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Mitsukoshi Kabuki Hanga, Works of Sasajima Kihei, September 1948

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

Mitsukoshi Kabuki Hanga,

Works of Sasajima Kihei, September 1948

by Sasajima Kihei, 1948

Sasajima Kihei (1906-1993)


print verso showing artist's hand-applied color

IHL Cat. #1385

About This Print

Likely the introductory print for the series of prints Sasajima created for the 1948-1949 kabuki seasons at the Mitsukoshi Theater (三越劇場 Mitsukoshi gekijō). The inscription in the top cartouche reads 三越歌舞伎版画 (Mitsukoshi Kabuki hanga) and in the left cartouche is written 昭和二十三年 九月 (September 1948) followed by 笹島喜平作 (work of Sasajima Kihei). The actor pictured is not identified in the print, nor is the character he is playing.

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).

Note: 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 

Set of Prints for the Mitsukoshi Theater's July Kyōgen
七月狂言 三越劇場 板画小集

直助ゴンベエ / 直助お袖を口説く だんぞう / 宅悦 お岩 / 寺小姓求女友右衛門 / 滝夜叉芝翫 しのびよるこひはくせもの / 十六夜 清心 / もしほの二役 お岩 小平 / 花もやうあざみの色ぬい 白蓮本宅の場 エビゾウ 友右衛門 市ゾウ (2枚)/ 隠亡堀の 伊右衛門 染五郎  

Japanese Wood-block Prints, Shizuya Fujikake, Japan Travel Bureau, 1953, p. 173-174.

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.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #1379
 Title Mitsukoshi Kabuki Hanga, Works of Sasajima Kihei, September 1948
 三越歌舞伎版画 昭和二十三年 九月 笹島喜平作
 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)
 笹島喜平作 Sasajima Kihei saku
 Seal of the Artist not sealed
 Publication Date
 likely Mitsukoshi Gekijō or the artist
 Carver self-carved
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - slight curling from removal of thin backing
 Genre sosaku hangakabuki-ga
 H x W Paper 3 7/8 x 4 3/16 in. (18.3 x 23.8 cm)
 H x W Image 3 3/8 x 3 1/8 in. (14.9 x 19.79 cm)
 Collections This Print 

 Reference Literature