Shinmachi ("New Quarters": 新町) was Osaka's official licensed pleasure quarter. It was adjacent to the Nagabori canal, which separated Shinmachi from a larger area to the southeast called Shimanouchi (lit., "inside the island": 島の内), the city's largest unlicensed pleasure quarter. Shimanouchi was, in turn, on the opposite (north) side of the Dôtonbori (Dôton Canal: 道頓堀) where a narrow street (on the south side) 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.
Prints depicting women of the nerimono represent an important exception to the tenacious focus on kabuki for which kamigata-e are known. These visual records of participants in the parades offer glimpses into alternative entertainments beyond the kabuki and puppet theaters, and clues regarding what the citizens of nineteenth-century Osaka found fascinating and enjoyable. The nerimono were large-scale fantasies within a special world of asobi (play or amusement: 遊) where pleasure women, geishas, teahouse waitresses, musicians, actors, theater patrons, and bon vivants eagerly sought escape from everyday life.
This sheet is one of only six designs in Yoshikuni's Shinmachi nerimono series from 8/1825. A banzuke (event program: 番付) has survived that depicts a much larger number of women, all named in cartouches, but whether ichimai-e (single-sheet prints) were ever published for more than six of these women is unknown. The extent designs appear to contain one triptych, one diptych, and a single-sheet design.
Dengaku (field music: 田楽) is music and dance derived from ancient rituals connected with rice planting that evolved into popular entertainments. The movements of the dancers mimick the motion of agricultural laborers. Priests who performed alone or in troupes as dancing musicians at shrines and temple festivals are called dengaku hôshi (田楽法師). As can be seen in the print portraying Agemaki-dayû, the priests would use a binzasara (編 木, 鬢編木 , 拍板 or 板ざさら) or noisemaker made of small wooden sticks tied together or attached to a staff (or in this case, a bamboo pole).
NOTE: The background is not soiled as the images may suggest (it is photographic artifact).
- WKK, pp. 181-183, nos. 156-161
- TWOP, p. 255, nos. 388 and 389abc (Philadelphia Museum of Art Acc #1969-208-367 and #1969-208-368abc)
- MFAB, acc #11.36275-78
- Kitagawa, Hiroko: Bosuton bijutsukan shozô Kamigata-e mokuroku (List of Kamigata prints in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: ボストン美術館所蔵上方絵目録). Kansai Daigaku [Kansai University, 関西大学], Naniwa - Osaka bunka isan-gaku kenkyû sentâ (Naniwa - Osaka Cultural Heritage Research Center 2006 (なにわ•大阪文化遺産学研究センター 2006), reprint 2007, p. 124