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Hokushû (北洲)

(R) Nakamura Utaemon III as Ishikawa Goemon and (L) Asao Yûjirô I as Iwaki Tôma in Kamagafuchi futatsu domoe, Naka no Shibai, Osaka
Shunkôsai Hokushû ga
Artist seal: Hokushû
Yamaichi (山市)
(H x W)
Ôban diptych nishiki-e
37.9 x 51.8 cm
Very good
Excellent color, unbacked; very light soil on lower portion of left sheet. Overall remarkable preservation of yellow ground
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Inquiry: HKS38


Kamagafuchi futatsu domoe (釜淵双級巴) is one of the Ishikawa Goemon mono (plays about Ishikawa Goemon), the legendary fugitive outlaw. The historical Goemon was a masterless samurai (rônin: ) during the reign of the shôgun Toyotomi Hideyoshi. At age sixteen he murdered three men while attempting to steal from his master. After his escape, he lived as a bandit for the next two decades until, in 1594, he was captured during a failed attempt to kill Hideyoshi. Goemon met a grisly end by being boiled in oil. The theatrical Goemon was often made into a hero — fearless, elusive, and endowed with magical powers. The first staging of Goemon’s exploits occurred in the 1680s.

The play presents Goemon as anti-hero, a swindler who extorts money and murders for personal gain. In the Shimabara pleasure quarters he falls in love with the courtesan Takigawa, with whom he flees (along with his son Gorôichi by his first wife, Ritsu). They marry and Takigawa takes the name Otaki. Worried that her stepson will suffer from the shame attached to Goemon, she purposely mistreats Gorôichi to drive him back to his mother (the scene is called mamako ijime, or "stepson bullying"). When Gorôichi murders Otaki after mistakenly believing she has been unfaithful, Goemon kills the cause of it all, a would-be suitor of Otaki's named Gorôbei. Father and son then make their escape, but are finally apprehended in the Fuji Forest, brought to Kyoto, and paraded in the streets. In the end they are boiled in a cauldron of oil by the riverbed at Shichijô.


This scene shows Iwaki Tôma grasping Goemon's sheathed sword as he attempts to prevent the bandit from leaving. Tôma is one of Goemon's victims, having been defrauded of 50 ryô (gold coins: 両) and lost his position of employment. He ultimately lets Goemon go because, it turns out, they are brothers, alluded to in play title as futatsu (pair: 双). Another play on words is koma (釜), which can mean "kettle" or "iron pot" and thus prefigures Goemon's death in the cauldron of boiling oil.

The poem on the left sheet (transliterated and translated into Italian by Eiko Kondo, see reference PPO below) was written by Nihyô (possibly a fan of the actor Yûjirô): Kogarahi no / iwaki ni ataru / oto takashi (meaning, roughly, "The frigid winter strikes against the rocks and trees, making a loud noise"). It includes a pun on the role name, Iwaki (lit., rocks and trees).

References: IKBYS-I, no. 131; PPO, nos. 14-15; NKE, p. 263