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Archive: Hikokuni (彦國)

(R) Iwai Hanshirô V as Sankatsu and (L) Nakamura Utaemon III as Hanshichi in Kyôgôka somete murasaki, Naka Theater, Osaka
Hikokuni ga (on each sheet)
Artist seal: none; Censor seal: kiwame ("approved")
Wataki (Wataya Kihei, 綿屋喜兵衞)
(H x W)
Oban diptych nishiki-e
36.4 x 50.5 cm
Good color; moderately good condition (slight rubbing; some soil; slightly trimmed; vertical album fold at right edge of left sheet; a few small filled-in wormholes; light centerfolds)
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry (Ref #HKK01)


This play was one of many jôruri and kabuki adaptations based on an actual double-suicide (shinjû) from 1695 when the couple Minoya Sankatsu and Akaneya Hanshichi ended their lives at Saitarabatake, part of the burial ground of Sennichi-ji, an Osaka temple. Hanshichi, the son of a wine merchant, deserted his wife Osono for Sankatsu, with whom he had a daughter, Otsû. Their shameful affair ultimately led to their shinjû.


Hanshichi holds their love child before the great pillars of a temple gate (torii). The steps are drawn in typical uki-e ("floating view") style, steep and sharply convergent.

The presence of a kiwame (approval) seal — quite unusual in kamigata-e — most likely indicated that the design was intended for sale in Edo, where such seals were required. Given that the Edo superstar Hanshirô V — one of the greatest onnagata in the history of kabuki — was performing in this play at an Osaka venue (he played in Kamigata only from 10/1820 to 1/1822), and that he was paired with yet another idol of the stage, Utaemon III, there is little doubt that selling this diptych in Edo would have been as good as money-in-the-bank for the Osaka publisher Wataki. In addition, censor seals appeared on an unusually high number of kamigata-e in 1821-23, possibly suggesting a fad for the sale of Osaka prints in Edo.

References: IBKYS-II, no. 94; KNP-6, p. 79; IKB-I, no. 2-371