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Archive: Yanagawa Shigenobu (柳川重信)

Momotsuru of the Kaideya as Mizuguki no Kami; Series Title: Osaka Shinmachi Nerimono (Costume Parade in the Shinmachi District, Osaka)
Tôto Yanagawa Shigenobu
No Seal
circa 6/1822
(H x W)
Oban nishiki-e
37.5 x 25.0 cm
Very good; deluxe edition with embossing
Good color (slight fading mostly of yellow background); good condition (light stain near feet; small horizontal crease middle left edge; a few tiny marks here and there; small thin spots in upper corners, buckling of paper upper left corner)
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry (Ref #SGN01)


Shinmachi ("New Quarters": 新町) was Osaka's official licensed pleasure quarter. It was situated adjacent to the Nagabori canal, which separated Shinmachi from a larger area called Shimanouchi (lit., "inside the island": 島の内), the city's largest unlicensed pleasure quarter. Shimanouchi was, in turn, on the opposite side of the Dôtonbori (Dôton Canal: 道頓堀) where a narrow street constituted Osaka's theater district. Both Shinmachi and Shimanouchi hosted nerimono sugata (costume parades: ねり物姿). These parades featured waitresses, geisha, and courtesans performing skits or pantomimes about well-known figures from contemporary society, theater, history, and legend. In this colorful pageant, the women were often accompanied by decorative floats carrying musicians and dancers.

Sugawara no Michizane (845-903) was a statesman, scholar, and poet who, in 899, was given the second highest post — Minister of the Right — in the government, inciting jealousy among the ruling Fujiwara clan, who falsely accused Michizane of plotting to overthrow the recently enthroned Emperor Daigo. In 901 they exiled Michizane to Kyûshû, where he died two years later. After his death the imperial family as well as the Fujiwara suffered a number of unexpected deaths, and then plagues and natural disasters followed. These events were interpreted as punishment from Michizane's unappeased spirit. He was restored to his rank (in 923), honored with a shrine (the Kitano Tenmangû in 947, which still stands today), and, finally, canonized as a Tenjin (Heavenly Deity) in 987.


Momotsuru of the Kaideya wears the courtly robes of the celebrated master of calligraphy (the inscription by her name, Mizuguki no kami, means "Deity of Calligraphy"). Her hat is the kammuri, headgear worn by nobles and court officials.

Shigenobu was an Edo artist visiting Osaka in 1822 (the Tôto prefix in his signature means "Eastern" or Edo). This print is from an important series of at least 14 portraits that Shigenobu designed for the parade in 1822 (the series title is written in the pink cartouche at the upper right). It is with this series that Shigenobu premiered the ôban nishkie bijinga in Kamigata.

This impression includes overprinted leaves and flowers on the black robes, an effect missing from some examples. Sheets from this series are very difficult to find in good condition. In fact, prints of beautiful women (bijin-ga) in any style are uncommon in kamigata-e.

References: IKBYS-II, no. 179; KON, no. 505; WAS I-4 , no. 663; OSP, no. 258