Artist: Shunbaisai Hokuei (春梅斎北英)

Print: Arashi Rikan II (嵐璃寛) as Hirai Gampachi (平井ごん八) and Nakamura Tomijūrō II (中村富十郎) as Komurasaki (小むらさき)

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Dates: 1835,created
Dimensions: 10.25 in,15.25 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese woodblock print

Signed: Shunbaisai Hokuei ga
Publisher: Tenmaya Kihei
(Marks 536 - seal 26-155)

Related links: Waseda University; Tokyo Metropolitan Library; Hankyu Culture Foundation;

Physical description:

"In 1679 a rōnin by the name of Hirai Gonpachi, a regular visitor to the Yoshiwara, was beheaded on the execution ground in Shinagawa. When he was sixteen years of age Gonpachi was said to have killed a man in his home province and subsequently escaped to Edo. Gonpachi followed this violent act by a series of thefts and murders in Edo until he was caught and executed. He would have been a criminal of no consequence, except for the legend that connected him with Komurasaki. The fictionalized story tells us that Komurasaki was deeply in love with Gonpachi (last name Shirai in fiction), who was reputed to be extremely handsome. The legend says that, after his death, she had her wealthy patron purchase her contract. The night of her release, she went to the cemetery of her lover and ended her life with a sharp knife."

Quoted from: Yoshiwara: The Glittering World of the Japanese Courtesan by Cecilia Segawa Seigle, p. 89.


"The Lovers Miura-ya Komurasaki and Shirai Gonpachi is a tragic Japanese love story, taken from real life and dramatized were a staple of stage and print; the darkly romantic combination of desire and death was hugely popular in the eighteenth century in Japan. Hirai Gompachi was Japanese warrior of the Tottori fief in western Japan who fled to Edo after committing a murder. He was apprehended and sentenced to death in 1679. His distraught lover, the courtesan Komurasaki, committed suicide at his grave. In its day, people who were sympathetic to Gonpachi and Komurasake's tale were so moved that they built a hiyokuzuka ("lovers' tomb") in their memory. To further commemorate their story Japanese temple priests carved a picture of the Hiyoku, (a legendary lovebird that exists only when it has found its mate), on the tomb. How much of this Japanese story is fact, and how much is fiction is anyone's guess. Clearly there are many questions that challenge its historical validity. However, this tale has inspired numerous theatrical productions and artwork."

Summary of Loves of Gompachi and Komurasaki: Japanese Tales by Elena N. Gand (JSV)