Artist: Utagawa Toyokuni I (初代歌川豊国)

Print: Possibly a scene from the play Kagamiyama Kokyō no Nishikie (Mirror Mountain: A Women's Treasury of Loyalty [鏡山旧錦絵]) - Nakamura Daikichi I (中村大吉) on the right, Onoe Kikugorō III (尾上菊五郎) as Iwafuji in the center, and Ichikawa Monnosuke III (市川門之助) on the left.

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Dates: 1815 - 1820,created
Dimensions: 29.25 in,14.5 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: color woodblock print

Signed: Toyokuni ga (豊国画)
Publisher: Yamamotoya Heikichi
(Marks 595 - seal 04-007)
Censor's seal: kiwame

Related links: Japan Arts Council - an 1803 Toyokuni I production scene of this play by Nishimuraya Yohachi;

Physical description:

Toita Yasuji in 1969 wrote that "...the scenes of cherry blossom viewing in Shin Usuyuki Monogatari and Kagamiyama Kokyō no Nishikie [are] the two most famous cherry blossom scenes in Kabuki."

Quoted from: Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms: The Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History by Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney, fn. 19, p. 36.


The play, Kagamiyama Kokyô no Nishikie, by Yō Yōdai:

The play "Kagamiyama Kokyō no Nishikie" was originally written for the puppet theater (Bunraku) in 1782. It was adapted to Kabuki the following year and staged for the first time in the 4th lunar month of 1783 at the Moritaza [casting]. It mixed two real events:

  • the revenge of a lady-in-waiting in the Edo palace of the daimyô Matsudaira, who killed the 3rd of the 4th lunar month of 1724 the lady responsible for the suicide of her mistress.
  • the troubles in the Maeda family, rulers of the Kaga province, in the 1740s and 1750s.

The original puppet play was in eleven acts. From the original puppet play, the Kabuki versions used act VI and VII, the two main acts focusing on the ladies-in-waiting suicide/revenge story. The current Kabuki version is made up of 5 acts divided into 7 scenes.

Act II: The Beating with the Bamboo Sword

The overbearing senior lady-in-waiting Iwafuji challenges the middle lady-in-waiting Onoe to show her fighting skills, the sign of a true samurai woman, hoping to ridicule Onoe's origins since she is the daughter of a wealthy commoner. But Onoe's maidservant Ohatsu saves her mistress by fighting in her place, claiming that she learned everything from Onoe. Iwafuji becomes even more determined to destroy Onoe since she is an obstacle to her goal of controlling the clan.

Act III: The Beating with the Zōri Sandal

Onoe has been entrusted with a precious Buddhist statue, but when she is asked to present it, finds that it has been replaced with a zōri sandal, the result of Iwafuji's plotting. Iwafuji beats Onoe with the sandal in front of all the other women. Despite the injustice of the accusation, Onoe can no longer live with this shame and, as she leaves, full of grief and anguish, shows her determination to die.

Act IV, Scene 1: In the Mansion Corridor and in Onoe's Room

Ohatsu hears about the terrible things that have happened from the gossip of others women. Ohatsu is desperate to rescue her mistress, but despite her efforts to cheer her up and stay by her side, Onoe forces her to leave with a letter.

Act IV, Scene 2: The cry of the crow outside the Walls

Ohatsu is worried by all the bad omens that she sees and hears: a lantern which goes out, the croak of a crow... She encounters a fight and accidentally the letter box opens revealing a suicide note and the fateful zôri sandal. Ohatsu rushes back to Onoe.

Act IV, Scene 3: Onoe's Room

But it is too late, Onoe has already committed suicide. Ohatsu tearfully takes care of the body and then vows to carry out her mistress's revenge on Iwafuji.

Act V: The Revenge in the Garden of the Palace

Ohatsu finds Iwafuji in the garden and says that Onoe has suddenly become ill. Iwafuji knows that Onoe is dead and is immediately suspicious. She agrees to help, but then claims to be suffering cramps. Ohatsu says that she has an amulet to cure her and beats Iwafuji with the fateful zôri sandal. The two fights [sic] and Ohatsu kills Iwafuji, defeating her plans to take over the clan. The lord of the clan praised Ohatsu and rewards her by giving her Onoe's name and allowing her to succeed to her late mistress's position.

"Kagamiyama" is the ultimate play about rivalry and revenge in the women's quarters of a samurai mansion. It is said to be based on life in the Shôgun's castle since the original play was written by a doctor familiar with things in that exalted realm far from the eyes of the common people. Other women in samurai service no doubt were deeply moved by the problems of characters in situations very similar to their own.

The above information is taken directly from Kabuki21.


Three onnagata roles in "Kagamiyama" (lit., Mirror Mountain) provide sharp contrasts in the types of women. Iwafuji is a wicked maid in the household of a feudal lord, while ranking below her is Onoe, all that is gentle and good. Jealous of the virtues and accomplishments of Onoe, the evil Iwafuji intrigues, and her plot succeeds so well that the good maid is disgraced beyond all hope of redress. There is no way in which Onoe can clear herself, and she takes her life. Ohatsu, servant to Onoe, true-hearted and valorous, heedless of the consequences, meets Iwafuji in the garden and fights to a finish, the bad Iwafuji dying to the satisfaction of the audience, while the young lord of the mansion appears to approve Ohatsu's action, and promotes her to the position in the household her mistress enjoyed.

Quoted from Zoë Kincaid in Kabuki, the Popular Stage of Japan.


Like most kabuki plays known today only a few acts of this play have been preserved and are still being performed. In volume 2 of Kabuki Plays on Stage..., edited by James Brandon and Samuel Leiter, there is a discussion and translation of Kagamiyama Kokyō no Nishikie, pp. 172-212.

There are four other prints in the Lyon Collection showing the figure of Iwafuji.


Based on true events, Iwafuji, jealous of the beauty of a younger but less privileged woman, Onoe, unjustly humiliates her. Onoe felt that the only honorable thing she could do was to commit suicide. Onoe's maid, Ohatsu, got revenge for his mistress by eventually killing Iwafuji.


Iwafuji often wears an outfit referred to as a katahazushi. "The costume of the upper-class samurai wife and the goten juchū (ranking lady-in-waiting) at the courts of the shōgun and the daimyō - but not at the imperial court - is referred to as the katahazushi ishō... because these women wear the wig with the asymmetrical, topknot known as the katahazushi mage (kata, one side; hazushi, unfastened, disconnected; mage, topknot."