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Ashiya Dōman Ōuchi Kagami

Famous Places, Azuma Bridge in Tokyo

 Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Ashiya Dōman Ōuchi Kagami

(ACourtly Mirror of Ashiya Dōman)

by Utagawa Kunimasa IV, 1891

Kami-no Megumi Wagō-no Torikumi

IHL Cat. #1951

About This Print

This print depicts the child separation scene, act four, in the play Ashiya Dōman Ōuchi Kagami in which the two Kuzunoha, one a princess (far right)  and the other a transformed fox (far left), meet.  Meeting the real Kuzunoha, the fox Kuzunoha realizes she must leave and return to her former state, telling her son she must treat the real Kuzunoha as his mother.  Before she leaves she writes a waka poem, pen in mouth, on a sliding screen which reads, "If you love me, you will seek me Izumi's Shinoda Forest."

Note that Ichikawa Danjūrō IX is playing both Kuzunohas.  My understanding is that it was usual in this play for the same actor to play both roles, but how did Danjūrō do this?  What was the slight-of-hand?

Act four, called Kuzunoha no Kowakare, or simply Kuzunoha, is the only part of this play still regularly performed.

The print was created for the March 1891 performance of the play at the Kabuki-za theater.

The actors (names in red cartouches) and their roles (in adjoining smaller cartouches) are from right to left:
Ichikawa Danjūrō IX 市川団十郎 as Kuzunoha [hime] 葛の葉[姫
Ichikawa Botan* 市川ぼたん as [Abe no] Dōji 安倍の]童子
Ichikawa Gonjūrō 市川權十郎 as Abe no Yasuna 安倍の保名
Ichikawa Yaozō VII 市川八百蔵 as Yohei Kanpei 與勘平 
Ichikawa Danjūrō IX 市川団十郎 as the "fox lady" Kuzunoha くずのは

* later to take the name Ichikawa Sadanji II [my thanks to Eric von Dorster, a collector of kabuki on postage stamps for identifying this actor.] 

The Play - Ashiya Dōman Ōuchi Kagami 
Source: Historical Dictionary of Japanese Traditional Theatre, Samuel L. Leiter. The Scarecrow Press, 2006, p. 38-39.
Act IV, the child separation scene, "grows out of earlier acts concerning the wish by Abe no Yasuna and Ashiya Dōman, disciples of the late astronomer Kamo Yasunori, to inherit this book of astronomical secrets.

Yasunori's daughter, Sakaki no Mae, kills herself after her attempt to steal the book for Yasuna, her lover, is foiled, and he goes mad, wandering about the countryside bearing her robe.  On meeting Princess Kuzunoha in the village of Shinoda, he is struck by her resemblance to Sakaki no Mae, falls in love with her, and regains his sanity.  The villainous Ishikawa Akuemon also lusts for her.  Yasuna saves a white fox being hunted by Akuemon in Shinoda Forest.  The fox is saved from Akuemon's vengeance by transforming herself in Kuzunoha, which is her reward to Yasuna for rescuing her.  Yasuna, not realizing she is really a fox, marries her and, hoping to evade Akuemon, they live happily in a humble home in Abeno.  When Kuzunoha begins, they have a 5-year-old boy.

Eventually, the actual Kuzunoha shows up with her parents... the shocking discover of another Juzunoha convinces the fox avatar that it is time to leave.  She tells her child she must depart, revealing her true identity, and says he must treat the real Kuzunoha as his mother.  Before leaving, she wraites a waka poem on the shōji screens: "If you love me, you will seek me in Izumi's Shinoda Forest." Seeking to learn all the particulars, Yasuna and his boy go after her.

The fox role allows the onnagata playing it to hint at her true nature by various devices, and she hold the child in her arms while writing the poem with the brush in her mouth, a feat that must produce beautiful calligraphy despite the difficulty involved."

The Actors Pictured

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

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #1951
 Title (Description) Ashiya Dōman Ōuchi Kagami 蘆屋道満大内鑑 
 A Courtly Mirror of Ashiya Dōman) Also seen translated as Mirror of the Imperial Court during the time of Ashiya Dōman
 Artist Utagawa Kunimasa IV (1848-1920)
梅堂国政 筆 Baidō Kunimasa hitsu

 Seal Toshidama seal beneath signature (see above)
 Publication Date March 1891 (Meiji 24) 明治廿四年三月 日 出版
Tusjiokaya Kamekichi [Marks pub. ref. 549; seal not shown] 
seal reads 
綱島亀吉 Tsunajima Kamekichi  (the family name)
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - three sheets joined; unbacked; minor soiling; minor wrinkling
 Genre ukiyo-e; yakusha-e
 Format vertical oban triptych
 H x W Paper 
 14 1/4 x 27 7/8 in. (36.2 x 70.8 cm) 
 H x W Image 14 x 27 3/4 in. (35.6 x 70.5 cm) 
 Collections This Print

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