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Hokushû (北洲)

Nakamura Utaemon III (中村歌右衛門) as Reizan Kokushi, actually Ishikawa Goemon (霊山國師実は石川五右衛門) in Kinmon gosan no kiri (The Golden Gate and Paulownia Crest: 金門五三桐), Naka Theater, Osaka
Shunkôsai Hokushû ga (春好斎北洲画)
Artist Seal: Hokushû (北洲)
Toshin 利新 (Tokuraya Shinbei 利倉や新兵衞)
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
38.0 x 25.8 cm
Excellent, with embossing
Excellent color and overall very good condition, unbacked; filled album-binding holes along L margin, minor creases and rubbing along edges, faint paper-flaw creases around right foot
Price (USD/¥):

$750 / Contact us to pay in yen (¥)

Order/Inquiry: HKS62


Kinmon gosan no kiri (The Golden Gate and Paulownia Crest: 金門五三桐), written by Namiki Gohei I, premiered in 1788 as a five-act drama (it was renamed Sanmon gosan no kiri for its premiere in Edo in 1800). The first staging of Ishikawa Goemon's exploits occurred in the 1680s. The play recounts the tale of Ishikawa Goemon, a notorious rônin (a "wave man" or "floating man," i.e., masterless samurai: 浪人) during the reign of the shôgun Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598). At age sixteen, while attempting to steal from his master, Goemon murdered three men and went underground. He lived as a bandit for 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 transformed into a hero — fearless, elusive, and endowed with magical powers. He is identified as a son of Sô Sokei (whose alias was Ôinosuke), a Chinese general, who as a child was brought up by Takechi Mitsuhide (武智光秀), a warlord defeated by Mashiba Hisayoshi (the historical Toyotomi Hideyoshi, 豊臣秀吉, 1537- 1598). Goemon first appears in Act I as a Zen priest named Reizan Kokushi (霊山國師) from the Nanzen Temple in Kyôto who steals a treasure belonging to the Mashiba clan and kills a retainer named Tsutsui Junkei who tries to thwart the theft. While on the run, Goemon takes refuge atop the main gate of the Nanzen Temple. There, for a moment, he admires the beautiful hanging cherry blossoms, when a hawk suddenly flies up to him, holding a torn kimono sleeve in its beak with an inscription — written in blood — revealing that his murdered father was involved in a plot to overthrow Mashiba Hisayoshi in the name of the Chinese emperor. Upon learning this, Goemon vows to take revenge against Hisayoshi.


Hokushû has portrayed Goemon in his disguise as the priest Reizan. He is shown on the hanamichi (runway, lit., "flower path": 花道), the raised passageway extending from stage-right into the audience and along which dramatic entrances, exits, and action frequently take place, to the delight of theater patrons. Indeed, many of the most dramatic or celebrated moments in particular plays take place during entrances, climactic poses, or exits along the hanamichi. Given the importance of the hanamichi, it is surprising that actor prints do not often depict the hanamichi, and this is especially so with kamigata-e (prints from Osaka and Kyoto). Thus this design is one of the rare exceptions.

Hokushû has done a marvelous job in capturing the physical presence of the actor Nakamura Utaemon III on the hanamichi. Close to the audience, he strikes a dramatic pose. His mie (glare: 見得) and wide stance, echoed by his black priest's robe with flaring tassels, establish a defiant figure as the plot unfolds. It must have been a stirring moment for those in the audience closest to the hanamichi, who would have felt the most direct impact of this superstar's performance.

The poem has been transliterated as Niramitaru me o odorokasu shiuchi kana kaesu i no kokujin shirôtomo [Itamoto-sha Makoto-torô] (にらみたる眼を驚かす仕打かなかへす衣の黒人素人も 「板本舎丹都郎」). The verse mentions the black garments and the intense glare of the eyes.


  1. IKBYS-I, no. 118 (Ikeda Bunko no. Ike-109478, Ike-41962, Z0451-118)
  2. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (acc no. 11.35358)
  3. Hendrick Lühl Collection (Luh-HKSU054)
  4. IKB-I, no. 2-378
  5. KNP-6, p. 86
  6. NKE, p. 551