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Archive: Hokuei (北英)

(R) Nakamura Shikan II as Miyamoto Musashi & (L) Nakamura Tomijûrô II as Itohagi in Katakiuchi nitô eiyûki, Kado Theater, Osaka
Shunbaisai Hokuei ga
No artist seal
Honsei (Honya Seishichi: 本屋清七)
(H x W)
Ôban diptych nishiki-e
36.2 x 51.2 cm
Very good
Good color and very good overall condition (unbacked; very minor marks and paper flaws)
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry (Ref #HKE14)


Katakiuchi nitô eiyûki (A tale of revenge and great courage on two islands: 復讐二島英勇記) draws upon the many legends of the historical Miyamoto Musashi (c. 1584-1645; 宮本 武蔵), whose name meant "Storehouse of military knowledge." Born in Mimasaka or Harima, Japan, he was a legendary swordsman and the son of the celebrated fencing master Yoshioka Tarozaemon, a retainer of the Ashikaga shôgun Yoshiteru. Musashi was a bold and reputedly reckless adventurer who nevertheless survived armed combat more than 60 times and died a natural death on June 13, 1645 in Higo. Katakiuchi nitô no eiyûki was one of the many popular tales of vengeance and retribution, "revenge plays" called katakiuchi mono (敵討物) or adauchi mono (仇打ち物). In one such incident, Musashi adroitly used a wooden sword — a deadly weapon in the hands of a master — to slay the murderer of his father. Today, Musashi is widely known as the author of Gorin no sho (The Book of Five Rings: 五輪書), a book on military tactics, strategy, and philosophy. After its first English translation in 1974, the treatise captured the popular imagination and was seriously studied by business executives in the West to understand Japanese management techniques and strategies.


In this play, Musashi, whose father was assassinated by Sasaki Ganryû, is traveling to hunt down and take his revenge against the assassin. Arriving in Okayama, Bizen Province, Musashi finds a position assisting with kendô (lit., "way of the sword," or fencing: 剣道) lessons in the mansion of Shirakura Dengo. At first, Musashi is treated rudely as if he were a rustic and forced to report to the swordmaster. Shirakura, the uncle of Sasaki Ganryû, recognizes the name of Musashi and realizes that he plans to kill his nephew. Shirakura invites Musashi to join him in the bath, where he plans to kill him. Shirakura's sister Itohagi, who has fallen in love-at-first-sight with Musashi, saves her amorata. In this scene, Itohagi strikes a shy pose as she looks back at Musashi, who has just returned from the bath and wears his robe rather loosely. It is decorated with a pattern called ura-ume (reversed plum flower), a mon (crest: 紋) of the actor Shikan II.

References: IKBYS-II, no. 348; IKB-I, no. 495; KNP-6, p. 298; PPO, no. 83