A GUIDE TO JAPANESE PRINTS - BASIL STEWART
DRAMATIC AND HISTORICAL SERIES - (continued)
The next series by Hiroshige which we will describe is one entitled Kokon Joruri Tsukushi, "Ancient and Modern Dramas Illustrated" ; full size, upright. The number in a complete set is not known, but fourteen plates are here recorded, the largest number hitherto mentioned in any publication, as far as the writer is aware.
The title of the series is on a narrow yellow panel in the top right-hand corner, and the sub-title of the illustration on a red panel in the opposite corner, on each plate. Publisher, Sanoki ; below Hiroshige's signature is a red chrysanthemum seal, a device which has not hitherto been noted on any Hiroshige print; and two censors' seals, which place the date of the series about 1846, during the Prohibition period. Very rare.
1. Sub-title : Katsuragawa Renri-no-Shigarami (the name of the drama), which concerns two lovers, Choyemon, a man forty years old, and O Han, aged fourteen, who, despairing of obtaining their parents' permission to marry, resolve to commit suicide together.
Choyemon is here shown carrying his youthful love on his back, to die together in the waters of the Katsura River, a full moon the only witness of their tragic end. One of the best plates in the series of those known. (Illustrated at Plate XVI of the catalogue of the Baker collection, Sotheby's, February, 1916.)
The subject of shinju, or double suicide, was first dramatized in 1703 by the playwright Chikamatsu Monzayemon, in a play called Sonezaki Shinju. Such dramas were called Shinju-mono, and became exceedingly popular, owing to the beautiful language in which Monzayemon described these tragedies, both with the public and other contemporary dramatists, and it is said their influence was such that the numbers of cases of double suicide increased to an alarming extent.
2. Sub-title : Keisei Koi Bikyoku : "A Courtesan, Love, and the Postman." Chubei, in order to buy out his love, Umegawa, from the Shinmachi of Osaka, steals money sent through the post, and seeks refuge in his father's house, where he hides at Nino Kuchimura. Umegawa comes thither to seek him out, and is shown asking his father of her lover's whereabouts. To ingratiate herself with the old man, she mends his sandal for him. (See Plate 57.)
Censors' seals of Muramatsu and Yoshimura.
3. O-Some moyo Imose no Kadomatsu : Hisamatsu and O-Some are the Romeo and Juliet of Japanese drama. He was a clerk in the service of O-Some's widowed mother, the owner of a prosperous business in Osaka, and fell in love with O-Some ; he is here shown kneeling by the torii of a temple, persuading her to elope with him.
The scene is taken from the play Shimpan Uta Zaimon, written by Chikamatsu Hanji (lived 18th century), and was - and still is - one of the most popular plays in the repertoire of the Japanese stage.
The story is too long to give here even in an abbreviated form, but in the end, O-Some, to save her mother from embarrassment of debts, promises to marry a young millionaire, who would pay them on condition that O-Some became his bride.
Sooner, however, than betray her lover, she takes her own life, and Hisamatsu, unable to save her (he is held a prisoner by Kosuke, the villain of the play), immediately follows her example.
4. Mei Boku Sendai Hagi : The title of a play written by Chikamatsu Kwanshi (1785) and two other playwrights in collaboration.
Ashikaga Yorikane, Lord of Sendai, holding in his hand a few hairs of the head of Takao, whom he has just caused to fall into the water by hanging her by her hair over the side of the boat, and cutting through it with his sword.
(Vide Chapter XXIV, Part IV, for resume of this play.)
5. Chushingura, Act III: Kampei and Okaru. Kampei, stricken with grief when he hears of his lord's frustrated attack on Moronao, and that he has in consequence been made a prisoner, and his absence from Yenya's side at such a crisis, ill-becoming a loyal retainer, resolves on suicide, but Okaru prevails on him to desist and flee with her to her father's home at Yamazaki, many miles away.
One of the best prints in the series. Kampei is shown kneeling, with one hand on the handle of his sword, about to draw it ; beside him stands Okaru. Behind them a tall pine tree, and in the background a large grey Fuji, its cone tinted green, rises up into a deep blue sky. (See Plate 57.)
Censors' seals of Kinugasa and Hama.
(This journey of Kampei and Okaru from Kamakura to Yamazaki is the dramatized version of the exploit of Kayano Sampei who, in company with another retainer of Asano, had, at the beginning of the quarrel between their lord and Kira Kozuke, the results of which they dreaded, travelled the extraordinary distance of over 400 miles in 4¼ days - in those days usually a journey of 16 or 17 days - to find Kuranosuke, the chief steward of Asano, who was at the time absent in the province of Harima. News of Asano's self-dispatch reached Kuranosuke the day after their arrival.
After this Sampei retires to his village and there finds his mother dead. His father, pleading age and loneliness, urges him to stay with him, but Sampei, distracted between his duty to his parent and loyalty to his lord whose death he has sworn to avenge, seeks escape from his dilemma in self-dispatch.)
6. Chushingura, Act VIII. The Bridal Journey of Konami and her mother Tonase to find Rikiya, from Kamakura to Yamashima.
7. Chushin Koshaku Yukifuri no dan : "Meeting of the Loyal Ones in Snow." Snow scene. Yazama Jiutaro, one of the Forty-seven Ronin, meets his wife Orin in Yedo after a long separation. (See Plate 57.)
One of the best plates in the series.
Censors' seals of Kinugasa and Hama.
8. Karukaya Doshin Tsukushi no Iyezuto : the title of a play written by Namiki Sosuke (1694-1750). The priest Karukaya Doshin meeting his son Ishidomaru on Mount Koya, but refrains from revealing his identity to him.
(It was a popular belief at one time that jealous women had their hair transformed into writhing serpents, and Kato Sayemon Shige-uji, a daimyo of Tsukushi, a much-married man, suffered from the delusion that his wife was so afflicted. He fled to the mountains to escape her, and led the life of a hermit under the name of Karukaya Doshin.
One day, meeting a youth wandering in the mountains, he questions him, and elicits the information that he is seeking his lost father.
Karukaya then recognizes the boy as his own son, but firm in the resolve to remain lost to the world, he refrains from disclosing himself, and bids the youth return home.)
9. Gompachi yume no dan : "Gompachi dreaming." Gompachi standing by the river bank, reading a letter from Komurasaki by the aid of a lantern under a willow tree ; in the sky shines a crescent moon. A very fine plate. (See Plate 57.)
Censors' seals of Muramatsu and Yoshimura.
(The story of the two celebrated lovers, Gompachi and Komurasaki, is a famous one, as much so as that of O-Some and Hisamatsu, and has likewise been dramatized in popular plays.
The two lovers first meet at what Gompachi supposes to be an inn, but which is really the abode of robbers, who had kidnapped Komurasaki. She warns him of his danger and advises him to escape.
Gompachi, however, who was a skilful swordsman, decides to stay and fight them. He defeats them and escapes with Komurasaki whom he restores to her parents. Later, misfortune overtaking her parents, Komurasaki sells herself to the Yoshiwara to pay their debts ; Gompachi here meets her a second time and determines to redeem her, but the methods he adopts to attain this end, having no money himself, killing and robbing people to buy her out, finally land him in the hands of the public executioner.
A few days after his death, Komurasaki breaks out from her prison in the Yoshiwara and commits self-immolation on his grave. Their common tomb is known as the grave of the hiyoku, a fabulous bird embodying two souls in one body, the emblem of connubial love and fidelity.)
10. Kagamiyama : Iwa Fuji standing by a torii beating another lady, Onoye, with her straw sandal.
This is a scene from the play Kagamiyama, which relates how Ohatsu, maid to Onoye, the Lady of Kaga, avenges the insult heaped upon her in the palace by Iwa Fuji, who struck her in the face with her sandal. Onoye, to wipe out the insult she has received, commits suicide, and Ohatsu in revenge kills Iwa Fuji.
11. Hirakana Seisuke (i.e. History of the Taira and Minamoto clans). Higuchi-no-Jiro, in a tree, watches his lord whom he has rescued from arrest, sailing away. (See Plate 57.)
(Higuchi-no-Jiro is the same as Sendo ("sailor") Matsuyemon, a retainer of Yoshinaka, a Minamoto warrior of the twelfth century, who was killed by Yoshitsune after the battle of Uji River (vide preceding chapter). Higuchi rescues Yoshinaka's son and, disguising himself as a sailor, gets him safely away in a ship.)
12. Hime Komatsu Nenohi Asobi (title of the play), by Chikamatsu Monzayemon.
Shunkwan dragging Oyasu into his house, while behind Ariomaru holds back Kameo-maru from coming to her rescue. Snow scene.
Considered the best plate of the series so far as they are known. (See Plate 57.)
The writer has been unable to identify the scene illustrated. Shunkwan was a priest, who, at the end of the twelfth century, was exiled for complicity with others in a plot against Taira no-Kiyomori.
Later his companions in exile were pardoned, but Shunkwan himself was left to die alone on the island to which he had been banished because, as a priest, his crime was the more unpardonable. Shunkwan in exile is the subject of a No drama, and is often the subject of illustration.
13. Sekinoto : Sekibei, armed with a huge axe, is about to cut down a cherry tree which is haunted by the ghost of a reformed oiran, Komachi Sakura ("cherry"), who became a nun. Sekibei was a gate-keeper (real name Oto-no-Kuronoshi) who murdered her and buried her body by the cherry tree, which was thereafter haunted by her ghost until he cut it down. Snow scene ; in background a round-topped hill.
14. Seishu Akogi no Ura : Akogi no Heiji is being arrested for fishing in forbidden waters, his captor finding his name in his hat. Akogi had been watching the lightning and was fishing for the sword supposed to be dropped by it.
TOTO KYUSEKI TSUKUSHI : "Old Yedo Stories Illustrated."
A series of very rare, full-size, upright prints, issued through the publisher Wakasa-ya, with censors' seal of Ta-naka, which places the date at about 1845. The title of the series and the sub-title of the illustration are on two narrow labels in the top right-hand corner, while opposite on a large rectangular label is a short history of the scene depicted. Eight of the series have been noted by the writer, and this number is probably all that are known to-day. Four of them appeared in the Orange and Thornicraft sale (March, 1912), and are here illustrated at Plate 58.
1. Azuma-no-Mori no Koji : "The Old Story of Azuma." The prow of a ship in a heavy storm of wind and rain, and Tachibana Hime throwing herself over the side into the waves.
(She was one of the concubines of Yamato Take [c. A.D. 100], a son of the Emperor Keiko, and accompanied her lord on one of his expeditions, when boisterous weather was met with.
To appease the sea-god, who was offended at Yamato Take by reason of
a jeering remark he had made to her previously when, jealous of his attentions
to another woman, she ventured to remonstrate with him, only to receive
the reply that her place was not in the wars, but "on the mats"
[i.e. at home], she had her mats
thrown into the water, and jumped on them, thus revenging herself upon her husband.
Azuma is the name given to the Eastern coast provinces of Japan, and
this district received this designation [hence the name "Azuma"
in the sub-title] from Yamato Take on his return home from this expedition,
while gazing over the sea from the top of a mountain, exclaiming in remembrance
of Tachibana Hime's self-sacrifice,
Azuma ha ya! " [Alas! my wife.])
2. Sumidagawa Miyakodori no Koji : "History of the Miyako Birds of the Sumida River." (See Illustration 1, Plate 58.)
The Poet Narihira (A.D. 825-880) accompanied by a young page-boy carrying his sword, watching a flight of chidori on the Sumida River at Yedo. They so reminded him of his home at Kyoto (poetically called Miyakodori), that he called them "Miyako Birds."
3. Takada Yama Yamabuki no sato Koji : "Ancient Story of the Yamabuki at Takada Hill." Rain scene.
A girl picking a bloom of the yamabuki (Kerria Japonica), outside a hut.
This is an illustration of the story of Ota Dokwan, a daimyo (died, 1486), who, being caught in a rain-storm, made for the shelter of a house, which was of poor appearance, and asked for the loan of a raincoat (mino). The girl instead brought him a flower of the yamabuki (yellow rose), thereby signifying by a pun on the word mino (also= a seed) that she had no raincoat, the yamabuki having no seed. (See Plate 58.)
4. Kanda Otama-ga the no Koji : "Old story of the Otama Pond at Kanda." (See Plate 58.)
Otama, a tea-house waitress, in a garden overlooking the lake, is lifting a pot out of a boiler. She drowned herself in the lake (not now in existence), because she was unable to choose between two lovers who both desired to make her wife.
(An exactly similar story concerns another maiden, known as the Maiden of Unai who, like Otama, was violently loved by two persistent admirers, Mubara and Chinu, and was also unable to choose between them. To solve the problem, her parents decided that he who should first shoot a water-fowl swimming in the water should have their daughter in marriage. Both shot their arrows at the same time, and both hit their mark, thus still failing to solve the problem.
In despair, the maid of Unai threw herself into the stream, and the two lovers sprang after her, all three perishing together.)
5. Kasumi ga seki no Kozu : " A former view from (not "of" as often given in catalogues) the Kasumi Barrier." (See Plate 58.)
View from the summit of a hill looking out across the Bay of Yedo, and a lady and her page-boy turning to admire the prospect, in the days before the hill was built over.
(The Kasumi Barrier was a hill in Yedo - now built over - where formerly a guard-house stood leading into another province [vide Plate 2 in Hiroshige's "Hundred Views of Yedo"].)
6. Mukojima Umewaka no Yurai . "The story of Umewaka at Mukojima."
Umewaka was a child of noble birth who was kidnapped in Kyoto. He died and was buried by a priest near the site of the Kameido Temple.
His mother searches all over the country for her lost son, and at last finds his grave under a willow tree. She goes mad after making this discovery, and is here depicted floating down the river in a boat and being jeered at by children.
This episode has been made the subject of a drama.
7. Asakusa Kinryusan Kwanzeon Yurai : "History of the Kwannon Temple, Asakusa, Kinryusan."
This illustrates the story of the founding of the Temple to the goddess
Kwannon at Asakusa, and tells how a fisherman named Hamanari found an
image of Kwannon entangled in his net, and enshrined it in his
Another version is that the fisherman was a noble in exile, Hashi-no-Nakamoto, who fell into such poverty that he was obliged to take to fishing as a means of livelihood, accompanied by two faithful retainers. He is here depicted fishing up the sacred image, which is shown emitting rays of light as it is being brought to the surface, with his two retainers in the boat. In the background shines a deep red sun just above the horizon, behind a clump of trees.
8. Asakusa ga tiara Hitotsuya : "The lonely house at Asakusa." This house was kept by a woman who murdered any wayfarers who put up there for the night by dropping a huge suspended stone on them when asleep, and then robbing them.
CHIUKO-ADAUCHI DZU-YE : "Illustrations to Fidelity in Revenge."
A very rare set of full-size, upright prints, probably complete in 14 plates. This number, in book form, appeared at a print sale at Sotheby's in August, 1919, the largest number hitherto recorded. Issued during the Prohibition period.
For purposes of identification of other plates in the set which may come under the notice of the reader, one of them is here reproduced at Plate 58 (Illustration 5).
Above, on a panel in the form of an open book is, on the right-hand label, Ichiryusai Hiroshige gwa, followed by his diamond seal, Hiro. (It was very unusual for Hiroshige to sign in full at this late date ; but his early work, before 1830, is often signed Ichiyusai H. The small difference of one letter (R) is important in distinguishing early and late work.)
On the centre panel is the title of the series, and on the left-hand one the name of the publisher, Dansendo, with his seal below, and that of the censor, Murata, above.
On the other page of the book is a synopsis of the incident illustrated in Japanese text by Tanekazu. In the bottom left-hand corner of the print is a small label of the engraver Take.
The incident portrayed is Shundo Jiroza-Yemon, disguised as a beggar, kneeling, preparing to fight his enemy Kamura Uta-yemon, who is drawing his sword. Behind Shundo stands Takaichi Buyemon holding a closed fan, acting as his second.
Shundo has sought out his enemy to avenge the murder of his father; having adopted the disguise of a beggar, he is thereby barred from openly carrying a sword, the handle and sheath of which are bamboo, so that when closed it appears to be only a stick. The scene is laid at night in a deserted country road.
Another incident illustrated in this series is Ohatsu's Revenge on Iwa Fuji, a scene from the play Kagamiyama, another episode from which we described above in the series "Ancient and Modern Dramas illustrated." Ohatsu is depicted attacking Iwa Fuji in a garden, while the latter tries to shield herself with her umbrella.
FUKU-TOKU KANE NO NARU KI : "Money-bringing Trees."
A very rare series of figure-studies, full size, upright, with the series-title on a narrow label, and the sub-title of the illustration written in characters forming the stalks to a cluster of leaves, composed of oblong-shaped gold coins. Publisher Arita-ya, also two censors' seals, and the red chrysanthemum seal, noted in the "Ancient and Modern Dramas" series at the beginning of this chapter.
The total number in the series is unknown, but the following have come under observation:-
1. Tashinamiyoki : "The Careful Wife." Full-length figure-study of a woman holding over her arm a garment, and on the floor behind her dressmaking materials. (See Plate 58.)
2. Shuseki : "The Tree of Good Writing." A woman on one knee writing on a scroll lying across her other knee.
3. Utsukushiki : "The Tree of Good Looks." A woman squatting before a mirror which reflects her face, and rubbing pomade in the palm of her hand preparatory to applying it to her face.
4. Gyogi-yoki : "The Tree of Good Behaviour." A woman carefully carrying a small cabinet, on which is a porcelain animal.
Other very rare series by Hiroshige are two sets of a comic nature, one entitled Hiza Kurige Dochu Suzume, "The Road Sparrow on 'Shanks' Mare,'" being the travelling experiences of Yajirobei and his companion Kitahachi, consisting of seven full-size, oblong sheets ; the other a set of silhouette pictures, showing the performer and the shadow he makes, this latter signed "Hiroshige, drawn for fun."
Prints of this nature, however, are somewhat outside the scope of this chapter, and are merely mentioned as possibly a matter of some interest to the reader.