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Onoe Kikugorō V as the Englishman Spencer from the series One Hundred Roles of Baikō

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Onoe Kikugorō V as the Englishman Spencer

from the series One Hundred Roles of Baikō

by Toyohara Kunichika, 1894

Ichikawa Danjūrō IX as Mongaku Shonin from the series One Hundred Roles of Ichikawa Danjuro

IHL Cat. #1266

About This Print

The actor Onoe Kikugorō V (1844-1903) as the English balloonist Percival Spencer (1864-1913) in the dance play Riding the Famous Hot-Air Balloon (Fūsen Nori Uwasa Takadono), staged as the final piece (ōgiri) on the January 1891 bill at the Kabuki-za.  The inset in the top left shows the actor Onoe Ushinosuke II, the five year old son of Onoe Kikugorō V, playing the tōmi, airborne version of the balloonist.1  

"In the play Kikugorō addressed the audience in English while suspended from the theatre’s rigging: 'Ladies and gentlemen.  I have been up three thousand feet.  Looking down, I was pleased to see you in this Kabuki-za.  Thanks [sic] you. Ladies and gentlemen, with all my heart, I thank you.' The play was enthusiastically received during thirty-three-day run."2  

The play, written by Kawatake Mokuami ( (1816-1893)was based upon the balloon ascent, and descent by parachute, in Ueno Park by the English balloonist Percival Spencer in November 1891.  (See the 1890 news story of the ascent, below.)

For profiles of Onoe Kikugorō V and Onoe Ushinosuke II please see the article The Kabuki Actor.

1 Tōmi 遠見 ("Distant View") - a kabuki convention meaning both a painted background showing a perspective vista and a way of indicating distant characters by having child actors placed upstage and dressed in exactly the same costumes as the adult players as if the latter were being seen from far away. (New Kabuki Encyclopedia: A Revised Adaptation of Kabuki Jiten, Samuel Leiter, Greenwood Press, 1997, p. 655.) 
2 Kabuki Plays on Stage: Restoration and Reform, 1872-1905, ed., James R. Brandon, Samuel L. Leiter, University of Hawaii Press, 2003, p. 17-18.

The Series "One Hundred Roles of Baikō"
Source: Time Present and Time Past: Images of a Forgotten Master: Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900), Amy Reigle Newland, Hotei Publishing, 1999, p. 26, 27.

In 1893 Kunichika undertook a commission for two series of single-sheet portraits, each dedicated to the two most famous actors of their time, Ichikawa Danjūrō IX (1838-1903) and Onoe Kikugorō V (1844-1903).  The first of these, One hundred roles of Danjūrō, featured the major roles of Ichikawa Danjūrō IX in a set of half-length portraits.  (See print IHL Cat. #s 663, 689 and 701.) The second, One hundred roles of Baikō, featured the major roles of Onoe Kikugorō V and included an insert on the top of the print depicting a supporting actor.  Both the series were commissioned by Fukuda Kumajirō and Gusokuya Kahei. These two series are regarded as ‘monuments to his [Kunichika’s] career’.

The name "Baikō" in the series title was the haiku pen name of Onoe Kikugorō V and Kunichika was on friendly terms with him, often drinking tea and chatting backstage. 

Percival Spenser's Balloon Ascent - Stories from The Japan Weekly Mail

Story of October 11, 1890: "The Parachutist in Japan"

As will be seen from our advertising columns Mr. Percival Spencer, whose daring parachute tests have been noticed frequently of late in China and other eastern papers, intends to drop from his balloon at the Public Gardens on Sunday next.  If fine weather be experienced, Mr. Spencer should have a big crowd of spectators.

Story of November 28, 1890: "The Balloon Ascent From Uyeno Park"

On Monday afternoon at half-past two o’clock Mr. Spencer made his second balloon ascent in Tokyo.  His first performance was given by special desire of the Emperor, and took place in the open space before the main entrance to the Palace.  The performance yesterday was of a public character, and the interest excited among the citizens of Tokyo was very great.  The Authorities permitted Mr. Spencer to make use of the area immediately in front of the Permanent Museum in Uyeno Park, and as the building employed for the purposes of the Industrial Exhibition are still standing, this central court is completely enclosed, thus forming an ideal place for Mr. Spencer’s object.  The court was divided into three rings, the innermost of which constituted the first class, the middle the second class, and the outermost the third class, the prices of admission being one yen, fifty sen, and twenty sen respectively.  Every one of the rings was completely filled, the total number of paying spectators aggregating from four to five thousand.  Needless to say that the crowds outside were far greater.  The whole of Ueyno Park was packed to overflowing, and from one o’clock onwards no little difficulty was experienced in forcing a passage through the mob to the gate of the inner court.  The proverbial good humour and order-preserving disposition of Japanese assemblies displayed itself as usual, however, so that women and children were as safe among the phalanx of people as they would have been in the open streets.  Strange to say, very few foreigners were present, a fact to be accounted for only the supposition that the foreign residents of Tokyo had already witnessed Mr. Spencer’s performances in Yokohama, or that the failure to advertise in the English local press had left people in ignorance of the programme.  With respect to the foreign portion of the audience, there is a point which Mr. Spencer, other who, like him, live by public favour, will do well to note, namely, that the same measure of courtesy meted out to Occidentals on these occasions, must be meted out to Orientals also.  It was observed yesterday that every foreign lady or gentleman found admittance without question inside the central ring to the immediate vicinity of the balloon and apparatus, whereas with very few exceptions everyone wearing Japanese costume was excluded.  Such discrimination can only have the effect of rendering unpopular all exhibitions by foreign performers.  Among those present inside the central circle were H.I.H. Prince Yamashina, and their Excellencies Count Kawamura and Viscounts Aoki and Yenomoso.  At ten minutes past two o’clock the first pilot balloon was sent up.  A grotesque figure of a man without any command of legs or arms, it ascended with limp gravity and occasional disturbances of equilibrium that afforded much amusement to the spectators.  The day was beautiful bright and still, perfect Japanese autumnal weather, but the transparent dummy evidently felt a breeze not perceptible by more substantial beings, for it floated off in the direction of Hongo until a reverse current, catching it in an upper stratum of atmosphere, wafted it back so that it finally descended on the margin of the Shinobazu Lake.  Another pilot, dispatched upwards some minutes afterwards, voyaged off steadily towards Sarugadai, the result of the two experiments being that people remained in a state of pleasing uncertainty as to the direction which the aeronaut himself would take.  The big balloon was by this time fully inflated, but so still was the atmosphere that not a motion of the silken globe could be detected: it remained straining steadily on its detaining ropes as motionless as though crystallized in its place.  The hour fixed for the ascent had now passed, and the crowd, on the tip-toe of excitement, greeted Mr. Spencer with a low hum as he stepped forward and began to untie the cords by which the lower end of the balloon had been wrapped around the gas-conducting pipe.  Mr. Spencer is of low stature, bandy-legged, light-haired, and resolute looking, but it may be gathered from his mien that he is not without consciousness of the perils attending his exploit.  Under any circumstances a parachute descent must be a dangerous business, but where a great number of lofty trees are dotted about the ground, as is the case in Uyeno Park, the chances of accident cannot but be increased considerably.  Rumour says, indeed, that the risk run by the aeronaut has attached to him a correspondent of an American journal, who firmly believes that his thirst for sensational copy will be satisfied one of these days at Mr. Spencer’s cost.  The preparations made by the intrepid performer were few and simple.  They consisted chiefly in divesting himself of a gold medal and his watch and chain, exchanging his hat for a tight-fitting tweed cap, filling his pockets with advertisements to be scattered from the clouds, and seizing firm hold of the jacket by which he is attached to the parachute in the descent.  Wonder-exciting pictures of the feat, posted in public places, represent the aeronaut suspended from his parachute by one hand and swaying nonchalantly earthwards.  But that is a balloonist’s license.  It is plain that no fingers, however muscular, could be trusted to sustain a man at the moment of more or less rude shock when the swift downward motion of his leap from the balloon is arrested by the expansion of the parachute. J The thing is managed by the aid of a jacket or sling passing round the body under the arms.  This Mr. Spencer fixes when he has reached such a height that his actions are only discernible by the aid of a glass.  The parachute is tied to the side of the balloon by a cord which, being just capable of supporting a weight of sixty lbs., gives way and allows the parachute to become detached when Mr. Spencer consigns himself to it.  The descent of the abandoned balloon is ingeniously managed by means of a small weight attached to the side.  So long as the aeronaut is seated on the trapeze this comparatively trifling weight does not disturb the equilibrium of the balloon, but when the man leaps out, the little weight causes the silk globe to tilt over, until, the unclosed end coming uppermost, the gas escapes and the balloon, reduced to the semblance of a long streamer, floats slowly downwards.  Contrary to the indications furnished by the pilot voyagers, the balloon yesterday rose at first quite vertically with admirable grace and steadiness, and it seemed for a moment as though Mr. Spencer’s hope of descending within the enclosure from which he had ascended would be satisfied.  But at a considerable elevation an eastward-setting current of air was entered, and when Mr. Spencer consigned himself to the parachute, he was sailing in the direction of Asakusa, in the vicinity of which he ultimately alighted safely.  The ascent lasted, as far as could be judged, about a hundred seconds, and the descent was accomplished in nearly the same interval, some four seconds of which appeared to be occupied by the first rapid fall, preceding any perceptible exercise of the parachute’s influence.  Balloon and parachute came down together almost simultaneously and in a quarter of an hour Mr. Spencer drove back to the enclosure, greeted by loud cheers, the crowd calmly breaking through all the barriers that separated it from the inner ring.  It is not likely that the aeronaut will again command such a numerous attendance in Japan.  Mr. Spencer was the pioneer, and we are glad to think his enterprise has been rewarded so far as Tokyo is concerned.  Visits to the other great cities of the empire ought to prove very popular.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog  #1266
 Title (Description)  Onoe Kikugorō V as the Englishman Spencer and Onoe Ushinosuke II as Spencer in the distance [inset] in the play Riding the Famous Hot-Air Balloon
 英人スペンサー   尾上菊五郎  遠見  尾上丑之助  風船乗評判高楼
 Series  One Hundred Roles of Baikō 梅幸百種之内 Baikō hyakushu no uchi
 Artist  Toyohara Kunichika (1835–1900)
 Signature  豊原国周筆 Toyohara Kunichika hitsu with toshidama seal
 Seal  年玉印 toshidama seal
 Publication Date  1894
Fukuda Kumajirō 福田熊次郎  (publishing information has been trimmed from this print)

 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 Condition  good - left and right margins trimmed to image
 Genre  ukiyo-e; yakusha-e
 Miscellaneous  Print 71 七十一 in the series
 Format  vertical oban
 H x W Paper 
 14 3/8 x 9 3/16 in. (36.5 x 23.3 cm)
 H x W Image
 13 5/8 x 9 in. (34.6 x 22.9 cm)
 Collections This Print
 National Library of Australia Bib ID 6002456; Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum Waseda University 007-2077, 007-3028 and 406-0092; Tokyo Metropolitan Library 5968-067
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