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Nakamura Utaemon III (中村歌右衛門) in the role of a black man or kuronbō (黒んばう) in Western clothing carrying a large piece of coral - from the series Dance of the Nine Changes (Kokonobake no uchi - 九変化ノ内) - from the play Yosete Aratani Kokonobake (よせてあらたにここのばけ)

Identifier: 1830 Yoshikuni

One can only speculate how Utaemon was received by the audience when he appeared as a South Seas native carrying a large piece of coral. Perhaps it was somewhat like the late 19th to early 20th century American crowds when performers in black face appeared in minstrel shows. A raucous time was had by all.

As noted above, there is another print of a black man carrying an oversized piece of coral, but in this case it was in an earlier performance by Shikan I Utaemon III's rival.


Kuronbō (黒ん坊) is generally used as a denigrating terms. At best it can describe 'darkies', but at its most vulgar it is tantamount to using the 'n' word in the United States. While the Japanese already held a dim view of dark skinned people their prejudices were reinforced by the biases of the Dutch who visited Nagasaki. In fact, while Dutch men could visited the prostitutes of that port, sexual contact with kuronbō was discouraged.


Listed in Ikeda Bunko, Kamigata yakusha-e shūsei Collected Kamigata Actor Prints, vol. 1, Osaka, 1998, no. 364.

There is one other print from this series of 9 in the Lyon Collection. It represents Nakamura Utaemon III as the Tamamo no Mae.

The text on the left side reads: 黒くともよこれめはなし春の海 芝翫

The name of the play in kanji is 日本新玉九尾化.

There is another print from this series in Lyon Collection. See the link above.

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