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Archive: Hokushû (北洲)

Nakamura Utaemon III as Torii Matasuke in Keisei Kagamiyama, Kado Theater, Osaka
Shunkôsai Hokushû ga
No artist seal
Honsei (本清 Honya Seishichi: 本屋清七) plus the seal "Oki" 置 for the same publisher's family name, Tamaoki: 玉置)
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
37.0 x 26.0 cm
Very good impression
Very good color; Moderately good condition (unbacked; expertly repaired wormhole and lower right corner; "white" skirt possibly indicating an unused color block)
Price (USD/¥):
SOLD (Ref #HKS14)

Keisei kagamiyama is an abbreviated title for Keisei Soga kuruwa Kagamiyama (Kaga Mountain and a courtesan's Soga in the pleasure quarters), a play about two courtesans in the Yoshiwara, Edo. Kagamiyama mono (Kaga Mountain plays) dramatized eighteenth-century rivalries within the Maeda clan in Kaga; many were adaptations of a ningyô jôruri (puppet play) called Kagamiyama kokyô no nishiki-e (1782, Edo). A slightly earlier Kyoto production was Kagamiyama kuruwa no kikigaku premiering in 1780.

The main plot line was based on an actual incident from 1724 when the maidservant Osatsu avenged the death of her mistress, Omichi, who had been driven to suicide after being struck by a sandal — considered a terrible insult — by a woman named Sawano. In typical fashion, theatrical adaptations changed the names of the protagonists. After the lady-in-waiting Onoe uncovers a plot to seize power from the shôgun by an court woman named Iwafuji, the latter insults Onoe by striking her with a sandal. Onoe commits suicide, but only after revealing the conspiracy to her maid, Ohatsu. The dutiful maid foils the intrigue and kills Iwafuji with a sword, then symbolically beats the corpse with Onoe’s blood-stained sandal.


The scene shown here, once part of the original play, is no longer performed. It included an armed confrontation between Torii Matasuke and a lord named Taga. The two meet at the river's edge, Taga riding a black steed in the fast-flowing current, Matasuke poised for action. The dramatic pose (mie) must have thrilled kabuki audiences of the period, with Matasuke gripping the branch above his head while clenching the sword (katana) between his teeth. Later in the play Matasuke sacrifices himself and then, at the climax, returns as a vengeful spirit to defeat his enemies.

References: IKBYS-I, no. 92; IKB-I, 1-412; KNP-6, p. 77