Home‎ > ‎Artists‎ > ‎Utagawa Kokunimasa (1874-1944)‎ > ‎

A Shinpa play "Comedy, Fueteru"

Picture of the violent battle in the snow in the Toshu Province near Wei-Hai-Wei

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

A Shinpa play "Comedy, Fueteru"

by Utagawa Kokunimasa, 1899

IHL Cat. #268

About This Print

Picturing an unidentified shinpa play, the actor on the right swinging the battledore and playing the role of Fukutoku Yumesuke (the wealthy merchant Yumesuke) is Yamaguchi Sadao (1861-1907 山口定雄), one of the first generation of shinpa actors who was trained as a kabuki onnagata.  The actor in the center is identified as Shirakawa Koichi 白川広一 playing the role of nyōbō Ofuku (Ofuku, the wife.)   Portland Art Museum Research Associate Lynn Katsumoto comments that there is some word play going on here as "Fukutoku" also means fortune or happiness making "this duo a particularly felicitous couple.  No doubt, the play plays with their happy naming and twists things up humorously."

Shinpageki 新派劇

The National Theatre of Japan database classifies the play depicted in this print as Shinpageki.

Source: Kabuki 21 website http://www.kabuki21.com/glossaire_7.php

Literally "the new school". Shinpa was a genre of theatre, which appeared in Japan during the Meiji era. It depicted the manners and customs of contemporary Japan. It was characterized by a more naturalistic style than Kabuki and the coexistence of onnagata and actresses. Shinpa dramas were usually very sentimental with a tragic end. Shinpa quickly became extremely popular and was a serious rival for Kabuki during the second half of the Meiji era. This genre got finally caught between tradition and modernity, losing its appeal for both the Kabuki audience and the modern "Western" theatre audience. There are still Shinpa actors and performances in Japan, mainly in Tōkyō at the Shimbashi Embujō. Shinpa has still nowadays its aficionados, who love its nostalgic flavor. Some Kabuki actors sometimes perform in Shinpa productions.

About the Actors

The name of the actor swinging the battledore (face detail on left) is Yamaguchi Sadao (1861-1907 山口定雄).  There is a reference to this actor in Japanese Music and Drama in the Meiji Era, by Komiya Toyokata, O Bunsha, 1956, as follows: Yamaguchi Sadao, who appeared in Ichimura-za in Tokyo in July 1892, was a young player of woman's roles in the Kabuki and a pupil of Kataoka Gado with the Kabuki stage name Kataoka Gajaku.  Another reference states he was "...one of the first generation of shinpa actors..."1

The name of the actor in the onnagata role, center panel, reads in Japanese 白川広一 (Shirakawa Koichi?).  No reference can be found to this actor.

The National Theatre of Japan Database 

(translation and parenthetical comments supplied courtesy of Guy Pepermans)

ふぇーてーる フェーテール (hueeteeru – likely a phonetic transcription from original title in French or English.  The National Theater mentions that this play is not further identified.  The play is cataloged not as 'kabuki" but as "shinpageki" or a New School drama in comedy style of customs and manners in contemporary Japan (i.e Meiji Japan.)

柳蛙  (梅堂 小国政) Kokunimasa 小国政. Baidō 梅堂 Ryūkei 柳蛙
白川広一 / 女房おふく (Actor Shirakawa Koichi playing the onagata in the role of Nyōbō Ofuku – The wife of Ofuku)
山口定雄 / 福徳屋夢助 (Actor Yamaguchi Sadao in the role of Fukutoku Yumesuke – The wealthy merchant Yumesuke)

図録No       10082
枚数     3枚
寸法(mm)     359×238 359×229 359×242
落款     りゅうあ (ばいどうこくにまさ)
柳蛙 (梅堂小国政)
彫師     ほりこうとく 彫工徳
版元等     はせがわすみ
図録分類     新派劇
備考1     表題「喜劇 フェーテール」。発行 明治32年(1899)6月。該当する上演未詳。

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #288
 Title (Description) 喜劇フェーテール (inscription within battledore shaped cartouche) translated as Kigeki Fue-te-ru (Comedy, Fueteru)
 Artist  Utagawa Kokunimasa (1874-1944)
 Signature Ryūa 柳蛙
Artist's kakihan (personal mark) in the shape of a frog
 Pub. Date June 1899 (Meiji 28) 明治32年(1899)6月
Hasegawa Sumi (長谷川寿美) located at Tokyo-shi, Kyōbashi ku, Minami_bachô 2 chōme 17 banchi (東京市京橋区南傳馬町二丁目十七番地) [Marks: 25-406; publisher ID 402]
彫工徳 Horikō [blockcutter] Toku
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good – wrinkling throughout
 Genre ukiyo-e; kabuki-ga
 Format vertical oban triptych
 H x W Paper
 14 5/8 x 9 5/8 in. (37.1 x 24.4 cm) each sheet

 Collections This Print The National Theatre of Japan Database 10082