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Archive: Hokuei (北英)

Arashi Rikan II as Danshichi Krobei in Natsu matsuri Naniwa kagami ("Mirror [Pattern] of the Naniwa Summer Festival: 夏祭浪花鑑) @ Chikugo no Shibai, Osaka
Shunkôsai Hokuei ga
No Artist Seal
No publisher seal
(H x W)
Oban nishiki-e
35.5 x 23.6 cm
Excellent, deluxe edition with metallics (simulated gold and silver)
Excellent color, good condition, not backed; slight staining, some trimming, re-inforced horizontal centerfold with missing paper to left of Rikan's left hand; brushed pigment at bottom of undergarment
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry (Ref #HKE46)


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 Kurobei, 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.


Hokuei's print depicts the aftermath of the confrontation between Danshichi and his father-in-law, Giheiji, in one of kabuki's most famous episodes, Nagamachi no ura no ba ("Back street scene in Nagamachi"). As their argument escalates over Danshichi's payment to ransom the courtesan Kotoura, sounds of revelry can be heard from an approaching Kozû Shrine Festival parade in Dôtonbori — note the banners in the background. During performances of this play, the boisterous music provides an incongruous carnivalesque accompaniment to the action in the gloomy backstreet. Danshichi draws his sword, accidentally cutting Giheiji, who screams, "Murderer!" Overcome with rage, Danshichi, his unknotted hair falling to his shoulders, strips down to a red loincloth, revealing his tattooed body. Danshichi's emblematic robe patterned with white-and-rust colored cross bars, called "checkered Danshichi" (Danshichi-gôshi), is draped over the plant stakes at the middle right. As he moves in on his prey, Danshichi performs various koroshi no mie (murderer's poses: 殺し見得) in counterpoint to Giheiji's displays of panic and supplication. Finally, after asking for forgiveness, Danshichi ends the old man's life with a thrust of his sword. Danshichi then washes splattered blood and Giheiji's muddy handprints from his body, using water from a nearby well. He escapes by mingling with the large crowd of festival celebrants.

Another impression is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (#11.35271).

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