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Shunsho (春曙)

(R) Nakamura Sankô I as keisei [courtesan] Takigawa; and (L) Nakamura Utaemon III as Ishikawa Goemon in Kamagafuchi futatsu domoe, Naka Theater, Osaka
Both Sheets: Shunkôsai monjin Shunsho ga ("drawn by Shunsho, a pupil of Shunkôsai")
No artist seal
(H x W)
Oban diptych nishiki-e
Good color (slight fading of purple); moderately good condition (with very good embossing (karazuri) of curtain (noren); some staining and rubbing; lower left corner of left sheet rubbed away and inexpertly restored; binding holes and wormholes near edges of adjacent sides and bottom edges; slight trimming; uneven edges)
Price (USD/¥):
$545 / Contact us to pay in yen (¥)

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There were a number of artists signing as "Shunshô" in Kamigata. This print designer (春曙) was possibly the same as Shunshōsai Hokuchō (春曙齋北頂), who was a pupil of Shunkôsai Hokushū (松好齋北洲); he was active c. 1822-30.

This play is one of the Ishikawa Goemon mono ("plays about Ishikawa Goemon"), the legendary fugitive outlaw. The historical Goemon was a masterless samurai (rônin) during the reign of the shôgun Toyotomi Hideyoshi. At age sixteen he murdered three men while attempting to steal from his master. After his escape, he lived as a bandit for the next two decades until, in 1594, he was captured during a failed attempt to kill Hideyoshi. Goemon met a grisly end by being boiled in oil. The theatrical Goemon was often made into a hero — fearless, elusive, and endowed with magical powers. The first staging of Goemon’s exploits occurred in the 1680s.

Kamagafuchi futatsu domoe presents Goemon as anti-hero, a swindler who extorts money and murders for personal gain. In the Shimabara pleasure quarters he falls in love with the courtesan Takigawa, with whom he flees (along with his son Gorôichi by his first wife, Ritsu). They marry and Takigawa takes the name Otaki. Worried that her stepson will suffer from the shame attached to Goemon, she purposely mistreats Gorôichi to drive him back to his mother (the scene is called mamako ijime, or "stepson bullying"). When Gorôichi murders Otaki after mistakenly believing she has been unfaithful, Goemon kills the cause of it all, a would-be suitor of Otaki's named Gorôbei. Father and son then make their escape, but are finally apprehended in the Fuji Forest, brought to Kyoto, and paraded in the streets. In the end they are boiled in a cauldron of oil by the riverbed at Shichijô.


The actors pose for an interior scene in the Shimabara pleasure quarters. Takigawa holds a brush (fude) she is using to inscribe a long letter, a lacquered writing utensil box ("inkstone case" or suzuribako) at her side. Her splendid robes reflect her status as a high-ranking courtesan. Among the array of patterns is a hem with crests called Genji kô representing chapters from the Genji monogatari ("Tale of Genji"). The curtains (noren) on the left are decorated (embossed using the karazuri or blind printing method) with autumn grasses (aki no gusa), and maple leaves (momiji) can be seen in the garden at the top right.

For another scene from Kamagafuchi, see YSK11.

References: IKBYS-II, no. 214; WAS I-4, no. 158; HKS, no. 78; KNP-6, p. 89; IKB-I, no. 2-381; NKE, p. 263