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

Print: Shimōsa Province (下総): Kasane and Yoemon (与右衛門) from the series The Sixty-odd Provinces of Great Japan (Dai Nihon rokujūyoshū no uchi - 大日本六十餘州之内) 

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Dates: created,circa 1845
Dimensions: 10.0 in,14.5 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock prints
Inscription:

Signed: Kōchōrō Toyokuni ga
香蝶楼豊国画
Artist's seal: toshidama
Publisher: Kogaya Katsugorō
(Marks 262 - seal 19-042)
Inset signed: Toyokuni monjin Kunimichi ga
豊国門人国道画
Censor's seal: Watari (for IX/1845)

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Diet Library; Carnegie Museum of Art; Hankyu Culture Foundation - 1808 Toyokuni I version of this scene;

Physical description:

Take a close look at Kasane's humble robes

Kasane is of peasant stock. Her clothes are similarly appropriate, but if you enlarge the image and look closely you will notice that there are blue colored maple leaves floating above a running water motif. Normally this would not matter and would only be a matter of design. However, Kasane has been possessed by the vengeful spirit of the deceased courtesan Takao. Takao, Kasane's older sister in some accounts, was elegance personified and she wore sumptuous clothes. Her main identifying motif on her kimono shows beautiful fall leaves flowing in a stream or river. Takao's robe are luxurious while Kasane's are simple and yet both wear the same motif. This must be more than a coincidence.

Sarah E. Thompson gave us an interesting summary of the two stories and how they are mixed together. This appears in her Utagawa Kuniyoshi: the sixty-nine stations of the Kisokaidō, #53, p. 122. The print she is discussing deals with the image of Yoemon and Kasane.

"A Buddhist miracle tale of Shimōsa Province related that a seventeenth-century country woman named Kasase was killed because she had become hideously ugly as a result of a family curse. According to a local legend, her ghost haunted the family until the prayers of a holy man put the spirit to rest. The story was published in book form in 1690 and produced as a kabuki play for the first time in 1731. It was frequently dramatized in numerous puppet plays and kabuki plays, either as an independent story or as one plot thread in a more complicated narrative. A novelization appeared in 1807, written by the popular author Kyokutei Bakin... and illustrated by Hokusai.

All the dramatic versions of the story share the shocking scene in which Yoemon kills Kasane with a sickle, as shown here, but explanations of the event differ. In the kabuki play The Date Struggle and Okuni Kabuki (Date kurabe Okuni kabuki), Kasane is the younger sister of the murdered courtesan Takao... Takao's vengeful spirit afflicts Kasane with an illness that causes her to become deformed and then possesses both Kasane and Yoemon, leading them into a quarrel that ends fatally."

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"A brief look at the story's evolution may help to add detail to the somewhat generic image. The original 'true' incident supposedly took place in Hanū village, in the district of Okada, Shimōsa Province. A farmer named Yoemon remarried after losing his first wife. His second wife had a son from a previous marriage named Suke, but the boy was crippled in one leg and blind in one eye. Thinking it useless to bring up such a child, Yoemon decided to do away with him. The following year, Yoemon and wife had a daughter, but the girl was afflicted with exactly the same handicap as the deceased Suke, suggesting that the latter's spirit had been reborn together with the girl's. The girl was called Kasane. Kasane grew to adulthood and eventually her parents passed away. To help her manage the land, a husband was arranged for her who then took the name Yoemon as well. However, he only agreed to the marriage to get his hands on Kasane's property, after which he planned to get rid of her and remarry. On the 11th day of the 8th month, 1647, husband and wife went out into the fields to cut soya beans. As they made their way home at the end of the day, they Passed the Kinu River where Yoemon cruelly murdered her. The story continued: Yoemon inherited Kasane's property and remarried a total of six times. The first five of these wives died childless, and only the sixth wife was able to give birth to a daughter whom they named Kiku. Tn her fifteenth year, Kiku was suddenly struck down by a mysterious illness that caused her to writhe in pain. In fact, she had been possessed by Kasane's angry spirit who, speaking through Kiku, blamed Yoemon for murdering her 26 years earlier. Kasane also revealed that it was she who had killed all six of Yoemon's wives. Eventually, Kasane's spirit was exorcised by the great priest Yūten."

Quoted from: 'Surprise comparisons in Kunisada's print series Mitate sanjūrokkusen' by Herwig, Vos and Griffith in Andon 96, May 2014, footnote 35, p. 63.

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The inset was designed by Toyokuni's pupil, Kunimichi II (国道), aka Kunishige II. We have been unable to find any information about this artist.