Artist: Shunbaisai Hokuei (春梅斎北英)

Print: Nakamura Shikan II (中村芝翫) as Tawara Tota Hidesato (俵藤太郎秀郷) from the series Fashionable Mirror Covers (流行鏡之覆)

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Dates: circa 1834 - 1835,created
Dimensions: 10.375 in,14.875 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Shunkōsai Hokuei ga
Publisher: Tenmaya Kihei
(Marks 536 seal: 24-035)

Related links: Waseda University; Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rennes - posted at commons.wikimedia; Lyon Collection - another Hokuei showing Shikan II in this role;Lyon Collection - Gakutei surimono of Tawara;Lyon Collection - Kuniyoshi - notice the giant centipede in the upper left inset;Hankyu Culture Foundation;

Physical description:

The riot of color that makes up Tawara's garments serve two purposes: one is decorative and terribly Japanese in style and the other is to set off dramatically, and hence draw attention to, the face of Shikan II. If you click on the image and enlarge it you will see that this warriors clothing is populated with fantastic birds, possibly ho-o or phoenixes flying over a geometrically patterned gray ground. Trailing around the tail and feet of these birds are long strips of beautifully designed fabrics. The hilt of his sword, parts of his armored gloves and his breastplate are made up of samegawa or ray skin, a pebble material with small raised white bumps. In the West many people refer to this as sharkskin, but it isn't. It is also referred to as shagreen in the West.

The looped deep blue tassel with is used to tie pieces of his armor together is a particularly nice touch. Often the tassel (age-maki - 総角) appear to decorate the front of the armor protecting the upper torso. They normally have elaborate knots above the tassel, but not here.


This print commemorates a performance of Otokonarikeri Onna Masakadoat the Kado Theater in the 10th month of 1834.

Illustrated: Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in European Collections: Victorian and Albert Museum II, Kodansha, 1989, #157.


Illustrated in Ikeda Bunko, Kamigata yakusha-e shūsei (Collected Kamigata Actor Prints), vol. 2, Ikeda Bunko Library, Osaka, 1998, no. 338.


Tawara Tota Hidesato was one of the great mythic heroes of Japan. He slew the giant centipede that was plaguing an area near Lake Biwa. There are three other prints in the Lyon Collection featuring this hero. See the links above.