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Archive: Hokushû (北洲)

(T) Nakamura Utaemon III (中村歌右衛門) as Mino no Shôkurô (美濃ノ庄九郎); (BR) Ichikawa Ebijûrô I (市川鰕十郎) as Gantetsu jitsu wa [actually] Miura Arajirô (丸鉄実は 三浦荒次郎); and (BL) Nakamura Karoku I (中村歌六) as keisei Hinazuru jitsu wa [actually] Shôkurô nyôbô [wife] Kochô (けいせい雛鶴実は 庄九郎妻小蝶) in Keisei ômonguchi (けいせい廓大門), Kado Theater, Osaka
Shunkôsai Hokushû ga
No artist seal
(T) Iden (井伝 Izutsuya Denbei, 井筒屋傳兵衞) and Toshin (利新 Toshikuraya Shinbei, 利倉屋新兵衛); (BR, BL) Honsei (本清 Honya Seishichi, 本屋清七) and Izumi-Ri (泉理 sometimes read as Senri)
(H x W)

Ôban triptych
Top (one sheet): 37.5 x 25.2 cm
Bottom (two sheets): 37.5 x 52.0 cm

Very good
Very good color; good condition (burnishing on Ebijûrô's kimono; fugitive blue of chidori (plover) curtain slightly discolored along bottom of top sheet; slight soil near Ebijûrô's left foot; BR and BL sheets backed and joined; T sheet unbacked and not joined to the others)
Price (USD/¥):
Inquiry: HKS33

The text of the play has apparently not survived, but it seems to be an adaptation of Ômonguchi yoroi kasane, written by Namiki Sôsuke in 12/1743, when it premiered at the Ônishi Theater in Osaka. It features a complicated saga in which Shôkurô plots against Shinkurô, the murderer of his father. As the names and aliases on the present design suggest, some of the characters took on disguises and false identities during the intrigues fueling the plot twists.


This is a most unusual triptych, with one sheet centered above the remaining two, an arrangement rare enough to require directions. The inscription on the right floor screen in the background of the top sheet reads kono e jô-ge san mai tsuzuki: "This print continues above the lower sheets." (The left screen on the top sheet is inscribed with Utaemon's role name, "Mino no Shôkurô.") Very few such designs are known, either in kamigata-e or Edo-e. The middle positioning of the top sheet is used to great effect here, as Mino no Shôkurô stands on the balcony and deftly pours oil to write a message on the floor between Gantetsu and Hinazuru. The two protagonists stop to stare, as if caught in a freeze frame.