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Kami-no Megumi Wagō-no Torikumi

Famous Places, Azuma Bridge in Tokyo

 Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Kami-no Megumi Wagō-no Torikumi

(The Fire Brigade Fight)

by Utagawa Kunimasa IV, 1890

Kami-no Megumi Wagō-no Torikumi

IHL Cat. #1000

About This Print

In March 1890, the Shintomiza in Tokyo was the stage for the hit play Kami-no Megumi Wagō-no Torikumi [also called Megumi no Kenka め組の喧嘩 (The Firebrigade Fight)] which re-enacted the 1805 brawl between a group of drunken firefighters of the Me brigade and a group of sumo wrestlers participating in a show of strength. The fight left one firefighter dead and nearly one hundred men injured.1 

The actors (names in red cartouches) and their roles (in adjoining smaller cartouches) are from right to left:
Nakamura Shikan IV 中村芝翫 as the leader of the sumo, Yotsuguruma Daihachi 四ツ車大八
Ichikawa Arajirō 市川荒次郎 as the sumo Aranami Kinosuke or Kamenosuke 荒浪亀之助
Ichikawa Sadanji 市川左団次 as the sumo Mizuhiki Seigorō 水引清五郎
Onoe Matsusuke IV 尾上松助 as the firefighter Megumi Uemon め組亀右エ門
Onoe Kigugorō V 尾上菊五郎 as the leader of the firefighters, Megumi Tatsugorō め組辰五郎
Nakamura Jusaburō 中村寿三郎 as the firefighter Megumi Yasuke め組ノ弥助

Other States of the Print

The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University
(possibly a type of proof print, as publisher's information is omitted)
Minato City Library
(note the use of multi-colored cartouches not present in this collection's print)

The Play - Kami-no Megumi Wagō-no Torikumi (also known as Megumi no Kenka)
"They used to say that fights and fires were the flowers of the city of Edo and many plays feature the gallant members of firefighting troupes, who were popular heroes. This particular play depicts a rivalry between the members of the Megumi firefighting band and a group of sumo wrestlers, which ultimately is a confrontation between the firefighters, who represent the commoner class and the samurai patrons of the sumo wrestlers. The fight begins with a minor incident, but grows into a situation of such tension, that when Tatsugoro, the leader of the firefighting gang, goes to his final fight, he goes with the full intention that this may be a fight to the death. Before he leaves, he has an emotional parting from his family."2

The play, written by Takeshiba Kisuei and Kawatake Shinshichi, pupils of the great playwright Mokuami, consists of four acts.  The play was written for Onoe Kigugorō V who is seen in the left panel of this collection's print playing Tatsugorō, the leader of the firefighters.

A modern staging of the play Megumi no Kenka

1 Andon 87, Japan Tattoo: Tattoos in Japanese prints, Society for Japanese Arts, Leiden, 2009, p. 103.

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 #1000
 Title (Description) Kami-no Megumi Wago-no Torikumi 神明恵和合取組 (as written in the red cartouche upper right hand corner of right panel.)
 Artist Utagawa Kunimasa IV (1848-1920)
香朝楼筆 Kōchōrō hitsu 
 Seal Toshidama seal beneath signature (see above)
 Publication Date February 10, 1890 (Meiji 23)
Tsutaya Kichizō 蔦屋 (firm name 林吉蔵 Hayashi Kichizō as can be seen in bottom left of seal)
[Marks: seal not shown; pub. ref. 556]

Hori Gin 
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - trimmed to image; offsetting; minor soiling; minor paper wrinkles
 Genre ukiyo-e; yakusha-e
 Format vertical oban triptych
 H x W Paper 
 14 1/8 x 9 1/4 in. (35.9 x 23.5 cm) each sheet
 Collections This Print
The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University 101-4640, 4641, 4642; Minato City Library