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Archive: Hokuei (北英)

Nakamura Karoku I as keisei (courtesan) Yoyoginu in Yaemusubi Jiraiya monogatari (Story of Jiraiya at the weir: 柵自来也談), at the Kado no Shibai, Osaka
Shunkôsai Hokuei ga (春江斎北英画)
No artist seal
No publisher's seal
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
36.8 x 24.8 cm
Excellent (deluxe edition with metallics on poem)
Very good color and condition (slight soiling LL, very slight fading of red pigment; slight wormage (tiny holes at edges of background, 1 in kimono); backed with thin Japanese paper;
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry (Ref #HKE58)


The novel Katakiuchi kidan Jiraiya monogatari 報仇奇談自来也説話 (1806-07) by Kanwatei Onitake 感和亭鬼武 (1760-1818), a disciple of the celebrated writer Santô Kyôden (山東京伝 1761-1816), was the first yomihon or literary reading book ("book for reading": 読本 or 讀本) to be adapted for the kabuki stage. It was also the prototype for gôkan ("combined volumes": 合巻), popular illustrated novels issued in multi-volume sets.

The yomihon focused on two revenge incidents presented with an overlay of didacticism or morality lessons. Yaemusubi Jiraiya monogatari (The story of Jiraiya at the weir: 柵自来也談) premiered in 9/1807 at the Kado no Shibai, Osaka. It is one of several Jiraiya mono (Jiraiya plays) recounting the exploits of the righteous bandit Jiraiya (自来也) and his band of outlaws who, Robin Hood-like, robbed the wealthy and gave back to the poor. In one episode, Jiraiya rescues Tomokichi, a baby whose father, mother, and grandfather were murdered by the villain of the tale. Much later, Jiraiya aids Tomokichi in taking his revenge when the young man beheads his nemesis.


The courtesan Yoyoginu is adorned in one of the over-the-top costumes that were such big hits with fans of the onnagata (lit., "womens' manner": 女方 or 女形), male actors specializing in female roles in kabuki. The extraordinary obi (sash: 帯) is patterned with a giant crab printed in gold-colored brass. The gradated blue outer robe features sailing ships. Her many oversized kanzashi (hairpins: 簪 or 笄) are arrayed in a cantilevered display of outrageous opulence. Only the highest ranking keisei (lit., "castle topplers": 傾城 also 契情 or けいせい) could affored such such garments and adornments. The poem on the left is signed "Baishi" (梅枝), the haigô (literary name: 俳号) of the actor Nakamura Karoku I.

This is a difficult-to-find design and one of the finest examples of deluxe printing in Hokuei's oeuvre.

References: WAS-IV, p. 471; KNP-6, p. 254; NKE, p. 235