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Sawamura Sōjūrō VII and Nakamura Shikaku II in Wakaki no Adanagusa 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

Sawamura Sōjūrō VII and Nakamura Shikaku II

in Wakaki no Adanagusa 

at the Mitsukoshi Theater

by Sasajima Kihei, 1948

Sasajima Kihei (1906-1993)

IHL Cat. #1380

About This Print

This print depicts the actor Sawamura Sōjūrō VII (1875-1949) in the role of Ranchō in the play Wakaki no Adanagusa1 , a dramatic version of a shinnai bushi musical number Ranchō.  The circular inset depicts the actor Nakamura Shikaku II (1900-1981) in the role of Konoito.

The play was performed at the Mitsukoshi Theater (三越劇場 Mitsukoshi gekijō) in October 1948. 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 inscription along the left edge reads らんてふ (Ranchō) followed by 宗十郎 Sōjūrō [Sawamura Sōjūrō VII]. The inscription in the inset reads 此糸 (Konoito) and beneath it しかく (Kiya) [as in Konoito of the Wakakiya] and 木屋 Shikaku [Nakamura Shikaku II.]2

For details of this performance please visit the website "Kabuki on the web" at:
1 Also seen written as Wagaki no Adanagusa.
2 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 - Wakaki no Adanagusa
Source: Lynn Katsumoto, Asian Art Historian

The website Kabuki on the web says that this was a special performance by the actor Sawamura Sōjūrō, who plays two roles: both Ranchō and his wife, Omiya. The music for the play, which is also titled Wakaki no Adanagusa, was performed by a famous chanter named Shinnai Renchū.

Originally the score was composed by Tsurugawa Kasanojō I during the Ansei period (1772-81). The story tells of a taikomochi/jester/male geisha named Ichikawaya Ranchō who is in love with Konoito of the Wakakiya brothel in Yoshiwara, but is torn by his affection for his wife Omiya. The dilemma leads to a double suicide of Ranchō with Konoito. This is one of the best known Shinnai style musical dramas. 

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 #1380
 Title Sawamura Sōjūrō VII and Nakamura Shikaku II in Wakaki no Adanagusa  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
笹 (artist's "sasa" seal)
 Publication Date
 likely Mitsukoshi Gekijō or the artist
 Carver self-carved
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition exellent - minor printing marks
 Genre sosaku hangakabuki-ga
 Miscellaneous printed on a thin washi
 H x W Paper 8 3/8 x 5 15/16 in. (21.3 x 15.1 cm)
 H x W Image 5 1/8 x 3 3/4 in. (13 x 9.5 cm)
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