about to be executed. As the splendidly dressed lords look upon Tsuneyo with derision, Tokiyori reveals that he was the priest whom Tsuneyo had sheltered, and that for keeping his word to fight for his lord, returns to Tsuneyo his lands in Sano, along with three more estates, to compensate for the three bonzai Tsuneyo had sacrificed.

In Yayoi ni hiraku ando no funahashi, the mistreated lord is named Sano Genzaemon, and the priest/lord Saimyôji Nyûdô. Genzaemon is robbed of his lands by a wicked uncle. Other story lines are woven into the plot, but essentially Genzaemon (played by Nakamura Utaemon III) looks to regain possession of his ancestors' lands and win a Kamakura guarantee for his legitimate right to ownership. As indicated here, Utaemon also performed as Osode, here shown holding a brush and kneeling near a writing box, while the role of Yasuke was played by Kataoka Nizaemon VII.


The poem is signed Shikan, Utaemon's haigô (art name: 俳号) and bears his kakihan (writing seal: 花押). It reads: Saigô mo / Fuji minu tabi ya / ysuiri-gumo (Saigyô, too, will not see Fuji / on his journey / rainy-season clouds)* The monk and poet Saigyô (1118-90) journeyed widely about Japan and was often depcted in classical Japanese painting.

The monochrome screen painting (suibokuga: 水墨画) is signed Shikan ga. It depicts the wandering priest Saigyô and is also likely intended as a pun on the disguise worn by Saimyôji Nyûdô (Hôjô Tokiyori) in the kabuki and plays. The flying crane, besides offering Saigyô a view of one of nature's wonders, alludes to a dispute over a crane shot by an arrow in the kabuki play when Ichikawa Ebijûrô I as Miura Arajirô and Nakamura Utaemon III as Genzaemon each claim the kill.

The difference between the the printing of Osode in ukiyo-e style colors and the classical-style screen painting with minimal modulation of gray sumi produces a striking contrast in Ashikuni's design.

For a later ireki (lit., inserting wood, i.e., a modified keyblock: 入木) edition by Kunihiro, see Idolatry.

References: IKB-1, no. 30; KNP-6, p. 5; KHO, no. 164a*[transliteration and translation by Drew Gerstle]