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Hokuei (北英)

(1R) Ichikawa Yonejûrô I (市川米十郎) as musume [young woman] Miyuki (娘みゆき); (2R) Kataoka Gatô I (片岡我当) as Miyagi Asojirô (宮城阿曽治郎) in Keisei tsukushi no tsumagoto (Courtesan: Playing the tsukushi koto: 傾城筑紫𤩍), unidentified theater
Shunbaisai Hokuei ga (春梅齋北英画)
No artist seal
Wataki (綿喜)
c. 1834-35
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
37.7 x 257. cm
Very good
Very good color and overall condition (unbacked; very minor marks, slight crease near signature, slight trimming, slight tiny mark on Miyuki's face)
Price (USD/¥):
$580 / Contact us to pay in yen (¥)

Order/Inquiry (Ref #HKE91)


The dramatization of Asagao (Morning Glory, 朝顔) has rather complicated history. The play Shôutsushi asagao banashi (Recreating the true story of morning glory: 生写朝顔話) was one of a number of dramatizations of this very popular love story. An unproduced puppet play was written between 1804 and 1806 by Yamada no Kagashi (posthumous name of Chikamatsu Tokusô, 1751-1810) after a kodan (講談 oral storytelling) by Shiba Shisô called Asagao (朝顔). Four or five years later, an illustrated book titled Asagao nikki (朝顔日記) was published. Next, in 1812, a play called Shôutsushi asagao nikki (Recreating the true diary of morning glory: 生写朝顔日記) was staged in Osaka, written by Dekishima Sensuke (i.e., not the play authored by Chikamatsu Tokusô), but it was a failure. In 1814 a revised version (8 acts and 12 scenes) of Tokusô's drama was staged at the Kado no Shibai in Osaka. That same play was adapted for the puppet stage and presented on the grounds of the Inari Shrine in Osaka; it was attributed (posthumously) to Tokusô. The play was again re-staged at the Takemoto puppet theater, Osaka in 1/1832. Another playwright, Suishô Enshûjin, made a final revision, and it is this version that was also presented in kabuki. The play received a rewrite in 1850 by Nishizawa Ippô (1802-1852) as an adaptation of the puppet play, and it is this version that is used today.

The tale features the love between Miyagi Asojirô (宮木阿曽次郎) and Akizuki musume Miyuki (秋月娘深雪), daughter of a wealthy samurai, who first meet while enjoying an outing in pleasure boats on the Uji River. They are immediately smitten with one another and exchange vows, but afterwards a misunderstanding leads Miyuki to believe that her father will force her to marry someone else. Unknown to her, the "stranger" happens to be Asojirô, whose name was changed to Komazawa Jirôzaemon after his recent adoption into a samurai family. To keep her pledge to Asojirô, she runs away and assumes the name Asagao ("Morning Glory"), a reminder of the poem Asojirô had written for her at their first meeting). After months pass, Miyuki loses her sight from endless grieving, barely supporting herself by playing the koto (stringed instrument, resembling a horizontal harp: 琴). One day she encounters her lover by chance, who sees that she is now destitute and blind from tears and grief. Suddenly he is called away by his lord and Miyuki despairs, running after him in a fierce storm. Unable to cross the river, she is ready to throw herself into the raging water, but is stopped by a retainer of her father. Miyuki ultimately regains her sight after curing her blindness with a drug left for her by Asojirô. 


Hokuei's design is a portrayal of the initial encounter between Asojirô and Miyuki on the pleasure boats. Asojirô assists Miyuki as she lifts a foot while preparing to return to her boat, whose prow can be seen at the upper right.

The actor Ichizô relocated to Edo in 1829 and returned to Kamigata in the spring of 1834, first performing in Nagoya. Gakujûrô was in Kamigata from 11/1818 until his death in 11/1835, just 7 months after a production at the Seijuin no Shibai, a shrine-grounds theater in Nagoya. Although unconfirmed, this may be a rare design commemorating a Nagoya staging.

This is a very rare design. We know of only two unrecorded impressions, the one we're offering here and another in a private collection. We can find no other copies in public museums or institutional collections around the world, or in the standard literature on Osaka prints.

References: NKE, p. 603