Artist: Utagawa Toyokuni I (初代歌川豊国)

Print: Nakamura Shikan I (中村芝翫) as a black man or kuronbo (黒んばう) carrying a large piece of coral

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Dates: 1819,created
Dimensions: 10.0 in,14.5 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese woodblock print

Signed: Toyokuni ga
Publisher: Yamamotoya Heikichi
(Marks 595 - seal 04-007
Censor seal: kiwame

Related links: Waseda University; Lyon Collection - Yoshikuni of Nakamura Utaemon in the same role in 1825;Edo-Tokyo Museum; Tokyo Metropolitan Library -1819 Kunisada print of the same role and actor;

Physical description:

One can only speculate how Shikan was received by the audience when he appeared as a South Seas native carrying a large piece of coral. Perhaps it was somewhat like the late 19th to early 20th century American crowds when performers in black face appeared in minstrel shows. A raucous time was had by all.

As noted above, there is another print of a black man carrying an oversized piece of coral, but in that case it was in a performance by Shikan's rival Utaemon III from 1825.


Kuronbō (黒ん坊) is generally used as a denigrating terms. At best it can describe 'darkies', but at its most vulgar it is tantamount to using the 'n' word in the United States. While the Japanese already held a dim view of dark skinned people their prejudices were reinforced by the biases of the Dutch who visited Nagasaki. In fact, while Dutch men could visited the prostitutes of that port, sexual contact with kuronbō was discouraged.