Sawamura Tosshō II, Nakamura Shikan IV and Ōtani Tomoemon V (performing a lion dance)

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

Sawamura Tosshō II, Nakamura Shikan IV and Ōtani Tomoemon V

(performing a lion dance)

by Toyohara Kunichika, 1867

IHL Cat. #301

About This Print

The three actors (R to L) Sawamura Tosshō II, Nakamura Shikan IV, and Ōtani Tomoemon V are shown dancing in lion wigs and peony (botan) hats. Nakamura Shikan in the white wig is performing the dance with his two cubs in the red wigs.  He brandishes a peony branch in what has been described as a "heaven-earth" pose. Each actor's head is adorned with a peony on top of two open fans.  While I do not know which lion dance (Shishimai 獅子舞) is being performed, the following song from the kabuki play "Two Lions" feels appropriate to the scene:

The time has come for the lions / to dance to ancient tunes!
The time has come for the lions / to dance to ancient tunes!
The cups of the peony blooms / now overflow with fragrance!
Exhibiting their massive strength, / here the lion head!
Beat the drums! Let music play / The peony's scent! The peony's scent!
The flowers' golden stamens / emerge from within.
Sporting among the blossoms, / tumbling among the branches,
Surely nothing can surpass / the lions' fierce majesty.
Even among the trees and grasses / there are none that will not bow.
Long may their dance continue, / a thousand autumns!
Long may their dance continue, / a thousand autumns!1

Note that this print exists in at least two states as can be seen by the difference in colors of Nakamura Shikan's robe in the center panel of the two prints below.

1 Kabuki Plays on Stage: Restoration and Reform, 1872-1905, James R. Brandon, Samuel L. Leiter, University of Hawaii Press, 2003, p. 53-53

The  Drama Shakkyō - Origin of the Kabuki Lion Dance

Source: English language guide to Narukami and Shunkyo Kagami Jishi at the Salle Garnier Opera Monaco 16-19, September 2009

In Skakkyo 石橋 (Stone Bridge), a famous noh drama later adapted as a dance for the kabuki stage, a Buddhist priest visits mount Seiryo in China and sees a lion (shishi) playing with peonies.  In the East peonies (botan) are associated with butterflies and lions.

Other Images

Performance date: 慶応03・ 07・
Theatre: 江戸 守田
Play's title: 和漢竺爼上灯篭  
Artist: 国周
Western calendar year:-1867
Database Record of The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University

Left Panel Data
Material no.: 101-5941
Title etc.: 「英太郎 中村芝翫」「深見次郎 大谷友右衛門」
Cast: 深見次郎
<5> 大谷 友右衛門
Center Panel Data
Material no.: 101-5940
Title etc.:
Cast: 英太郎
<4> 中村 芝翫
Right Panel Data
Material no.:101-5939
Title etc.: 「冨貴三郎 沢村訥升」
Cast: 冨貴三郎
<2> 沢村 訥升

Actors Sawamura Tosshō as Saburō (R), Nakamura Shikan as Hidetarō (C), and Ôtani Tomoemon as Jirō (L)
沢村訥升 大谷友左衛門
Japanese, Edo period, 1867 (Keiô 3), 7th month
Artist: Toyohara Kunichika, Japanese, 1835–1900
Vertical ôban triptych
Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper
Kunichika hitsu
William Sturgis Bigelow Collection, 1911
Accession number: 11.41777a-c

Source: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The Actors Pictured

Source: Kabuki 21 website
Sawamura Tosshô II (1838 ~ 2 February 1886) was the stage name for Suketakaya Takasuke IV.  He was the worthy heir of his father Sawamura Sôjûrô V, excelling in wagotoshi, wajitsu or onnagata roles. He shared the stage with the Meiji giants Ichikawa Danjûrô IX and Onoe Kikugorô V. He posthumously received the name of Sawamura Sôjûrô VI.

Source: Kabuki 21 website

Nakamura Shikan IV (3 March 1831 ~ 16 January 1899) was a great Meiji actor, who achieved fame for himself all over Japan (he toured a lot). He was equally at home in sewamono and jidaimono dramas, able to play almost any kind of role as tachiyaku, katakiyaku or even onnagata. He created many kata and some of them are still sometimes revived, like the ones for the role of Kumagai Jirô Naozane in the "Kumagai Jin'ya" scene of the classic "Ichi-no-Tani Futaba Gunki".

His rivalry with Bandô Hikosaburô Vwas one of the hottest in Kabuki history: "So nearly matched in abilitywere Shikan and Hikosaburô, with but two years' difference in theirages, that they were pitted against each other, and their patrons oftenindulged in fights over them. During a performance, when these actorswere playing together, they came through the audience by way of the twohanamichi, the one to the right of the stage a mere footpath, that to the left a platform that was in reality a continuation of the stage proper. They quarrelled as to who should take the main hanamichi, and the dispute waxed so hot that they finally drew lots to settle the matter." (Zoë Kincaid in Kabuki, the Popular Stage of Japan)

Source: Kabuki 21 website

Ôtani Tomoemon V (1833 ~ 1 February 1873) was the stage name of Ôtani Hiroji V from 1865 to August 1869, then a second time from April 1871 to February 1873.    He was an overweight actor, able to play tachiyaku, katakiyaku, oyajigata or onnagata, in both jidaimono and sewamono.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #301
 Title (Description) Actors Sawamura Tosshō (II) as Fuki Saburō (R), Nakamura Shikan (IV) as Hidetarō(C), and Ōtani Tomoemon (V) as Jirō (L)
 Artist  Toyohara Kunichika (1835–1900)
 Signature Kunichika hitsu (right and left sheets)
 Seal  none
 Publication Date
1867 (Keiô 3), 7th month
Kiya Sōjirō 木屋宗次郎
seal reading:馬喰四 木屋板 Bakuro Yon , Kiya han
[Marks: pub. ref. 252; seal ref. 26-143]
Horikō Ei 彫工栄 seal of Watanabe Eizō (1833-1901)
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - trimmed to image; foxing center sheet and minor soiling
 Genre ukiyo-e - nigao-e; yakusha-e
 Format vertical oban triptych
 H x W Paper
 13 3/4 x 9 1/2 in. (34.9 x 24.1 cm) each sheet
 Collections This Print
 Waseda University Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum 101-59393; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 11.41777a-c; Hagi Yamaguchi Prefectural Museum U03845