Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: Kakegawa (掛川): Fukuoka Mitsugi (福岡貢) from the series
Fifty-three Pairings for the Tōkaidō Road (Tōkaidō gojūsan tsui - 東海道五十三対)

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Dates: circa 1845 - 1846,created
Dimensions: 9.125 in,14.25 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese woodblock print

Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Artist's seal: kiri
Publisher: Ibaya Senzaburō
(Marks 127 - seal 21-095)
Carver: Horikō Takejirō (彫工竹次郎)
Censor's seal: Mura

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; British Museum; Waseda University; Museum für angewandte Kunst, Vienna; National Diet Library; Walters Museum of Art; Manggha Centre of Japanese Art and Technology, Krakow; Van Gogh Museum; Google maps - The Marriage Rocks at the Futamiokitama Shrine;

Physical description:

Some of the background story behind this character:

In 1796 in the town of Furuichi near the Ise Shrine a drunken doctor went on a murderous rampage in the local Aburaya brothel. Before it was over a number of people lay dead or wounded including the maid Oman. Two days later the doctor committed suicide at the home of his uncle who was a low-ranking priest at the shrine.

This series of events and others like it had been fuel for the creative talents of 18th century authors. Within ten days the first performances of a play based on this incident was being performed in a town nearby. Its success spurred Chikamatsu Tokuzō (近松徳三 or ちかまつ.とくぞう:1751-1810) and two of his assistants to create their own version which debuted in Kyōto just two and a half months later. Supposedly written in only three days this qualifies it as an "overnight pickle play" or ichiyazuke kyogen (一夜漬狂言 or いちやづけ.きょうげん).

Like other murderous plays this one was often performed during the summer "...when the bloodcurdling doings on stage might provide audiences some 'chilling' relief in sultry weather."

Okon's lover is the sensitive Mitsugi, but when he takes possession of a bloodthirsty sword his whole personality changes. Okon is the heroine, but her role is somewhat secondary. Although Mitsugi leaves a stage littered with the dead and dying he is never blamed. The sword is. After several more dramatic scenes three figures 'pose triumphantly' at the end including Mitsugi and Okon. While this leaves the audience thinking this might be a happy ending it is nevertheless slightly ambiguous - "...Okon's fate remains vague."


The lower part of this print illustrates a famous scene from a kabuki play, possibly Ise Ondo Koi no Netaba. Kabuki21 gives a summary of this play:

"The plot concerns a valuable sword made by the smith Shimosaka and possessed by a bloodthirsty spirit. The daimyō of Awa had in his service a samurai to whom he entrusted the precious Shimosaka sword. This sword caused the death of the samurai and also that of his son, who inherited the trust. The son left an only child, a little boy, whose mother was already dead. The boy's aunt, terrified of the evil sword, disposed of the weapon secretly and fled from Awa with her little nephew under an assumed name in the Ise district. The boy, Fukuoka Mitsugi (who is the hero of the play), was adopted by a priest of the Grand Shrines and grew up in the service of the Shrines, but he never forgot that his first allegiance was to the daimyō of Awa and more especially to the daimyō's Chief Counsellor, who had been his father's immediate superior. Meanwhile, the daimyō of Awa died and was succeeded by a child. This boy's uncle, Kajikawa Daigaku, plotted to usurp the power, but was thwarted in his plans by the loyalty of the Chief Counsellor. Daigaku therefore determined to discredit him and one of the several plots he devised concerned the Shimosaka sword. Word came to the Chief Counsellor that this sword, his lord's heirloom, was for sale in the town of Furuichi in Ise. He therefore sent his son, Imada Manjirō, to buy it and bring it back to Awa. Manjirō was a charming youth of weak character. He bought the sword, but then fell victim to the attractions of Okishi, a courtesan of Furuichi. Instead of returning home he remained with his love and to pay his debts was forced to pawn the Shimosaka sword, although retaining the certificate which proved its authenticity. The spies of the wicked Daigaku were watching Manjirō. The chief of these, a samurai named Tokushima Iwaji, plotted to secure both the sword and the certificate so that Manjirō would be unable to fulfil [sic] his mission and his father would be disgraced through him. Iwaji succeeded by a trick in stealing the certificate from Manjirō, but could not lay his hands on the sword because both the pawnbroker and the weapon had disappeared. At this point Fukuoka Mitsugi enters the story. As has been said, he was by birth the retainer of the Chief Counsellor of Awa. He learned of Manjirō's predicament and received permission from his present master, who was a friend of Manjirō's father, to go to the youth's assistance. Mitsugi decided that the first thing was to get Manjirō out of harm's way; then he could hunt for the sword and the certificate."


There are nine prints from this series, Fifty-three Pairings for the Tōkaidō Road (Tōkaidō gojūsan tsui - 東海道五十三対), in the Lyon Collection. See also #s 382, 815, 816, 819, 861, 951, 1095 and 1269.

There is another copy of this print in the National Gallery, Prague and in the Harn Museum at the University of Florida.


Illustrated in color in Kunisada's Tōkaidō: Riddles in Japanese Woodblock Prints by Andreas Marks, p. 104, #T78-27.


The Lyon Collection has another print featuring Fukuoka Mitsugi (#362). In that case he is outside a brothel/teahouse where Aburaya Okon works.