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Archive: Ichiyôsai Yoshitaki (一養齋芳瀧)

Arashi Rikan IV as Okiku in Banshû sarayashiki, Naka Theater, Osaka; Print Title: Gojo no uchi: Shin ("Five Virtues: Faith")
Yoshitaki ga
No artist seal
No publisher seal
(H x W)
Chûban nishiki-e
Very good; deluxe edition with metallics (simulated gold and silver)
Very good color; good condition (slight diagonal crease in upper left corner; slight soil; full image size with margins
Price (USD/¥):
SOLD (Ref #YST01)

The bunraku play Banshû sarayashiki was first staged in 1741, a ghost play (kaidan mono) about the spirit of the maid Okiku haunting a well at Banshû in Harima province. The dramatization was apparently based on some historical figures.

Details of the story vary, but in one familiar adaptation Okiku commits suicide by drowning herself in a well after being unjustly accused of breaking a precious plate, one of ten belonging to Aoyama Tessan, a hatamoto (shogunal retainer or bannerman). (Other versions depict Okiku breaking one of the plates and being imprisioned by Aoyama, or being murdered by him after rejecting his amorous advances, but all lead to her death.) Her specter then appears at the well each night, counting from one to nine, then letting out an anguished wail without ever reaching the number "ten." Only when Mitsakuni Shônin, a family friend, calls out the final number to acknowledge her innocence is Okiku's spirit appeased.


Okiku is shown among celestial clouds, her resplendent robes drawn in elaborate and colorful detail. She holds a sacred lotus (hasu) as petals fall around her, a sign of the maid's transformation in Buddhist heaven.

Yoshitaki's print represents the culmination of late-period design featuring rich, saturated colors and extensive patterns, published the year before the dawn of the Meiji period (1868-1912). Although the seeds had long been sown (arguably as early as the Tenpô Reforms of 1842-47), the final decline of traditional kamigata-e would soon take hold, with fewer and fewer fine examples to be found as the new age progressed.

References: KNP-7, p. 141; IKB-I, no. 2-565