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(R) Matsumoto Kôshirô V (五代目松本幸四郎) as Tsubone (つぼね); (L) Sawamura Kunitarô II (二代目沢村国太郎) as Kureha (くれは) in Keisei setsugekka, Kado no Shibai, Osaka
Gyokuryûtei Shigeharu ga (玉柳亭重春画)
No artist seal
Wataki (Wataya Kihei 綿屋喜兵衛)
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
38.0 x 52.5 cm
Very good
Very good color and condition (never backed; mild creases; rubbing and small thin spots at extremities)
Price (USD/¥):
$520 / Contact us to pay in yen (¥)

Order/Inquiry: SGH32


The play Keisei setsugekka (Courtesan: Sun, moon, and flowers: けいせい雪月花) premiered at the Kado Theater at the New Year in 1830. It was written by the superstar actor Nakamura Utaemon III under his penname Kanazawa Ryûgoku. Later, just one act (called Kari no tayori) was taken from the whole and performed as a light-hearted piece without the drama featured in the larger play. It is this extracted piece that is mostly known today.

Arashi Rikan II portrayed Mashiba Hisatsugu in one of the many tales about the legendary rônin bandit Ishikawa Goemon (石川五右衛門). In real life, Goemon (1558 – 10/8/1594), at the age of sixteen, murdered three men during a robbery. He was finally captured many years later in 1594, when the shogun Hideyoshi had him boiled in oil. The Ishikawa Goemon mono (plays about Ishikawa Goemon: 石川五右衛門物) endowed the bandit with supernatural powers and devilish abilities to disguise himself, which provided playwrights with opportunities for fantastical action — often aided by clever stagecraft — and surprising plot twists.

After fires destroyed all three theaters in Edo in 3/1829, a number of renowned Edo actors relocated temporarily in Osaka to perform there while the Edo theaters were rebuilt. The 1/1830 production at the Kado no Shibai, which was the premiere of Keisei setsugekka, was a huge hit, featuring Edo's Ichikawa Hakuen II (the name used by Ichikawa Danjûrô VII while acting in Osaka), Nakamura Matsue III, Matsumoto Kôshirô V, and Sawamura Kunitarô II. In addition, the playwright and Osaka's biggest star, Nakamura Utaemon III, was in the cast, playing Ishikawa Goemon opposite Rikan's Hisatsugu. The same cast traveled to Kyoto to perform Setsugekka in the third month. Besides Shigeharu, seemingly all the top-level artists designed prints for this play, including Ashiyuki, Hokuei, Hokushû, Kunihiro, and Yoshikuni.


The plot of this jidaimono ("period piece" or history play: 時代物) is very complicated, especially as many characters were well known from various sekai ("worlds" or spheres: 世界), that is, they were derived from other kabuki and puppet plays as well as historical accounts and legends. As was the case for the present play, sekai often served as devices for presentating "doubling structures" wherein audiences could enjoy clever juxtapositions of contemporary and historical events and characters.

Ishida no Tsubone, in this play the mother of Ishikawa Goemon, is married to the Lord of Tajima, who is slain by the Toyotomi clan for siding with the general Mitsuhide. The historical Akechi Jûbei Minamoto-no-Mitsuhide (明智 十兵衛 源の光秀) 1528-82) served the great daimyô Oda Nobunaga (織 信長 1534-82), against whom Mitsuhide rebelled in 1582, which led to Nobunaga's death. The disloyal Mitsuhide was in turn slain by Japan's second great unifier, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598). In the play Keisei setsugekka, Ishida plots to assassinate the regent Hisatsugu (the historical Toyotomi Hidetsugu, 1568-95) but fails and is forced to commit suicide. Her son Goemon's later exploits and intrigues as an outlaw were in part intended to avenge his mother's death.

In this scene, Tsubone raises an abacus as she confronts Kureha. Later in the play, Tsubone takes her own life, which the actor enacts during a dance interlude.

References: WAS-IV, no. 421