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Ichikawa Kodanji IV as the Ghost of Asakura Togo

Ichikawa Kodanji IV as the Ghost of Asakura Togo

Colour print from woodblocks with mica (kirazuri). Ôban format. Block-carver: Hori-take (Yokokawa Takejiro), censors’ seals: Mera (Mera Taichiro), Watanabe (Watanabe Shoemon), other seals: shita-uri (‘low-sale’), collector’s mark of Hayashi Tadamasa. Publisher: Sumiyoshiya Masagoro. 08/1851

This is the left-hand sheet of a diptych showing a scene from the popular kabuki play Higashima Sakura soshi (The story of Sakura of Higashima), which opened at the Nakamura theatre in Edo in the 8th month of 1851. The play was based on historical events, with the characters’ names changed.

Asakura was actually Sakura Sogoro (1597-1645), a village chief who was forced to witness the beheading of his sons before being crucified by the cruel samurai lord Hotta Kozuke, after he had protested at the levy of unfair taxes. In revenge, Sakura’s ghost returned to haunt Hotta’s castle, driving Hotta mad, and frightening his wife and son to death.

The missing right-hand sheet shows the actor Bando Hikosaburo IV as the character based on Hotta. The shita-uri (or ‘low sale’) seal signifies that the print was sold under the counter because of the ban on publishing actor prints at that date.

Given by The Friends of the Fitzwilliam, 2003


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