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Ichikawa Dannosuke III (市川団之助) on the left, Iwai Hanshirō V (岩井半四郎) in the center, and Segawa Kikunojō V (瀬川菊之丞) on the right - onnagata coming from or going to a women's bathhouse (女中湯) - 3 of 5 panels

Identifier: 1821 Toyokuni II ladies
Description:

It would appear that the far left and right prints of this composition are missing from this example in the Lyon Collection.

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Onnagata on their way to a bathhouse in the Kobikichō area of Edo. While this triptych probably does not represent a scene from a play we know that the figures are onnagata or male actors who played women's roles. We know this because of the boshi or head scarves worn which cover the top of the forehead which had been shaved on all actors. Here the two outer figures are wearing those scarves.

Even when onnagata were not on stage, but in public they were expected to stay in character. Only behind the closed screens of their own homes could they relax and be the 'man of the house', so to speak. The rules of behavior were ostensibly spelled out by Segawa Kikunojō I (1693-1749) in 'The Secret Transmissions of an onnagata'. "According to the compiler of this text, Kikunojō was in full dress on his deathbed, in accordance with the onnagata garb code."

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At the time these prints were produced the Kobikichō district housed one of the three licensed kabuki theaters of Edo, the Morita-za. In 1841-42 all three were forced to move to the Saruwaka-chō.

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