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Ashiyuki (芦幸)

(1R) Nakamura Shikan II as Nuregami no Chôgorô, (2R) Nakamura Utaemon III as Yamazaki Yogorô, (3R) Nakamura Karoku IV as keisei Azuma, (4R) Seki Sanjûrô II as Hanaregoma no Chôkichi in Omoto Kamematsu hiyoku no kanzashi, Kado Theater, Osaka
Gigadô Ashiyuki ga
No artist seal
Wataki (Wataya Kihei, 綿屋喜兵衞)
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
39.0 x 108.0 cm
Excellent color, unbacked; repaired wormholes along three edges of all sheets, no other marks of any kind
Price (USD/¥):

The plot of Omoto Kamematsu hiyoku no kanzashi (The lovers' comb: Omoto and Kamematsu: おもと龜松中村笄 ) is unknown to us. However, given the role names, this play appears to be a variant of Futatsu chôchô kuruwa nikki (Diary of two butterflies in the pleasure quarters: 双蝶々曲輪日記). The central theme of that drama involves an attempt to thwart the ransom of a courtesan named Azuma by the evil samurai Hiraoka Goemon (also the wrestler Chôkichi's patron) in favor of the wrestler Chôgorô's sponsor, Yogorô, whom Azuma loves. Yogorô bribes Chôgorô to throw a sumô match against Chôkichi in the hope of enlisting the latter's help in stopping Goemon, but even after being handed a false victory, Chôkichi refuses to violate his patron's wishes. Afterwards, however, in a scene in which Chôgorô prevents Chôkichi from committing seppuku (ritual suicide, lit., "incision of the abdomen": 切腹) over shame for falling into dissipation, the two wrestlers become "brothers," and then Chôkichi returns the favor by aiding Chôgorô in his escape after he murders four men trying to steal Azuma for Goemon.


The two sumô wrestlers eye one another as well as observe Yogorô and his lover Azuma, who are amused by butterflies in flight. Note the similarity in the costumes worn by Yogorô and Azuma, which share the same colors and are patterned with butterflies. The arrangement of the protagonists is decidedly not accidental, as there are two pairs of butterflies in this scene: Yorogô and Azuma, intimates who are posed together, and Chôgorô and Chôkichi, rivals in sumô who stand as opposites, like bookends, and whose names include the character for chô, "butterfly."

This tetraptych is rarely found complete, as here, and with such well-preserved colors.

For another scene from this play, see KUH12.

References: IKBYS-III, no. 523 (two sheets only); WAS, vol. 4, no. 371 (3 sheets only); KNP-6, p. 157