Yūjo Okaru in Kanadehon Chūshingura, Act VII 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

Yūjo Okaru in

Kanadehon Chūshingura, Act VII

[The Treasury of Loyal Retainers]

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

Hasegawa Sadanobu III, 1926 or 1927

Portrait of Saigō Takamori



IHL Cat. #2493

About This Print

Picturing the puppet Yūjo Okaru, the central female character in the play, in Act VII, the letter-reading scene. Having read a secret letter to Yuranosuke, the leader of the forty-seven ronin who is pretending a life of debauchery, Okaru must be silenced so as not to reveal that the secret plan for revenge is still alive. Knowing this, Okaru's brother Heiemon decides to take her life. At the moment Heiemon draws his sword, Okaru leans back and throws a shower of tissue paper (onkotogami) drawn from her kimono at him, as we see pictured in this print. 

To see the stage set for Act VII go to Bunraku Theater Stage Set for Kanadehon Chūshingura, Act VII.

Brief Plot Summary
Source: Source: http://www.naritaya.jp/english/show/detail.php?no=2009100120091025190517

Kandehon Chūshingura, originally a jōruri (puppet) play in 11 acts in the jidamono (history play) style, was written by Takeda Izumo II, Miyoshi Shōraku, and Namiki Sōsuke in 1748. It is Japan's most famous loyalty-revenge story. 

Based on a true incident, the Akō incident, which took place between 1701 and 1704, the story concerns the daimyō Enya Hangan [the historical daimyō was Asano Takumi no Kami Naganori], who is goaded into drawing his sword and striking a senior lord, Ko no Morono [the historical protocol officer Kira Kōzuke-no-suke Yoshinaka]. Drawing one's sword in the shogun's palace was a capital offence and so Hangan is ordered to commit seppuku, or ritual suicide by disembowelment. The ceremony is carried out with great formality and, with his dying breath, he makes clear to his chief retainer, Ōboshi Yuranosuke, that he wishes vengeance upon Morono.

Forty-seven of Hangan's now masterless samurai or rōnin bide their time. Yuranosuke in particular, appears to give himself over to a life of debauchery in Kyoto's Gion pleasure quarters in order to put the enemy off their guard. In fact, they make stealthy but meticulous preparations and, in the depths of winter, storm Morono's Edo mansion and kill him. Aware, however, that this deed is itself an offence, the retainers then carry Morono's head to the grave of their lord at Sengaku-ji temple in Edo, where they all commit seppuku.

The Other Prints in the Kanadehon Chūshingura, Act VII Set

As further explained below, each stage set print was part of a set of five prints consisting of a black and white explanatory sheet and three portraits of puppet characters appearing in the play.


explanatory sheet
仮名手本忠臣蔵 Kanadehon Chūshingura
Source: The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University 201-1513
click on image to enlarge


The four print set for Kanadehon Chushingura Act VII
puppets from left to right (as positioned on the stage set print's tissue overlay):
Ōboshi Yuranosuke 大星由良之助 Yūjo Okaru 遊女お軽 , Teroka Heiemon 寺岡平右衛門


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

This collection of forty-eight color woodblock prints was designed by Hasegawa Sadanobu III (Konobu III) (1881-1963) and issued over the period March 1926 (Taishō 15) to August 1927 (Shōwa 2)1 by the publishing houses Bijutsusha 美術社 in Tokyo and on a subscription (members only) basis by Hangakai hanmoto 版画会板元 (板畫會板元) in Kyoto. The cost per print set was 3 yen. The editor and publisher for both the Bijutsusha and Hangakai hanmoto sets was Hayashi Eikichi 林榮吉, who was also the editor for Hasegawa's Collection of One Hundred Kumadori Makeups in Kabuki. (See Hasegawa Sadanobu III (Konobu III) (1881-1963) for prints from this collection.)

The Illustrated Collection of Famous Japanese Puppets of the Osaka Bunrakuza consists of twelve sets of prints each set depicting a specific play in the bunraku repertory, as listed in the below table. Each set contains a stage set for the specific play along with three prints of puppet characters appearing in the play and an explanatory sheet, for a total of forty-eight color woodblock prints and twelve monochrome explanatory sheets. Each of the stage set prints was originally issued with a tissue overlay showing the position of the three puppet characters on the stage. All of the plays pictured were performed at the Bunraku Theater (Bunraku-za) located within the Goryō Shrine compound in Osaka. The Goryō Bunraku-za burned down in November 1926 after what has been described as "an extremely difficult managerial era" and "lost interest" by the public in the late Taishō era.2 It is unknown what role, if any, the management of the Goryō Bunraku-za may have played in the formulation and issuance of this print series in their efforts to revitalize the theater.

For more complete information on this series see the article Illustrated Collection of Famous Japanese Puppets of the Osaka Bunrakuza

1 Dates are taken from the colophons on the envelopes containing the print sets in the Waseda University Archives
2 National Diet Library website page http://www.ndl.go.jp/scenery/e/column/kansai/goryo_bunrakuza.html which provides a history of the Goryō Bunrakuza.


 Play Name in Japanese Play Name in English
 壇浦兜軍記
 Dan-no-ura kabuto gunki
 Chronicle of the Battle of Dan-no-ura
 義経千本桜
 Yoshitsune senbon zakura 
 Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees
 一の谷嫩軍記  
 Ichi-no-tani futaba gunki
 Chronicle of the Battle of Ichinotani
 仮名手本忠臣蔵、五段目
 Kanadehon Chūshingura, go danme
 The Treasury of Loyal Retainers, Act 5
 仮名手本忠臣蔵、七段目
 Kanadehon Chūshingura, shichi danme
 The Treasury of Loyal Retainers, Act 7
 伊賀越道中双六
 Igagoe dōchū sugoroku
 The Revenge at Igagoe
 心中天網嶋
 Shinjū ten no amajima
 The Love Suicides at Amijima
 新版歌祭文
 Shinpan Utazaimon
 The New Scandalous Ballad of Osome and Hisamatsu
 菅原伝授手習鑑 
 Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami 
 Sugawara and the Secrets of  Calligraphy
 本朝廿四孝
 Honchō nijūshikō
 Twenty-four Examples of Filial Piety
 鎌倉三代記
 Kamakura sandaiki
 Three Generations of Kamakura Shoguns
 夏祭浪花鑑 
 Natsumatsuri Naniwa kagami 
 Summer festival at Naniwa (Osaka)


Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 #2493
 Title or Description Yūjo Okaru in Kanadehon Chūshingura, Act VII [The Treasury of Loyal Retainers]
 Bunraku ningyō Yūjo Okaru, Kanadehon Chūshingura shichi danme
 文楽人形 仮名手本忠臣蔵 七段目 遊女お軽
 Series Illustrated Collection of the Famous Japanese Puppets of the Osaka Bunrakuza
 Ōsaka Bunraku-za Ningyō Gashū: Nihon Meibutsu 
 日本名物大阪文楽座人形画集
 Artist Hasegawa Sadanobu III (Konobu III) (1881-1963)
 Signature
信 Konobu 
 Seal このぶ Konobu (see above)
 Publication Date Taishō 15 or Shōwa 2 (1926 or 1927)
 Publisher 美術社 Bijutsusha, Tokyo and 版画会板元 Hangakai hanmoto, Kyoto
 Carver 佐藤重一 Satō Jūichi
 Printer 板垣八重松 Itagaki Yaematsu
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition excellent - two spots foxing upper right
 Genre 文楽人形 bunraku ningyō
 Miscellaneous 
 Format 
 H x W Paper 
 14 5/16 x 9 3/4 in. (36.4 x 24.8 cm)
 H x W Image 14 5/16 x 9 3/4 in. (36.4 x 24.8 cm)
 Literature 

 Collections This Print
 Waseda University Cultural Resource Database 201-1515; Ritsumeikan University Art Research Center arcBK06-0002_27; National Diet Library Call Number 414.38The Met Thomas J. Watson Library  240.3081 H27 Quarto; British Library System number: 018894603 
last revision:
5/12/2021 created

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