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Hokushû (北洲)

Nakamura Utaemon III in a farewell kôjô, Kado Theater, Osaka
Shunkôsai Hokushû ga
Artist seal: Hokushû
Tenki (Tenmaya Kihei: 天満屋喜兵衞)
(H x W)
ôban nishiki-e
38.0 x 26.6 cm
Good color (purple of sword hilt faded); very good condition (a few tiny wormholes at upper left corner; very slight trimming at bottom; top and left margins intact; nice yellow ground)
Price (USD/¥):
$550 / Contact us to pay in yen (¥)

Order/Inquiry (Ref #HKS05)


The 3/1825 production of plays at the Kado Theater was intended to be Utaemon's farewell to his fans, although the anticipated retirement was delayed for more than a decade (see the Ireki article). It was an ambitious program for Utaemon, who performed various roles in the plays Yoshitsune koshigoejô, Hikosan gongen chikai no sukedachi, Himekomatsu ne no hi no asobi, and Ichinotani futaba gunki.


The long inscription is Utaemon's kôjô, a kabuki actor’s long speech serving as a formalized expression of gratitude to the audience. The large characters just above the actor's name at the far right read Isse ichidai kôjô ("Opening words: Once in a lifetime performance"), used to designate either (1) a final play or performance celebrating an actor's achievements over an entire career, given shortly before he retired, or (2) an especially successful performance. When meant to indicate a great success, it served as a sales pitch as well as a comment about the popularity of the production.

Utaemon actor wears a formal robe (kamishimo) and an inner robe (noshime), each patterned with his crest of crossed scrolls within roundels. He holds a closed folding fan (ôgi), and a sword (katana) lies at his feet.

References: IKBYS-I, no. 157; WAS I-4, no. 236; KNP-6, p. 125; IKB-I, no. 1-438 and 439