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Archive: Hokushû (北洲) and Shigenobu (collaborative work)

(R) Hokushû: The late Arashi Kitsusaburô I (in roundel) as Yorimasa; and (L) Shigenobu: Arashi Kitsusaburo II as hyôgo no kami Yorimasa in Yorimasa nue monogatari, Naka Theater, Osaka
(Middle right) Shunkôsai Hokushû ga; (Lower right) Tôto Yanagawa Shigenobu
No artists' seals
No publisher seal
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
37.2 x 26.3 cm
Very good impression (karazuri on Yorimasa's kimono)
Excellent color; Good condition (expertly repaired binding holes; flattened crease along left edge from former album mounting; very slight soil)
Price (USD/¥):
Inquiry (Ref #HKS09)

The historical Minamoto no Yorimasa (1104-1180) served eight different sovereigns in his long career, holding various posts such as hyôgo no kami (head of the arsenal). He was also a prominent poet whose works appeared in various anthologies. In 1179 he entered the Buddhist priesthood and took the name Gen Sanmi Nyûdô.

Although he had allied himself with the Taria clan against the Minamoto during the Hôgen no ran (Hôgen civil war; 1156-59) and the Heiji no ran (Heiji civil war; 1160), he switched allegiance and led the Minamoto forces against the Taira in 1180. Suffering defeat at Uji, he committed suicide in the Byôdô Temple.

The legendary Yorimasa is forever associated with slaying the mythical Nue in 1153 — as recorded in the Heike monogatari (Tale of the Heike; first quarter 13th century). Yorimasa, who was a formidable archer, spied on the emperor's palace roof a strange winged-creature with an ape's head, tiger's claws, badger's (tanuki) back, and snake-head tail. As the emperor was suffering from a life-threatening illness, Yorimasa suspected that the nue was the cause. A single arrow took down the beast, whereupon Yorimasa's retainer (Ino Hayata Tadazumi) delivered the coup de grâce with his sword.


Collaborative Design: For this special occasion Hokushû produced the roundel portrait of Kitsusaburô I while Shigenobu contributed the figure of Tokusaburô I. Yanagawa Shigenobu (1787-1832) was an Edo artist — the "Tôto" in his signature refers to the "Eastern capital" or Edo — active in Osaka during 1822-25. He would have seen performances by Tokusaburô in Edo, who had been a successful actor there at the time he was recruited by Nakamura Utaemon III (Kitsusaburô's former arch rival) to succeed to the Kitsusaburô geimei (acting name).

This performance of Yorimasa by Kitsusaburô II (formerly Tokusaburô I; later Rikan II; 1788-1837) was part of a first-year memorial program for his illustrious predecessor, Arashi Kitsusaburô I (Rikan I; 1769-9/1821). It also featured a shûmei or accession ceremony — here the passing on of an acting name to a successor — through which Tokusaburô I became Kitsusaburô II. As Kitsusaburô I's final performance before his fatal illness was as Yorimasa in 8/1821, the role held the utmost symbolic significance for the Arashi lineage, their fans, and the Kamigata theatrical world. There would have been enormous pressure on Kitsusaburô II to perform at a level worthy of a homage to his predecessor.

The inscription closest to the roundel announces the name succession: Ichi shûki no tsuizen ni shimei wo gyoku harite (I have received my teacher's name on the first anniversary of his death*). The poem to the left of the inscription reads Shi no on wo / itadaku kasa ni / hito shigure (Grateful for my teacher's beneficence / pouring down upon my rain hat / like a sudden autumn storm*). The final inscription (far right) says Tokusaburô aratame Arashi Kitsusaburô (Tokusaburô changing to Arashi Kitsusaburô).

Tokusaburô's headgear is called a hikitate eboshi ("bird-hat pulled upright"), one of the pliable hats worn by samurai. Dressed in robes patterned with yellow gentian crests (rindô mon) associated with the Minamoto (Genji) clan, and his sword scabbard covered in tiger's fur, Tokusaburô holds the bow and arrow that Yorimasa will use to bring down the nue.

References: IKBYS-I, no. 133; KNZ, no. 182; IKB-I, no. 2-378; KNP-6, p. 86; NKE, p. 551; RRT, p. 58 * English trans.