Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (月岡芳年) (artist 04/30/1839 – 06/09/1892)
The Courtesan Miyagino and her sister Shinobu plotting to revenge the death of their father (Keisei Miyagino imōto Shinobu - 傾城宮城野妹しのぶ) - from the series '24 Accomplishments in Imperial Japan' (Kōkuku nijūshi kō - 皇國二十四功)
Japanese woodblock print
Signed: Yoshitoshi (芳年)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - an example of the first edition published by Tsuda Genshichi
Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Scripps College
Museum of Fine Arts - an 1863 Toyokuni III print with Miyagino and Shinobu
National Diet Library
Royal Museums of Art and History, Belgium (via Cultural Japan)
Museum of Oriental Art, Venice (via Cultural Japan)
Philadelphia Museum of Art There is an example of the first edition of this print at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. We have added a jpeg of it below the copy in the Lyon Collection featured on this page. Notice the differences in the location of the signatures in both prints. The artist's seals are different, too. The curatorial notes from Boston say: "a posthumous edition of the series was published by Matsuki Heikichi in 1895." That is probably what this print is.
The notes from the Claremont Colleges digital collection note:
Miyagino and Shinobu, whose whose [sic] farmer father was murdered by the samurai Shiga, swore to avenge his death. In secret they trained themselves in the martial arts. They then went to the local daimyo and challenged Shiga to a duel, killing him in the fight that followed. The image depicts the meeting of Miyagino and Shinobu in the brothel where Miyagino works. After the death of their father, Shinobu went in search of her sister in Edo. Arriving at the brothel, her country dialect is incomprehensible to the courtesans there, except for Miyagino. After questioning Shinobu, Miyagino discovers they are sisters, hears of their father's death, and the two plot revenge.
The historical background
"With the resolution of the Shimabara rebellion, we enter the time of the Tokugawa Peace, and even though there appear to be no female kengō undertaking warrior pilgrimages, the stories of samurai revenge include one tale where the duty of vengeance has passed down to female members of the family. One of most dramatic accounts of women wielding swords in anger concerns this revenge killing, in which the avengers were the man's two daughters: Miyagino and Shinobu. They carried out their vendetta with exemplary attention to the legal processes outlined in the previous chapter.
Popular accounts of this affair exist in many versions. The factual basis of the story concerns a samurai called Shiga Daishichi, who was on the run because of a misdemeanor and hid in a paddy field, in a village near Shiroishi Banashi in Mutsu Province. By chance, he was observed by a farmer, Yomosaku, who had been transplanting rice seedlings, and in his surprise Shiga Daishichi panicked and killed him. Yomosaku had two daughters, the eldest of whom, Miyagino, had (according to the more romantic versions of the tale) been engaged to be married to a samurai, but through poverty had been sold into prostitution and become a tayu — a courtesan of the highest status — in Yoshiwara, in Edo. The younger daughter, Shinobu, intending to tell her elder sister about her father's death, went to Edo, where she tracked down her sister. They then secretly slipped away from Yoshiwara in order to seek revenge for their father's death, and began to study the martial arts under the guidance of Miyagino's samurai fiancé. They were eager in their pursuit of knowledge, and the result was the vengeance on their father's enemy, Shiga Daishichi, in 1649.
The sisters were determined to carry out the revenge themselves, and the details are largely historical. When the time was ripe, they went through the formalities of asking their daimyō for authorization to avenge the death of their father. There was, in this case, no need for a long search for the enemy, as he had remained in the daimyō's service. The lord accordingly ordered the man to be brought before him to face the girls in combat. Miyagino was armed with a naginata while Shinobu wielded a kusarigama, the sharpened sickle with a long weighted chain. Shiga Daishichi's sword was rendered ineffectual with the aid of the chain, and the other sister finished him off with her naginata."
Quoted from: The Samurai Swordsman: Master of War by Stephen Turnbull, p. 152.
First published in 1881 this copy is from a later, posthumous edition published between 1893-95 by Matsuki Heikichi, which is the family name of Daikokuya Heikichi. The original publisher was Tsudo Genshichi (津田源七). In the earlier edition the signature is longer enclosed in a cartouche. The later edition has a shorter signature and no surrounding cartouche.
Compare this print from the later edition to the link in to the one in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston seen above. That one is from the earlier edition. Miyagino and her sister want to take revenge on Shiga Ganshichi. This is based on a popular story from the Shōhō era (1644-48).
The Yoshitoshi.net site notes: The initial 'Shi' of the younger sister's name is written in hentai-gana in the caption; since hentai-gana are not (yet) available in unicode, it cannot be shown properly in the caption transcription.
Meiji era (明治時代: 1868-1912) (genre)
Daikokuya Heikichi (大黒屋平吉) (publisher)