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Kunihiro (國廣)

Ichikawa Hakuen II as Kajiwara Heiji in Hiragana seisuiki, Kado Theater, Osaka
Sanshôtei Kunihiro ga
No artist seal
Tenki (Tenmaya Kihei: 天満屋喜兵衞)
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
39.4 x 26.5 cm
Excellent color, very good condition (unbacked; light soiling lower corners)
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry: KUH25


Hiragana seisuiki (Simple chronicle of the rise and fall of the Heike and Genji: ひらかな盛衰記) was adapted from the medieval Genpei seisuiki (History of the Rise and Fall of the Genji and Heike: 源平盛衰記), a tale of the Genpei kassen (Genpei wars: 源平合戦) of 1180-1185 between the Heike (Taira) and Genji (Minamoto) clans. Kajiwara Heiji Kagetaka (梶原平次景高)is the wicked, ne'er-do-well younger brother of Kagiwara Genta Kagesue (梶原源太景季, died 1200) who plots to overthrow his sibling and take control of the Kajiwara fortune. The maidservant Chidori, who is in love with Genta, is also the object of Heiji's desire. During the battle at the Ujigawa, Genta allows a fellow warrior the honor of being the first to cross the river, thereby paying a debt of gratitude for that warrior's saving the life of Genta's father, Kajiwara Kagetoki (梶原景時, c. 1162-1200). Seizing the opportunity, Heiji unjustly brands his brother a coward for not grabbing the honor for the Kajiwara clan. The brothers fight and Heiji is forced to run away. Nevertheless, the accusation is too serious to ignore and Genta is disinherited by his mother. All the while Chidori sides with Genta, and the two, now in disgrace, leave together, vowing to restore Genta's honor. Chidori becomes the prostitute Umegae to support Genta in his quest to regain his inheritance. He ultimately succeeds after proving his bravery in battle, and Heiji is slain.

Hakuen (白猿) was the temporary acting name of the Edo superstar Ichikawa Danjûrô VII (1791-1859), performing in Osaka after fires had destroyed all three theaters in Edo in 3/1829. He returned to Edo after the summer of 1830.


Heiji stands and strikes a resolute mie ("display" or climactic pose in kabuki: 見得). His black robe is patterned with paired yabane (arrow feathers: 矢羽), presumably a Kajiwara family crest (or its theatrical version). The background is printed in a fugitive blue pigment with five large mon (crests or emblems: 紋) in reserve. The three concentric squares at the lower left represent the mimasu (triple rice measures or stacked sake boxes: 三舛) of the Ichikawa actors. The stylized bark shape (or modified diamond lozenge) at the upper right encloses a five-leaf kiri (paulownia: 桐), a very popular Japanese crest, one often associated with the imperial and samurai rulers of Japan.

References: KNZ, no. 476; KNP-6, p. 214: NKE, p. 167