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Archive: Shigeharu (重春)

(R) Arashi Rikan II as Kowari Dennai ((小割伝内) in Honobonoto ura no asagiri, Naka Theater, Osaka
Ryûsai Shigeharu (柳斎重春)
Artist seal: Unread
No publisher seal
(H x W)
Ôban diptych nishiki-e
37.6 x 25.6 cm
Excellent deluxe edition with metallics, embossing)
Excellent color and very good condition (unbacked; album crease along left edge, light marks below obi and in waterfall to right of musket barrel)
Price (USD/¥):

Honobonoto ura no asagiri (Daybreak hidden on the bay by morning fog: 仏暁浦朝霧) is one of many katakiuchi-mono (revenge-killing plays: 敵討物; also called adauchi-mono: 仇打ち物), a subgenre of kabuki and puppet theater plays featuring samurai vendettas.

In pre-modern Japan, katakiuchi were, within limitations, an accepted way to punish perpetrators of murder against certain blood relations among the samurai class. Such actions probably had a basis in Confucian morality, which taught that one should not live under the same heaven as his father's enemy. The frequency of real-life katakuchi is unknown, although Tokugawa historical documents exist of applications to local bakufu from relatives of slain lords asking permission to track down and take revenge upon the murderers. Failure to give notice and obtain official sanction was a criminal act. The legalities of katakiuchi were inconsistent among the various domains, and there were difficulties with murders based on grievances but carried out under the pretense of a moral revenge. The quintessential model of katakiuchi was the Soga monogatari (Tale of the Soga: 曾我物語), recounting the revenge taken by the brothers Soga no Jûrô and Soga no Gorô against Kudô Suketsune for their father's murder in 1193.


Kowari Dennai's tale involved an attempted usurpation of the leadership of the Aboshi clan by a villain named Karahashi and his son. Dennai, a hunter and a relative of the true heir, was sent to terminate the plot.

The poem is signed by the actor Rikan (璃寛), a typical self-effacing verse that reads:
Mi no iranu / kuri mo okyaku e / aiso kana (実のいらぬ栗もお客へあいそ哉): A small, undeveloped chestnut is the only gift I can offer.

The state of preservation of this example is remarkably fresh with fine color.

References: IKBYS-II, 164; WAS-IV, no. 476; KNP-6, p. 255; IKB-I, no. 2-427