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Kunihiro (國廣)

(R) Nakamura Shikan II as Nuregami Chôgorô and (L) Nakamura Matsue III as keisei [courtesan] Miyako in Futatsu chôchô kuruwa nikki, Kado Theater, Osaka
Kunihiro ga
No artist seal
Tenki (Tenmaya Kihei: 天満屋喜兵衞)
(H x W)
Ôban diptych nishiki-e
37.7 x 51.2 cm
Very good
Very good color and condition (unbacked; a dozen filled wormholes, mostly small; thin spot and repaired lower right corner of left sheet)
Price (USD/¥):
$770 / Contact us to pay in yen (¥)

Order/Inquiry: KUH21


The play Futatsu chôchô kuruwa nikki (Diary of two butterflies in the pleasure quarters: 双蝶々曲輪日記) is a tale of two sumô wrestlers, Hanaregoma Chôkichi, and Nuregami Chôgorô (who appears on the left sheet of the diptych). [Note the pun in the play title, as both names include the character for chô, "butterfly."] The central theme involves an attempt to thwart the ransom of a courtesan named Azuma (sister of keisei Miyako) by the evil samurai Hiraoka Goemon (also Chôkichi's patron) in favor of Chôgorô's sponsor, Yogorô, whom Azuma loves. Yogorô bribes Chôgorô to throw a sumô match against Chôkichi in the hope of enlisting the latter's help in stopping Goemon, but even after being handed a false victory, Chôkichi refuses to violate his patron's wishes. Afterwards, however, in a scene in which Chôgorô prevents Chôkichi from committing seppuku (ritual suicide, lit., "incision of the abdomen": 切腹) over shame for falling into dissipation, the two wrestlers become "brothers," and then Chôkichi returns the favor by aiding Chôgorô in his escape after he murders four men trying to steal Azuma for Goemon.

In another scene, Miyako's lover Nan Yohei is attacked by a clerk named Genkorô (who wants Miyako for himself) and a few thugs in the employ of the aforementioned Goemon. Yôhei escapes by leaping from the stage, using an open umbrella as a parachute. Later, Yôhei slays another villain in a dispute over Miyako, but is set free because of the crimes committed by the murdered adversary. He then marries Miyako. Good fortune comes to the couple when Yôhei succeeds his father as village magistrate, changing his name to Nanpô Jûjibei, while Miyako becomes Ohaya. By chance, she encounters Chôgorô and tries to give him refuge (he is a fugitive after killing four men in a theater to help Azuma and Yogorô escape from Goemon). Her husband is bound by giri (obligation or duty: 義理) to arrest Chôgorô, but secretly gives him money to aid in his escape.


This is a notable example of a uki-e (lit., "floating picture," or perspective picture: 浮絵 or(浮繪), unusual in Osaka printmaking. Typical in both Edo and Osaka ukiyo-e design, the horizon line is set low and the receding space is deep and sharply converged. A starry night enhances the feeling of perspective.

Besides the protagonists, ten townspersons (and two dogs) go about their business, adding to the lively street scene, while a party (or dance performance) can be seen in silhouette through a second-story window at the top right of the composition. Miyako carries a hand drum decorated with a magatama (bent jewel: 勾玉), an emblem of three commas arranged within a circle.

References: IKBYS-II, no. 45; IKB-I, no. 1-451; KNP-6, p. 157; NKE, p. 105