Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: Onoe Kikujirō II as Senzai (千歳) in the female role and Nakamura Utaemon IV as Sambasō ( 三番叟) in Ayatsuri Sambasō [あやつり三番叟]

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Dates: circa 1850,created
Dimensions: 9.75 in,14.25 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: color woodblock print

Signed: Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Publisher: Enshūya Hikobei
(Marks 055 - seal 21-016)
Censor: Mera Taichirō - Murata Heiemon (1847-50)
Special seal: shita-uri

Related links: Waseda University;

Physical description:

A double bust portrait of Onoe Kikujirō II as Senzai (top) and Nakamura Utaemon IV as Sanbasō (literally "the third oldest man") in Ayatsuri Sambasō. Nakamura Utaemon IV wears a 'kago' hat decorated with the rising sun.

"The sambasô is one of the most important ceremonial dances in the Kabuki theater. It originally comes from the ritual dance "Okina" in the classical Noh theater and with vigorous stamping and shaking of bells, it is a prayer for agricultural prosperity. In the Kabuki theater, the sambasō used to be performed early in the morning as an opening ritual, and in turn, there are many more theatrical versions of the sambasō dance that appeared as part of the regular program".

(from "The Nishikawa School of Japanese Classical Dance Nihon Buyô in its San Francisco Premiere Performance")


"Numerous versions of Sambasō have been created over the years. A kabuki variant called Okina watashi used to be performed at New Year's and on other special occasions, with the stage manager as Okina, his son as Senzai, and the chief actor as Sambasō. The performance was offered as a prayer for peace in the realm, a good harvest, and the prosperity of the theater. A similarly felicitous bunraku piece, Kotobuki Sambasō, has two Sambasō roles. In some kabuki plays, Sambasō appeared as a clown or as a puppet manipulated by a stage attendant, and one dance piece (shōsagoto) still performed is commonly called The Tongue-Sticking-Out Sambasō (Shitadashi Sambasō), because the dancer does just that in the middle of his performance."

Quoted from: Traditional Japanese Theater, ed. by Karen Brazell, translation by Jane Marie Law.