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Archive: Hokuei (北英)

Arashi Rikan II as Danshichi Kurobei in Natsu matsuri Naniwa kagami (Mirror [Pattern] of the Naniwa Summer Festival: 夏祭浪花鑑) at the Chikugo no Shibai, Osaka
Shunkôsai Hokuei ga
No artist seal
Honsei (Honya Seishichi: 本屋清七)
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
37.5 x 25.4 cm
Very good
Very good color, unbacked; filled binding holes along left edge, repaired wormhole (upper left), three corners with slight rubbing, and soil lower edge
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry (Ref #HKE43)


Natsu matsuri Naniwa kagami (Mirror of the Osaka summer festival: 夏祭浪花鑑) was originally a nine-act sewamono (domestic or everyday drama: 世話物) staged for ningyô jôruri (puppet theater: 人形淨瑠璃) in 1745. Danshichi, a fishmonger and otokodate ("upright man" or chivalrous commoner: 男伊達 or 男作) was imprisoned for wounding a retainer of Ôshima Sagaemon (an enemy of Danshichi's ally, Tamashima Hyôdayû). Danshichi is paroled on the condition that he foreswear violence, so any breach of this agreement, however minor, will land him back in prison. Immediately after his release, he stops at the home of his friend Tsuribune no Sabu to wash and change clothes before seeing his wife. While there, Danshichi is attacked by the samurai Issun Tokubei who is allied with an enemy of the Tamashima clan. Sabu intercedes to prevent Danshichi's risking a return to prison by seizing a folding screen and holding it up between the two adversaries. Before the fight is resolved, Danshichi's wife, Okaji, arrives and is upset to discover that her husband, even before reaching home to rejoin his family, has fallen prey to violence again. Not long after, in a reversal of alliance, Tokubei befriends Danshichi and they pledge to protect the Tamashima clan.


In Hokuei’s design, Rikan wears his distinctive robe patterned with white-and-rust colored cross bars, called "checkered Danshichi" (Danshichi-gôshi). It covers most of an elaborate tattoo. He stands poised to chase after porters running off with a palanquin (kago or "vehicle basket": 駕籠 or simply 駕) bearing a precious cargo. Hidden inside is the former courtesan Kotoura, recently ransomed by Isonojô, a masterless samurai (rônin: 浪人) whom Danshichi has sworn to protect. The figure trotting behind the kago is Giheiji, who is kidnapping Kotoura to sell her to Sagaemon. Danshichi will soon overtake the kago and, without actually producing payment, trick Giheiji into selling back Kotoura. This leads to their ultimate confrontation — the celebrated back-street murder scene, which was a great favorite with kabuki audiences, and remains so to this day. The story ends when police surround Danshichi, who is on the roof of his house. He manages to leap into a river below and flee far from Osaka, escaping to Tamashima.

Although another impression is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (#11.35272), this design appears to be relatively rare, as it is not listed in the major Japanese institutional collections. There is a later state in which the black-gradated sky has been replaced by blue cloud bands or mist.

References: KNP-6, p. 253; IKB-I, no. 3-63; NKE, p. 462