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Wagō Soga Homare no Fuji


Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Wagō Soga Homare no Fuji

by Utagawa Yoshitaki, 1875

Police Confront Burglar in Kabuki Theater

IHL Cat. #1963

About This Print

Three sheets of a possible pentatych portraying the actors, from right to left, Nakamura Fukusuke III 三代目中村福助 (1846-1888) as Minamoto no Yoriasa 源ノより朝,  Onoe Tamizō II 二代目 尾上多見蔵 (1799-1886) as Kudō Saemon Suketsune 工藤左衛門祐経 and Jitsukawa Enjaku 実川延若 as Soga no Jūrō Sukenari 曽我十郎助成 in the play Wagō Soga Homare no Fuji, a variation of the epic tale of the revenge of the Soga Brothers, staged at Osaka's Kado-za in April 1875.

The  Waseda University Cultural Resource Database contains three keyblock prints with characters from this play as shown below. The print on the left corresponds to the print on the left in this collection's triptych, while the center keyblock print contains the outline of a different actor and character from the play. Most interesting, is the keyblock on the right which appears to be identical to this collection's right-most print on the triptych, but in fact lists a different actor, Mimasa Gennosuke, rather than Nakamura Fukusuke, playing the role of Minamoto no Yoriasa. The actor's face has also been changed as shown in the below detail. Changes to the acting lineup for a play were frequent occurrences. 

曽我十郎助成 実川延若
Jitsukawa Enjaku as
Soga no Jūrō Sukenari 
Wagō Soga Homare no Fuji
曽我五郎時宗 市川右団次
Ichikawa Udanji as
Soga Gorō Takimune
Wagō Soga Homare no Fuji
源ノより朝 三枡源之助
Mimasu Gennosuke as
Minamoto no Yoriasa
Wagō Soga Homare no Fuji

Detail of keyblock and production print depicting the character Minamoto no Yoriasa as explained above

Osaka Region Prints - Kamigata-e (Osaka-e)

While Edo/Tokyo was the dominant center of woodblock print production, Osaka was an important regional production center focusing on the Osaka theater. Osaka actor prints (kamigata-e) took on a different, smaller (chūban-size) and less spectacular, appearance than those produced in Edo/Tokyo. While Edo audiences demanded their fire and brimstone, Osaka kabuki patrons craved intricate, heartrending plots.

Kawasaki Kyosen (1841-1899) the son of Yoshitaki and a print designer himself, provides a glimpse into the start of the design process in his account of the Osaka print making process, as follows:

In those days, certain Osaka publishers set out to the theaters on opening day with the artists who drew actors’ likenesses. The dividers were removed from four or five boxes right in the middle of the floor section of the theater and spread with rugs. Tables were set up with brushes and paper, and all was made ready to sketch the happenings on stage. The artist sat in the middle, with the proprietor of the publishing house and his clerks alongside. Besides them, some first-class female entertainers managed the food and drink, so things were quite lively. This was a form of promotion, as much as to say that actor prints were being designed for this performance.1 – an account by the artist’s son, Kawasaki Kyosen (1841-1899)

1 The Theatrical World of Osaka Prints, Roger S. Keyes and Keiko Mizushima, David R. Godine in association with Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1973 p. 318. For a complete transcript see the article "Production of Actor Prints in Osaka" on this site at https://sites.google.com/a/myjapanesehanga.com/www/home/articles/production-of-actor-prints-in-osaka

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description Wagō Soga Homare no Fujiyama (also referred to as Megumi Soga Homare no Fujiyama and Wagō Soga Homare no Fuji)
 Note: I have seen the play's title translated into English as Harmonious Soga, A Mountain of Honor
 Series N/A
 Artist Utagawa Yoshitaki (1841-1899)
Yoshitaki histsu 芳滝筆

signatures from the three sheets of the triptych
 Seal not sealed
 Publication Date March 1875 
Awabun han 阿波文抜
owner: Awaya Bunzō 阿波屋文蔵
firm name: Juōdō 寿桜堂
[Marks: pub. ref. 022; seal ref. 25-061]

publisher's marks from the three sheets of the triptych

 Impression good
 Colors excellent
 Condition fair - extensive paper damage to right side of center sheet, repaired verso; minor paper damage left edge of right sheet; paper repair upper right edge of left sheet; overall light toning
 Genre ukiyo-e; yakusha-e; kamigata-e
 Format vertical chūban triptych
 H x W Paper 
 right: 10 1/2 x 7 1/16 in. (26.7 x 17.9 cm) 
 center: 10 3/16 x 7 9/16 in. (25.9 x 19.2 cm)
 left: 10 1/4 x 7 3/8 in. (26 x 18.7 cm)
 H x W Image right: 9 3/4 x 7 in. (24.8 x 17.8 cm)
 center: 9 5/8 x 7 1/16 in. (24.4 x 17.9 cm)
 left: 9 13/16 x 7 in. (24.9 x 17.8 cm)

 Collections This Print
latest revision:
4/24/2021 created