Just across the canal from Osaka's Dôtonbori (道頓堀) theater district was an area called Shimanouchi (島の内), the city's largest unofficial pleasure quarter. Shimanouchi hosted an annual parade early each summer, identified here as Naniwa Shinmanouchi nerimono (Costume parade in Shimanouchi, Osaka: 浪花島の内ねり物). It featured waitresses, geisha, and courtesans dressed in costumes while performing skits or pantomimes about well-known figures from contemporary society, theater, history, and legend. In this colorful pageant the women were accompanied by decorative floats carrying musicians and dancers.
Kunihiro, Shigeharu, and Yoshikuni all designed prints for this series. The year 1833 has been proposed as a publication date by some writers, but the foremost scholar of kamigata-e, Susumu Matsudaira (1933-2000), assigned a date of 1828 in the Ikeda Bunko catalog (see the IBKYS-II reference below). The large seal, its form so much like the oversized artist seals that were in vogue during this period, may be an unidentified publisher's seal, or a sponsor's mark, as it appears on prints by all three artists.
Kamiagata-e are overwhelmingly images of actors from the kabuki theater (yakusha-e, actor prints: 役者絵). Among the most notable exceptions are the bijinga (beautiful women prints: 美人画) inspired by various nerimono in Osaka and Kyoto. Prints commemorating the Gion nerimono parade in Kyoto enjoyed popularity c. 1812-22, but their format was small hososban and they were kappazuri-e (stencil prints: 合羽摺絵). Osaka got a late start and flirted only occasionally with the nerimono genre, but their efforts, like the Kunihiro featured here, were lavish ôban nishiki-e. The series Naniwa Shinmanouchi nerimono ranks high among these productions.
Uta of the Fushimiya is shown performing as a sakibayashi (musician: 先はやし), here tuning a samisen (three-stringed, long-necked instrument: 三味線), the most commonly depicted instrument in nerimono-e. She is in the group of honorary musicians leading the parade, who would occasionally dress in identical robes or costumes. As in the case with our example, their headgear was typically elaborate and festive.
The printing of this impression is especially fine. There is intricate embossing with reflective faux-silver (zinc-rich brass or tin) on the white robe, and the elaborate headress is done in faux-gold (copper-rich brass) with dangling colored beads.
The colors on this impression are superb, the finest we have ever seen for this design.
References: IBKYS-II, no. 50 (another design from the series, dated 6/1828); WKN, p. 199, no. 192; TWOP, cat. no. 232 (another design, dated c. 1833); OSP, no. 262, p. 236 (dated c. 1833); GPS, pp. 7-8