fan crest   title

Archive: Umekuni (梅國)

Nakamura Utaemon III (中村歌右衛門) as a blind masseur [zatô] actually [jitsu ha] Mino no Shôkurô (座頭実はみのノ仕九郎) in Keisei ômonguchi (けいせい廓大門), Kado Theater, Osaka
Umekuni ga (梅國画)
No Artist Seals
Izumi Ri and Honsei
(H x W)
Oban nishiki-e
37.6 x 26.4 cm
Very good color, unbacked; album crease along right edge, two creases (paper flaws) LL, filled wormhole below leftmost frog
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry UMK03


The text of Keisei ômonguchi (Courtesans at the great gate of the pleasure quarter: 契情廓大門 also written as けいせい廓大門) has apparently not survived, but it seems to be an adaptation of Ômonguchi yoroi kasane (written by Namiki Sôsuke in 12/1743, which premiered at the Ônishi Theater in Osaka). The drama features a complicated saga in which Shôkurô plots against Shinkurô, the murderer of his father, and wherein some of the characters take on disguises and false identities during the intrigues fueling the plot twists.

Keisei-mono (courtesan plays: 傾城物 also 契情物 or けいせい物) were typically performed at the New Year and gave female roles more prominence, frequently in adaptations of older plays. The present Keisei production was intended, in part, to feature the wives of the principal antagonists within the otherwise male-engendered conflicts. In kabuki, the onnagata (actors in female roles: 女方 or 女形) were thereby given opportunities to display their skills in dance and their artistry in martial-arts performance.


Our sheet depicts Mino no Shôkurô (みのノ仕九郎) in the guise of a zatô or blind masseur (座頭), one of several instances in the play when protagonists adopted a pretense to trick their adversaries.

In the Edo period, zatô were typically members of the tôdô (guild of blind men: 当道). To survive, they would play the koto (琴) and samisen (三味線) as itinerant musicians, practice acupuncture, and engage in money lending, or when most desperate, resort to begging. It would seem that in the play Keisei ômonguchi, such a versatile occupation would surely provide the cover needed to hide one's true identity while plotting violence against the enemy.

The poem was composed by Umekuni's teacher, Yoshikuni (芳國) and reads in Japanese: Ki no me dete / manakodama aji / fu tai no shiru (木のめ出て眼玉味ふ鯛のしる).

References: KNZ, no. 196