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Archive: Hokuei (北英)

(1R) Arashi Rikan II (嵐璃寛) as Miyamoto Musashi (宮本無三四); (2R) Nakamura Tomosa II (中村友三) as Bōzu [bonze, Buddhist priest] Iwamatsu (坊主岩松) in Katakiuchi nitô eiyûki (復讐二島英勇記), Onishi Theater, Osaka
Shunkōsai Hokuei ga (春江齋北英画)
No artist seal
Honsei (本清)
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
36.4 x 25.8 cm
Excellent color, unbacked; album crease along right edge; light smudges near sword hilts
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry: HKE94


The play Katakiuchi nitô no eiyûki (A tale of revenge and great courage on two islands: 復讐二島英勇記) was based on the historical Miyamoto Musashi (c. 1584-1645; 宮本 武蔵), whose name meant "Storehouse of military knowledge." Also an author, Musashi wrote Gorin no sho (The Book of Five Rings: 五輪書), a treatise on military tactics, strategy, and philosophy. 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, although he survived armed combat more than 60 times and died a natural death. Katakiuchi nitô no eiyûki was one of many popular tales of vengeance and retribution, an example of the theatrical genre of "revenge plays" called katakiuchi mono (敵討物) or adauchi mono (仇打ち物). In one such incident, Musashi (here given the name Miyamoto Tomojirô) avenged the murder of his father by despatching his killer with a wooden sword, a lethal weapon in the hands of a master swordsman.


This is one of at least four designs that Hokuei produced for this production at the Onishi Theater. In this scene, Musashi holds a burning torch and grips the handle of his long sword while threatening the Buddhist priest Iwamatsu.

Th preservation of colors is especially fine on this impression.

References: IBKYS-II, no. 281; KNP-6, p. 250; IKB-I, no. 3-61; Rijksmuseum (Museum Volkenkunde Inv #1353-701)