Bunraku Theater Stage Set for Kamakura Sandaiki from the Illustrated Collection of Famous Japanese Puppets of the Osaka Bunrakuza

Seitaka Dōji from the folio Collection of One Hundred Kumadori Makeups in Kabuki, Collection 2

 Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Bunraku Theater Stage Set for

Kamakura Sandaiki

[Three Generations of Kamakura Shoguns]

from the Illustrated Collection of Famous Japanese Puppets of the Osaka Bunrakuza

Hasegawa Sadanobu III, 1926

Portrait of Saigō Takamori

IHL Cat. #1658

About This Print

An illustration of the stage set for the play Kamakura Sandaiki [Three Generations of Kamakura Shoguns] written by Takeda Izumo II (1691-1756) and others and first staged in 1748 under a different title.

This set presents us with the house in Kinugawa Village, Orachi where Toza's mother is convalescing. Betrayal, murder and suicide will follow!

For those unfamiliar with the stage set for bunraku the following passages from Donald Keene's Bunraku: The Art of the Japanese Puppet Theatre are instructive:

"Soon after the chanter enters his description of the new scene, the curtain is drawn aside to reveal the set, a naturalistic rendering of a landscape or interior. If the backdrop represents an outdoor scene, it is painted on a series of vertical panels which may be moved laterally to suggest that characters (who remain in one place) are traveling. If an interior, the gate, framework of the house, and generally one room are depicted, with the suggestion of other rooms beyond.  A garden or nearby building may also be represented. A doorway at the rear-center of the stage is usual, for it permits the female characters to make spectacular exists, displaying their figures from behind. Very few props are used; unless necessary to the action, the furnishings are generally  painted on the backdrop, to allow the operators the maximum freedom of movement.

The Bunraku stage, traditionally 36 feet wide, 25 feet deep, and 15 feet high, is divided into various playing areas. The main stage occupies about half the total area, and often serves as the interior of a house. Three raised partitions of different heights run across the width of the stage, standing before the trench-like passages in which the operators work. The partitions conceal the lower half of the principal operator's body, more of the operator of the left hand (who does not wear high-platformed clogs), and almost all of the operator of the feet; at the same time, they provide tha apparent floor or ground level on which the puppets walk or sit. To the audience's right is a dais projecting into the auditorium from the stage. There the chanter perches on bulky cushions before an elaborately fashioned reading-stand; to his left, the samisen player sits on a single cushion, dwarfed by the chanter."

1 Bunraku: The Art of the Japanese Puppet Theatre, Donald Keene and Hiroshi Kaneko, Kodansha International, Ltd., 1965, p. 22.

Brief Plot Summary
Miuranosuke is a samurai serving the lord of a besieged castle. Tokihime, the woman he is betrothed to marry, is the daughter of the lord leading the attack on the castle. While he is away at battle, she comes to a lonely farming village to care for his sick mother. Miuranosuke comes back from the battle to see his mother, but she refuses to let him in since he has come away from his duties. In turn, Miuranosuke refuses to see Tokihime because she is the daughter of the enemy. Finally, all is revealed to be a plot by the brilliant strategist Takatsuna, to force Tokihime to assassinate her father.

explanatory sheet
Source: The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University 201-1528
click on image to enlarge

About the "Illustrated Collection of Famous Japanese Puppets of the Osaka Bunrakuza"

This collection of prints was issued over the period April 1926 (Taishō 15) to August 1927 (Shōwa 2) by the publishers Bijutsusha 美術社 in Tokyo and Hangakai hanmoto 版画会板元 in Kyoto.1 The collection consists of forty-eight prints and twelve explanatory sheets for ten well-known bunraku plays (see table below) performed at Osaka's Burakuza.

 新版歌祭文  お染久松
 Shinpan Utazaimon: Osome Hisamatsu
 The New Scandalous Ballad of Osome  and Hisamatsu
 仮名手本忠臣蔵 忠臣蔵、七段目
 Kanadehon Chūshingura – shichi danme
 The Treasury of Loyal Retainers: Act 7
 仮名手本忠臣蔵 忠臣蔵、五段目
 Kanadehon Chūshingura – go danme
 The Treasury of Loyal Retainers: Act 5
 仮名手本忠臣蔵 前段続き
 Kanadehon Chūshingura – zendan tsuduki
 The Treasury of Loyal Retainers:  Introduction
 伊賀越道中双六  伊賀越敵討
 Igagoe dōchū sugoroku - Igagoe katakiuchi 
 The Revenge at Igagoe - Vengance at  Igagoe 
 一の谷嫩軍記  一谷嫩軍記、組打
 Ichinotani futaba gunki - kumiuchi 
 Chronicle of the Battle of Ichinotani –  The  Duel
 Kamakura sandaiki 
 Three Generations of Kamakura Shoguns
 心中天網嶋 小春治兵衛
 Shinjū ten nō amajima - Koharu Jihei
 The Love Suicides at Amijima - Koharu  Jihei
 義経千本桜 静忠信道行
 Yoshitsune senbon zakura -  ? michiyuki 
 Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees  - travel dance
 菅原伝授手習鑑  車引き
 Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami – kurumabiki 
 Sugawara and the Secrets of  Calligraphy  - the struggle for the carriage
 本朝廿四孝  十種香
 Honchō nijū shikō – jusshukō 
 Twenty-four Examples of Filial Piety –  The  Incense Burning
 夏祭浪花鑑 団七九郎兵衛
 Natsumatsuri Naniwa kagami – Danshichi Kurobei  
 Summer festival at Naniwa (Osaka)–  Danshichi Kurobei

Each performance was represented in the collection by an explanatory sheet plus one print showing a stage set from the play and three portraits of the play's main characters, as shown below.

Explanation, Stage Set and Three Puppet Portraits for the play
Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees
click on image to enlarge

It is likely that the prints were sold, at least in part, by subscription, as decorative enclosures exist for the four prints and the explanatory sheet for each of the plays.  A decorative portfolio or outer box containing the entire set of plays was also issued. The two colophons I've seen for the set (see below) indicate that the explanatory sheets were written by Hasegawa Konobu, the artist who designed the prints and, likely, the person who conceived of the collection.

colophon accompanying set of prints published
by Hangakai hanmoto 會板元
Source: National Diet Library
colophon accompanying set of prints published by Bijutsusha 美術社
Source: Ritsumeikan University Art Research Center

At an unknown later date, Uchida Publishing obtained the blocks and re-issued the prints depicting puppets.  The Uchida published prints bear the hexagonal seal of Uchida.

The collection's title 日本名物大阪文楽座人形画集 (Ōsaka Bunraku-za Ningyō Gashū: Nihon Meibutsu) has been variously translated as Illustrated Collection of the Famous Japanese Puppets of the Osaka Bunrakuza; Book of Noted Puppets of the Bunrakuza, Osaka and Famous Products of Japan: Osaka Bunraku Theatre Dolls, Book of Prints.

For a detailed history of the Puppet Theater in Osaka please see the National Diet Library page http://www.ndl.go.jp/scenery/e/column/kansai/goryo_bunrakuza.html

1 Hangakai hanmoto is also seen written as 板畫會板元

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description Bunraku Theater Stage Set for Three Generations of Kamakura Shoguns
 Bunraku ningyō butaizu Kamakura Sandaiki
 Series Illustrated Collection of the Famous Japanese Puppets of the Osaka Bunrakuza
 Ōsaka Bunraku-za Ningyō Gashū: Nihon Meibutsu 
 Artist Hasegawa Sadanobu III (Konobu III) (1881-1963)
 not signed 
 Seal not sealed
 Publication Date originally Taishō 15 (1926)
 Publisher 美術社 Bijutsusha, Tokyo and 版画会板元 Hangakai hanmoto, Kyoto
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition excellent
 Genre puppet theater stage set picture 文楽人形、舞台図 bunraku ningyō, butaizu
 H x W Paper 
 9 1/4 x 15 1/8 in. (23.5 x 38.4 cm) 
 H x W Image 7 9/16 x 14 3/8 in. (19.2 x 36.5 cm)

 Collections This Print
 The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University 作品番号:201-1493 and 201-1532A; Ritsumeikan University Art Research Center; National Diet Library 
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