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Archive: Shigeharu (重春)

Nakamura Tomijûrô II as Suke no Tsubone and Nakamura Shikan II as Taira no Tomomori in Hanayagura hitome senbon, Naka Theater, Osaka
Ryûsai Shigeharu ga
No artist seal
Tenki (Tenmaya Kihei: 天満屋喜兵衞)
(H x W)
Ôban diptych nishiki-e
37.8 x 51.0 cm
Very good
Excellent color and good condition (unbacked; several repaired wormholes and binding holes; pigment smudges on or near Tomomori)
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry: SGH23


Hanayagura hitome senbon (A thousand fragrances in the flower tower: 花櫓詠吉野) was a variant of the more celebrated Yoshitsune senbon zakura (Yoshitsune & the thousand cherry trees: 義経千本桜), among the greatest of all kabuki plays. Written by Takeda Izumo II, Miyoshi Shoraku, and Namiki Senryû, it was first performed as a puppet play (Bunraku) at the Takemoto-za, Osaka in 1747. The saga involves various episodes from a historical tale recounting the Heike-Genji (Taira-Minamoto) clan warfare. The historical Taira no Tomomori died at the Battle of Dan-no-ura (1185) after the Taira were decisively beaten by the Minamoto. Tomomori joined many of his clan in committing suicide, he by fastening his feet to an anchor and leaping into the sea, while a member of the royal household took the child emperor Antoku (安徳 1178-1185) and plunged with him into the water in the Shimonoseki Straits, drowning the emperor rather than allowing him to be captured by the Minamoto.

In the better known play, Yoshitsune senbon zakura, Tomomori reveals to the kabuki audience that he faked his death at the Battle of Dan-no-ura and escaped with the young Emperor Antoku and his wet nurse Tsubone. Since then, they have been living in disguise for several years as Ginpei, his wife Oryû, and daughter Oyasu. He plans to kill Yoshitsune while out at sea, but Yoshitsune is aware of his plan and sinks the Taira warrior's ships, appearently killing Tomomori. Witnessing this, Tsubone takes the Emperor to the seashore, ready to drown herself and Antoku, but they are stopped by Yoshitsune, who has no intentions of capturing or killing the Emperor of Japan. As it happens, Tomomori has survived the battle, returning soon after Yoshitsune. Tsubone kills herself, seeing that she cannot serve Tomomori any longer. Rejecting Yoshitsune's offer to spare his life if he agrees to enter the priesthood, Tomomori, tied to an anchor, throws himself into the sea.


In this scene Tomomori is subduing a Minamoto warrior as he glances back at Tsubone, who holds the emperor Antoku protectively in her arms. Tomomori's armor has been pierced by arrows, yet he fights on valiantly. A great anchor and its nautical rope can be seen behind them, to be used later by Tomomori when he commits suicide by drowning. The rough sea can perhaps be taken as a graphic metaphor for the emotional turmoil no doubt felt by the three characters who will soon perish.


Okada Isajiro (岡田伊三次郎), a celebrated private Japanese collection not seen in public for more than 70 years until its gradual dispersal starting in the year 2000 — a blockbuster event in the world of kamigata-e; see KAM).

References: WAS IV-5, no. 537