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Hokushû (北洲)

Nakamura Utaemon III as Oboshi Yuranosuke in Kanadehon chûshingura, Kado Theater
Shunkôsai Hokushû ga
Artist seal: Hokushû
Tenki (Tenmaya Kihei: 天満屋喜兵衞); hand-stamped lower left corner
(H x W)
ôban nishiki-e
37.3 x 25.4 cm
Excellent color; good condition (very slight soil; a few small light creases; a few small paper imperfections; slightly rubbed at top; folded over right edge; backed)
Price (USD/¥):
$490 / Contact us to pay in yen (¥)

Order/Inquiry (Ref #HKS03)


Kanadehon chûshingura (Copybook of the Treasury of Loyal Retainers; often called simply "The Forty-seven Rônin") was a perennial favorite in the kabuki theater and is still performed today. This masterpiece was based on actual events taking place in 1703, when former retainers of the lord of Akô, Asano Naganori, exacted revenge by murdering Lord Kira Yoshinaka in Edo 21 months after their lord was forced into ritual suicide (seppuku). The theatrical version of this rousing tale involves a vendetta by the retainers of Enya Hangan (a provincial daimyô) who committed seppuku after a confrontation incited by the malicious Kô no Moronao (a chief councilor to the Shogun). The masterless samurai (rônin) were led by Oboshi Yuranosuke, who is portrayed above in Hokushû's design.


Yuranosuke is shown dancing while holding a folding fan (ôgi) in the scene called Gion Ichiriki no ba (the Ichiriki Teahouse scene in Gion). It is here that Yuranosuke is feigning a dissolute life to appear harmless and throw his enemies off the scent while the rônin plan their attack against Moronao.

The poems were composed by two actors in the 3/1830 production.

(1) Yozakura ya / emon midasuru / tomoe-mon

(2) Oboshi ni / sukashite yoman / oboro kage

The first, signed Baigyoku (Utaemon's haigô) speaks of admiring cherry blossoms (zakura) at night, which "leads" to disheveled robes with the tomoe crest. Cherry blossoms at night refers to courtesans, in particular those with whom Yuranosuke is cavorting — pretending to be drunk and playing blind man's bluff to trick Moronao's spies. The poem also refers to the emblem closely associated with Yuranosuke — two commas within a roundel called tomoe (visible on Utaemon's purple robe).

The second poem is signed Gadô (the haigô of Kataoka Nizaemon VII, who played the role of Ono Kudayû, one of Moronao's henchmen). It mentions reading through a veiled light under the "great star." This involves a pun on Yuranosuke's surname, Oboshi, and refers to the famous moment when Kudayû hides beneath the teahouse veranda and secretly reads the trailing end of a long scroll letter that Yuranosuke is examining, which contains information revealing Moronao's location. Kudayû is caught and then drowned by one of the rônin.

References: IKBYS-I, no. 180; PPO, no. 55; KNP-6, p. 229; IKB-I, no. 1-469; NKE, p. 271