Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: Ichikawa Danjūrō VIII [市川団十郎] in the role of Fukuoka Mitsugi (福岡みつぎ)

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Dates: 1852,created
Dimensions: 9.6 in,14.1 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga
Artist's seal: kiri
Censor seals: Murata and Kinugasa
Date seal: 1852, 4th month

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - the full diptych; Waseda University; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - an 1863 Kunichika diptych showing the same scene; Lyon Collection - a related print from the same play;

Physical description:

Some of the background story behind this character:

In 1796 in the town of Furuichi near the Ise Shrine a drunken doctor went on a murderous rampage in the local Aburaya brothel. Before it was over a number of people lay dead or wounded including the maid Oman. Two days later the doctor committed suicide at the home of his uncle who was a low-ranking priest at the shrine.

This series of events and others like it had been fuel for the creative talents of 18th century authors. Within ten days the first performances of a play based on this incident was being performed in a town nearby. Its success spurred Chikamatsu Tokuzō (近松徳三 or ちかまつ.とくぞう:1751-1810) and two of his assistants to create their own version which debuted in Kyōto just two and a half months later. Supposedly written in only three days this qualifies it as an "overnight pickle play" or ichiyazuke kyogen (一夜漬狂言 or いちやづけ.きょうげん).

Like other murderous plays this one was often performed during the summer "...when the bloodcurdling doings on stage might provide audiences some 'chilling' relief in sultry weather."

Okon's lover is the sensitive Mitsugi, but when he takes possession of a bloodthirsty sword his whole personality changes. Okon is the heroine, but her role is somewhat secondary. Although Mitsugi leaves a stage littered with the dead and dying he is never blamed. The sword is. After several more dramatic scenes three figures 'pose triumphantly' at the end including Mitsugi and Okon. While this leaves the audience thinking this might be a happy ending it is nevertheless slightly ambiguous - "...Okon's fate remains vague."


This is the right sheet of a diptych - the left sheet depicts Aburaya Okon (油や於こん), and the chef (ryōrinin) Kihei (料理人喜介) It represents a scene from the play Ise-ondo Koi no Netaba (伊勢音頭恋寝刃).

The copy in the Lyon Collection has beautiful coloring, but is slightly trimmed on the left and at the top.

The publisher of this diptych is Kakumotoya Kinjirō (Marks 199 - seal 25-114), but its seal only appears on the left-hand panel.


There is another copy of the full diptych at Colorado College.


As seen in an 1863 Kunichika diptych linked above it identifies the figure trying to restrain Fukuoka Mitsugi as Aitamaya Hiroku (相玉や比六).