Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: Sawamura Sōjūrō V [五代目沢村宗十郎] as Yorikane (頼兼) slaying his lover the courtesan Takao (高尾) played by Bandō Shūka I [初代坂東しうか]

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Dates: 1847,created
Dimensions: 30.125 in,15.0 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: color woodblock print

Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Artistls seal: kiri
Publisher: Enshūya Matabei
(Marks 057 - seal 01-031)
Censors seals: Mera and Murata

Related links: Lyon - right panel;Waseda University - left panel; Waseda University - right panel; National Museums Scotland - left-hand panel; National Museums Scotland - right-hand panel;

Physical description:

The majority of traditional Japanese prints can be read by the motifs and writing which they display. A familiarity with kanji enables the viewer to read the signatures and often the names of the actors. Their names of the roles often appear written in katakana characters. Those are the basics, but a knowledge of motifs is important too. Each of these elements gives us the clues that help us to understand these images.

Takao, the female role, is often accompanied by autumn leaves, but there are none here. Yorikane, the male role, is often wearing robes designed with stylized sparrows among bamboo shoots - or they can be found nearby. In the case of this diptych the sparrows and bamboo motif appears on the roles of both the these characters. This is unusual. The fact that Takao is wearing a robe with this motif strengthens the argument that Takao was Yorikane's woman.


B.W. Robinson was a trailblazer, but not always right -

The courtesan Takao (高尾), played by Iwai Kumesaburō III (岩井粂三郎), being yanked by her hair by her lover Yorikane who is about to slay her - this is the right panel of a diptych.

Ex collection B. W. Robinson.

Robinson identified this actor as Iwai Kumesaburō III, but both Waseda University and the Museums of Scotland say it was Bandō Shūka I.


This is from a performance at the Nakamura theater in 5/1847. The play may be Date zensei sakura no iromaku (伊達旭盛桜彩幕), which is one of the plays associated with Meiboku Sendai hagi (伽羅先代萩).


The Takao/Yorikane plays were actually loosely based on true historical events "...related to the succession disputes within the Date clan in Sendai in the 1660s. The legitimacy of the daimyo Date Tsunamune and his heirs was challenged when it was disclosed that Tsunamune was enamored of the famous courtesan Takao II of the Great Miura bordello (the legend that inspired the kabuki play was a colorful mix of fact and fiction)."

Quoted from: "Wild Boars and Dirty Rats: Kyōka Surimono Celebrating Ichikawa Danjūrō VII as Arajishi Otokonosuke" by John T. Carpenter, Impressions, no. 28, 2006-2007, p. 47.