Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国) (artist 1786 – 01/12/1865)

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

Print


1859
19.25 in x 14 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese woodblock print

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

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.
Izutsuya Shōkichi (井筒屋庄吉) (publisher)
actor prints (yakusha-e - 役者絵) (genre)
Kawarazaki Gonjūrō I (初代河原崎権十郎: 9/1852 to 2/1869) (actor)
Ichimura Uzaemon XIII (十三代目市村羽左衛門) (actor)