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Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国)

Print: Ichimura Uzaemon XIII (left) and Kawarzaki Gonjūrō I (right) as Tekomai Masukichi (手古舞升吉) from the play Jitsugetsusei chūya no oriwake (The Weaving Together of the Sun, Moon, and Stars at Day and at Night)

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Dates: 1859,created
Dimensions: 19.25 in,14.0 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese woodblock print
Inscription:

Signed: Toyokuni ga (豊国画)
Publisher: Izutsuya Shōkichi
(Marks 188 - seal 24-055)
Combined censor and date seals: aratame - 10/1859

Related links: Waseda University - right panel; Waseda University - left panel; National Museums Scotland - left panel; National Museums Scotland - right panel; Mead Art Museum, Amherst - right panel only; Victoria and Albert Museum; Mizuma Art Gallery - modern version of this diptych by Yamaguchi Akira;

Physical description:

Note that behind the lion dancers are large saké barrels, the kinds often found stacked at Shinto shrines. Each unit is marked with the large toshidama motif with the kanji for 'toyo' marked in the center. Toyo is the first part of the name Toyokuni.

Those barrels of saké have a religious significance. Made from rice, a commodity which meant both sustenance and wealth, was often donated by breweries to shrines as offerings "showing their gratitude to the deities..."

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"In ancient times, Japanese people the shishi was a sacred animal with great power. In shishi kagura, a wooden lion's head (shishigashira) is manipulated in a dance called shishimai (lion's dance). The central purpose of shishimai is to offer prayers to dispel all evil spirits present in a certain area. Together with singing and instrumental accompaniment, the dance functions to ward off evil (akuma barai) or prevent destruction by fire (hifuse or hibuse)... Instrumental accompaniment is provided by flutes, drum, and cymbals."

Quoted from: Nōmai Dance Drama: A Surviving Spirit of Medieval Japan by Susan Miyo Asai, pp. 34-35.