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Archive: Kunihiro (國廣)

(R) Ichikawa Shikô I as Ushiwakamaru and (L) Arashi Kichisaburô II as Kumasaka Chôhan in Kachidoki mibae Genji at the Naka no Shibai, Osaka
Kunihiro ga
Artist seal: None
Soshiya and Wataki (Wataya Kihei, 綿屋喜兵衞)
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
37.6 x 25.7 cm
Remarkable condition for a print of this period. Very good color, unbacked; expert in-painting of green hill around Kichisaburo's name; very fresh overall
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry: (KUH31)


Kachidoki mibae Genji (Victory song of the Genji: 勝鬨莩源氏) was based on a real-life incident from 1804 involving the lord of Akashi and a hunter named Gennai. A related play of the period was Katakiuchi ura no asagiri (Revenge along the bay in morning fog: 敵討浦朝霧).

Ushiwakamaru was the childhood name of the legendary Genji general Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159-89). Kumasaka Chôhan was a notorious bandit whose exploits have been popularized for centuries in the folk tales and legends of Japan. Most famous were his attacks against travellers in the Province of Mino, where there was a pine tree approximately 20 meters high from which it was possible to spy upon the unsuspecting and rob them of their luggage and valuables. One day Kumasaka's outlaw band attacked Ushiwakamaru — a lad of sixteen who had run away from the temple where he was being educated and was traveling with a merchant's retinue. He soundly defeated the thugs, displaying astonishing swordsmanship and slaying 13 of them. When Chôhan attempted to dispatch the youth himself, he failed, suffering many wounds as Ushiwakamaru danced and leapt about, easily parrying the blows from his adversary. This legend became the subject of a drama entitled Kumasaka, as well as a popular subject in songs, dances, and kabuki dramas.


In keeping with his age and former lodging in a temple, Ushiwakamaru's hair is styled in a chigo-mage (page's chignon). The large pine used by Kumasaka for spying on potential targets can be seen behind him, painted in a softer Shijô-school style. Kumasaka holds a halberd (naginata: 長刀), its diagonal forming an dramatic graphic element running across the width of the sheet. Ushiwakamaru lifts his cloak, which he will toss to catch on the curved blade of the naginata.

This example is very well preserved, especially rare for a print from this early period of Osaka printmaking.

References: IKBYS-II, no. 3; PPO, no. 4