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Autumn (Aki - 秋) from the series The Four Seasons (Shiki no uchi - 四季之内) - a Rustic Genji theme

Identifier: 1851-53 Kunisada album trip 06

Bryan Fijalkovich wrote in his master's thesis a summary of this scene:

During the final confrontation with the villainous Shinonome in the ancient temple, Tasogare defends Mitsuuji with the basket hat of “traveling companions”... Once subdued, Shinonome cuts her own throat, but before passing she divulges that her lineage pitted her against Mitsuuji and the Ashikaga shogunate and that she stole the treasure sword in exchange for gold from Ashikaga arch rival, Yamana Sozen. Confronted with loyalty to her mother and love of Mitsuuji, Tasogare also commits suicide. Therefore, instead of the tragic lover’s suicide, Tanehiko inserts the double suicide of mother and daughter. Yet Mitsuuji adds vows of marital tranquility and assurance of his loving companionship to Tasogare in future lives. Mitsuuji stayed true to his motive of finding clues to the lost treasure sword while Tasogare’s suicide kept her honor. However, the two could not overcome their desire for each other. Much like The Love Suicides at Sonezaki, both Mitsuuji and Tasogare uphold the principles of responsibility and human desire.


This triptych is illustrated in black and white in Sebastian Izzard's Kunisada's World at #84. The text read:

"After a hiatus of nearly five years caused by the death of Ryūtei Tanehiko in the summer of 1842... "Rustic Genji" came back into fashion. Tanehiko's novel had ended abruptly with the publication of chapter 38 in the spring of 1842, despite the publisher's statement on the inside back cover that five new chapters (38 to 42) would be published that year. Senkakudō, the publisher, had been the subject of a two-year government investigation, which resulted int he confiscation of his woodblocks and his bankruptcy in 1844. Rival publishers took up the novel in 1847, however, and two plays featured Mitsuuji (Genji) In 1851. The first, Higashiyama sakura sōshi (The story of cherry blossoms on Hagashiyama), was performed at the Nakamura theater in the eighth month, and the second, Genji moyō furisode hinagata was staged the following month in the Ichimura theater with Ichikawa Danjūrō VIII as Mitsuuji.

The prohibition against actor prints issued by the shogun's councillor Mizuno Tadakuni in 1842 was still technically in effect, and it was not possible for artists to give the names of either the roles or the actors. The title of this print Autumn, would have signaled to Kunisada's audience that the subject was one of the two autumn productions of 1851. The latter part of 1851 is the only possible date for the triptych, because a new censorship system using date seals in addition to censors' seals was introduced int he second month of the following year.

The scene is probably taken from act 8 of Higashiyama sakura sōshi. The setting is a dilapidated temple where Mitsuuji and his lover, Tasogare, have taken shelter. They are surprised by the sudden appearance of Shinonome, Tasogare's mother, whose family was exterminated by the Ashikaga clan. She confesses to stealing the sword known as Kogarasumaru, the missing Ashikaga heirloom for which Mitsuuji has been searching, and approaches Mitsuuji, intending to murder him.

Ichikawa Kodanji IV (1817-1866) is shown at the right as Shinonome, knife in hand, advancing on Iwai Kumesaburō III (1829-1882), who stands at the left in the role of Mitsuuji. Onoe Kikujirō II (1814-1875) plays the hapless Tasogare in the center, cowering behind her sedge hat. Kunisada's compositon is clearly based on his illustration of the same scene in the fifth chapter of Tanehiko's "Rustic Genji"..."

[The choice of bold type was ours.]


When Kunisada and Tanehiko first collaborated on publishing Rustic Genji ehon Tanehiko stated clearly at the beginning of Chapter 2, in the preface, “I took up the cart of the ‘Aoi’ chapter. A picture book, combining kabuki, puppet plays, and monogatari romance – all three together in one.” Thus he did not hesitate to embrace his sources openly. (JSV)


The sasarindō motif which was the family crest of part of the Minamoto/Genji clan appears subtly on the upper part of the Mitsuuji figure on the left.


Also listed, but not illustrated, in Genji's World in Japanese Woodblock Prints by Andreas Marks, #G322-03, p. 268.


Illustrated in small black and white reproductions in the Illustrated Catalogues of Tokyo National Museum: Ukiyo-e Prints (3), #2936-38.

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