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Artist: Natori Shunsen (名取春仙)

Print: Onoe Baikō VI [六世尾上梅幸] as the courtesan Aburaya Okon [油屋おこん]
in the play Ise Ondo Koi no Netaba
(伊勢音頭戀寢刃) or 'The Ise Dances and Love's Dull Blade'

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Dates: 1931,created
Dimensions: 10.75 in,15.75 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock print
Inscription: Signed: Shunsen (春仙)
Artist's seal: Shun
Publisher seal: Watanabe ko
(渡辺工)?

Related links: Waseda University; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; Kabuki21 - summary of the play Ise Ondo...;

Physical description:

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."

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"Blocks about 20; superimosed printings, about 25..."

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Illustrated:

1) In color in 名取春仙, 1991, p. 54.

2) In a small black and white illustration in Modern Japanese Prints by Dorothy Blair, #216.