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Yoshikuni (芳國)

Nakamura Utaemon III as Ishikawa Goemon and Arashi Kichisaburô III as segare (son) Gorôichi in Kamagafuchi futatsu domoe, Naka Theater, Osaka
Yoshikuni ga

No artist seal

(R) Senri and (L) Honsei (Honya Seishichi: 本屋清七)
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
37.5 x 26.3 cm
Very good
Excellent color; Very good impression (album crease along left edge; expertly filled binding holes and a few repaired wormholes; small area of light soiling above signature
Price (USD/¥):
$460 / Contact us to pay in yen (¥)

Order/Inquiry (Ref #YSK11)


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.


This must be an early scene from the play, given the youth of Gorôichi in the present design (Kichisaburô III was only twelve years old when he performed the role). The production was part of a one-year memorial program for the great Arashi Kitsusaburô I (1769-1821; also called Kichisaburô II and Rikan I) and the accession ceremony (shûmei) by Tokusaburô I (later Rikan II) to Kitsusaburô [II] (see HKS09 and YSK07).

The stone lantern (ishidôrô) is inscribed, "Offering by Okajimaya Yoshisaburô of Osaka Shimanouchi,"* a homage from Yoshisaburô, the natural son of Kitsusaburô I, who due to his youth had been passed over for the succession (i.e., given to Tokusaburô I, unrelated to Kitsusaburô I by blood, but his protege). The name "Okajimaya" refers to the house or shop name (yagô) of the Kichisaburô lineage.

Note: Another impression of this design is featured in the 2005-06 exhibition and catalogue Kabuki Heroes on the Osaka Stage, 1780-1830 at the British Museum, Osaka Museum of History, and Waseda University Theatre Museum.

For another scene from Kamagafuchi, see SSH01.

References: KNZ, no. 181; IKB-I, no. 2-381; KHO, no. 250; KNP-6, p. 87; NKE, p. 263; RRT, pp. 59 and 61 [*English translation]