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Archive: Hokushû (北洲)

(1R) Sawamura Kunitarô II as Shinkurô tsuma (Shinkurô's wife) Shigarami; (2R) Nakamura Karoku I as Shokurô tsuma (Shokurô's wife) Kochô; (3R) Fujikawa Tomikichi II as Katsugen tsuma (Katsugen's wife) Nagisa in Keisei ômonguchi (契情廓大門), Kado Theater, Osaka
Shunkôsai Hokushû ga
Artist's seal: Hokushû
Toshin 利新 (Toshikuraya Shinbei: 利倉や新兵衛)
(H x W)
Ôban triptych nishiki-e
37.7 x 75.0 cm
Excellent deluxe edition, with extensive metallics
Excellent color, unbacked; several repaired wormholes mostly along one edge of each sheet
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry (Ref #HKS71)


Keisei ômonguchi (Courtesans at the great gate of the pleasure quarter: けいせい廓大門 also written as 契情廓大門)was based on Namiki Sôsuke's Ômonguchi yoroi Kasane first performed in 12/1743 at the Ônishi Theater in Osaka. In that version, Shokurô plots to avenge the death of his father at the hands of Shinkurô. The drama features a complicated saga in which Shôkurô plots against Shinkurô wherein some of the characters take on disguises and false identities during the intrigues fueling the plot twists. The Keisei adaptation was meant, in part, to feature the female characters. The design shown here highlights one of the memorable scenes when the three onnagata (lit., "woman's manner," male actors in female roles: 女方 or 女形) confront one another in the darkness.


In Hokushû's dramatic night scene — one of his finest triptychs — Nagisa and Shigarami flank their enemy, Kochô, who turns her face away from the bright light of Nagisa's lantern (andon). Their encounter, a combination of dance and choreographed fighting (tachimawari), featured the onnagata's skills in martial arts as the loyal women carried on the conflict engendered by their husbands. A kabuki critique published the year after the 1823 Kado Theater production praised the actors and their performances in this scene.

The red colorant on the left and center sheets is exceptionally strong in our impression.

Note: Another impression of this design is featured in the 2005-06 exhibition and catalogue Kabuki Heroes on the Osaka Stage, 1780-1830 at the British Museum, Osaka Museum of History, and Waseda University Theatre Museum.

References: IKBYS-I, no. 141; KNZ, no. 199; OSP, no. 64; KHO, no. 256; IKB-I, no. 1-422; KNP-6, p. 96