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Ichikawa Somegorō V, et al., in Ichikiri Kajiwara at the Mitsukoshi Theater

The actors Bandō Hikosaburō V as Ukiyo Tohai, Ichimura Kakitsu IV as Nozarashi Gosuke and Ichikawa Danzō VI as Rokuji Namuemon

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Ichikawa Somegorō V, et al., in Ichikiri Kajiwara

at the Mitsukoshi Theater

by Sasajima Kihei, 1949

Sasajima Kihei (1906-1993)

print verso showing artist's hand-applied color
IHL Cat. #1379

About This Print

This print depicts a scene in act III from the play KajiwaraHeiza Homare no Ishikiri, in which the hero, Kajiwara Kagetoki, seated center, inspects a precious sword that has been offered for sale.  The play was performed at the Mitsukoshi Theater (三越劇場 Mitsukoshi gekijō) in February 1949. The print is one of an unknown number of prints created by Sasajima for the 1948 and 1949 kabuki seasons at the Mitsukoshi Theater.  

The inscriptions on the print provide the name of the play 石切梶原 (Ichikiri Kajiwara), the location of the scene 八幡宮社頭 (the front of the Hachiman Shrine) and the names of the five actors seated in the foreground, from right to left, as follows:1

Bandō Keizō 坂東慶三 (初代) in the role of Matano Gorō Kagehisa 俣野五郎景久
Ichikawa Danzō VIII 市川團蔵 (8代目) as Ōba Saburō Kagechika 大庭三郎景親
Ichikawa Somegorō V 市川染五郎 (5代目) as Kajiwara Heizō Kagetoki 梶原平三景時 
Nakamura Kichinojō 中村吉之丞 (初代) as Aogaishi Rokurōdayū 青貝師六郎太夫
Nakamura Matagorō 中村又五郎 (2代目) as Musume Kozue 娘梢

Sasajima has hand-applied ink on the verso of this print to provide a subtle coloring when viewed from the front, a technique he learned from the artist Munakata Shiko (1903-1975).

1 Details on the performances during the Mitsukoshi Theater 1948 and 1949 kabuki seasons can be found at Kabuki on the Web http://www.kabuki.ne.jp/

Sasajima's Mitsukoshi Theater Prints

I have only seen general references to these small prints depicting various productions during the 1948 and 1949 kabuki seasons at the Mitsukoshi Theater.  One reference appearing in Shizuya Fujikake's 1953 print survey book Japanese Wood-Block Prints, simply states "Since 1947, he [Sasajima] is producing a great many Kabuki prints in his unique, black and white style."1  [As can be seen by several of the prints in this collection,  Sasajima also used subtle color in some of the prints, hand-applying ink to the print's verso.] Another reference notes that in 1948 (Shōwa 23), at the age of 42, Sasajima "produces Mitsukoshi kabuki prints, but the work affects his health and he suspends the activity after three years."2 

Japanese Wood-block Prints, Shizuya Fujikake, Japan Travel Bureau, 1953, p. 173-174.
The Play - Ishikiri Kajiwara (Act III from the play Kajiwara Heiza Homare no Ishikiri)

Source: Historical Dictionary of Japanese Traditional Theatre, Samuel L. Leiter. The Scarecrow Press, 2006, p. 217-218.
Authors: Hasegawa Senshi, Bunkōdō.
Alternate titles: Miura no Ōsuke Kōbai Tazuna, Ishikiri Kajiwara
Acts and Play Type: Five acts. Jidai mono. 
First performed: Second month 1730. Takemoto-za, Osaka.

Kajiwara Kagetoki, the 12th-centuryhero of this historical drama, is famed for his ambiguous political positions,as he deserted the Heike to fight for the Genji under Minamoto noYoritomo.  Often treated as a traitor, inthis play he receives a positive portrayal. The play, first written for thepuppet theatre, was adapted for Osaka kabuki in the same year but was not seenin Edo until 1795.  Only act 3, usuallycalled “Ishikiri Kajiwara,” is performed.

It is cherry blossom time atthe Hachima Shrine in Kamakura, where Ōba Saburō and others arecelebrating a Heike victory over Yoritome at Ishibashiyama when Kajiwara joinsthem, although tension exists between Saburō and Kajiwara.  The old inlay craftsman Rokurōdayūand his daughter, Kozue, appear, hoping to sell a precious sword to raise warfunds for Yoritomo.  Saburō is interested,but the high price of 300 ryō makeshim hesitate.  Kajiwara, known for hisexpertise, is asked to judge the sword’s quality.  Kajiwara conducts a thorough inspection anddeclares the sword outstanding, but Saburō says the true test would be to seeif it could slice through two human bodies in one blow.

Two criminals scheduled forexecution are called for; only one being available, Rokurōdayū sendsKozue off on a mission and volunteers to be the second body, the payment to goto Kozue.  Kajiwara says he will have nopart of such a deal, but a messenger announces the approach of Yoritomo’s army,which convinces Kajiwara to conduct the test. The condemned man is placed over the body of Rokurōdayū, and whenKajiwara brings the blade down, it slice the criminal in half (a dummy is used)but only severs Rokurōdayū’s ropes, leaving him unscathed.  Saburō now believes the sword is not sharpenough to buy, but when alone with old man Kajiwara admits he acteddeliberately so as to prevent the sword’s purchase by a Heike.  He intends to switch to the Genji and, in a monogatari, recounts an experience hehad that convinced him Yoritomo was divinely protected and deserved hissupport.  To allay Rokurōdayū’ssuspicions about the sword, Kajiwara easily slices a stone trough in half withit.

The Mitsukoshi Theater
Source: Tokyo from Edo to Showa 1867-1989 : the Emergence of the World's Greatest City, Edward Seidensticker et al., Tuttle Pub., 2011.
The Mitsukoshi Theater played a significant role in the revival of kabuki after the damage inflicted to the major Tokyo kabuki theaters during WWII. "Ever since its rebuilding after the 1923 earthquake [Great Kantō Earthquake], Mitsukoshi had had an auditorium which it rented out for meetings and performances. The name was changed from Mitsukoshi Hall to Mitsukoshi Theater in 1947, at which time it became a full-fledged, full-time theater.  In addition to providing another place for Kabuki, a somewhat more sumptuous and elegant one than the Tōkegi [the only major Kabuki theater to survive the WWII bombing], the Mitsukoshi Theater was very important in passing Kabuki on from an aging generation to an emerging one."

The theater was last used for kabuki in 1951, the year the Kabuki-za opened.

The Actors in the Print

For background on the actors see their respective entries in the article The Kabuki Actor on this site.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #1379
 Title Ichikawa Somegorō, et al., in Ichikiri Kajiwara at the Mitsukoshi Theater
 Series Mitsukoshi Kabuki Hanga 三越歌舞伎版画 [untitled series of prints for the Mitsukoshi Theater 1948 and 1949 kabuki seasons]
 Sasajima Kihei (1906-1993)
 not signed
 Seal 笹 (artist's "sasa" seal)
 Publication Date
 likely Mitsukoshi Gekijō or the artist
 Carver self-carved
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - minor handling/printing creases, mild toning, irregular margin right corer
 Genre sosaku hangakabuki-ga
 H x W Paper 7 3/16 x 9 3/8 in. (18.3 x 23.8 cm)
 H x W Image 5 7/8 x 7 3/4 in. (14.9 x 19.79 cm)
 Collections This Print 

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