Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: Ichikawa Ebizō V (市川海老蔵) as Higuchi Jirō (桶口次郎) in the play Hiragana seisuki

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Dates: circa 1832,created
Dimensions: 9.47 in,14.75 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Publisher: Yamaguchiya Tōbei
(Marks 591 - seal 15-005)
Censor's seal: kiwame

Related links: British Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - aizuri-e with different actor and costume; Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts - aizuri-e, same as in Boston;

Physical description:

This print commemorates a performance at the Ichimura Theater in the fourth month of 1832.

"The story [of Higuchi Jirō], loosely based on historical events, its part of the play called Hiragana seisuki (A Beginner's Version of the Rise and Fall of the Heike and Genji Clans). It was performed for the first time at Osaka's Takemoto puppet theatre in 1739.

General Minamoto Kiso no Yoshinaka (1154-84), in revolt against the Imperial House, was defeated and killed by the troops of General Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159-89) during the battle of Uji River in 1180. In the play, Yoshinaka's wife, Yamabuki, with her son Komawaka and her maid O-Fude, take refuge at an inn near Lake Biwa. The neighboring room is occupied by the boatman Gonshirō, his daughter O-Yoshi and her little son Senmatsu. When the pursuing Minamoto troops become aware of Yamabuki's hiding place they rush into the inn at night. In the resulting confusion, Yamabuki flees into a nearby bamboo grove with Senmatsu, whom she mistakes in the darkness for her own child. They are discovered by the soldiers who kill the boy, assuming it is Yoshinaka's son Komawaka. In the meantime, Gonshirō and O-Yoshi escape with Komawaka, believing him to be Senmatsu. When they discover the boy is not theirs, Gonshirō decides to raise the boy as his own grandson until Senmatsu returns. One day the maid O-Fude, searching for Komawaka, arrives at Gonshirō's house, claiming the child. On hearing that Senmatsu is dead, Gonshirō and O-Fude grieve and Gonshirō in his anger determines to kill Komawaka as well. He is prevented from doing so by his son-in-law, the boatman Matsuemon, who reveals that he is in reality Higuchi Jirō Kanemitsu, a loyal high-ranking retainer of Yoshinaka. Other boatmen then arrive to be instructed by Matsuemon in the 'secret art of rowing backwards'. The sailors, however, are Minamoto warriors in disguise and have come to capture Kanemitsu. A fight ensues in a boat where Kanemitsu single-handedly beats back his attackers and tosses all of them overboard."

Quoted from: The Hundred Poets Compared: A Print Series by Kuniyoshi, Hiroshige, and Kunisada by Henk Herwig and Joshua Mostow, p. 102.


The aizuri-e versions of this print in Boston and San Francisco portray a different actor, Nakamura Shikan, in the role of Higuchi Jirō.