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Archive: Kunihiro (國廣)

Arashi Rikan II as ryôshi [fisherman] Namishichi in Hime kurabe futaba ezôshi, Naka Theater, Osaka
Kunihiro ga
No artist seal
Tenki (Tenmaya Kihei: 天満屋喜兵衞)
(H x W)
Oban nishiki-e
36.0 x 24.6 cm
Good; deluxe edition with embossing (karazuri) and metallics (simulated silver on sword and sleeves)
Very good color, good condition (somewhat trimmed; very slight soil and a few stray pigment marks; two small wormholes)
Price (USD/¥):
(Ref #KUH03)

The play was first performed in 1800, one in a long series of jidaimono categorized as Oguri Hangan mono (or Oguri mono, "Oguri Hangan plays") for both the puppet and kabuki theaters going back to the 1660s. These tales, mixing the historical with the fictional, took their inspiration from the military chronicle Kamakura daizôshi ("Great copybook of Kamakura"). The action was set during the Kamakura period (1186-1336) and featured the master of Hitachi Castle, Oguri Hangan Sukeshige, and his wife, Yokohama Terute. Oguri’s adventures follow many complicated paths, including political and military intrigues and supernatural episodes, his death due to poisoning by Terute's father and brother, and then his resurrection and revenge against his wife's family.

In Oguri Hangan kuruma kaidô, one of the Oguri mono, Namishichi was a former retainer of Oguri's (named Mitono Kojirô). To save Terute from his evil brother-in-law (Onigawara no Dôhachi, who has taken her in a boat on Lake Biwa), he disembowels himself and tosses his intestines into the sea as he offers a prayer to the dragon gods. Terute is saved when the winds change and force the vessel onshore, where Namishichi slays Dôhachi before he dies.


Kunihiro has depicted the fisherman Namishichi in a scene of exaggerated receding perspective with the rays of the sun drawn like beacons from a lighhouse. A rolling sea tosses a small fishing boat and crashes waves against the shore to create a picture of turmoil. In one of kabuki's over-the-top gestures, Namishichi has his long sword (katana) clenched between his teeth as he grips the rocky promontory and leans toward the sea.

Provenance: Okada (a celebrated private Japanese collection not seen in public for more than 70 years until its recent dispersal — a blockbuster event in the world of kamigata-e; see KAM).

References: IBKYS-I, no. 69; KNP-6, p. 264; IKB-I, no. 2-429; NKE, p. 487