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Nakamura Moshiho IV as Sodehagi in Sodehagi Saimon at the Mitsukoshi Theater

The actors Bandō Hikosaburō V as Ukiyo Tohai, Ichimura Kakitsu IV as Nozarashi Gosuke and Ichikawa Danzō VI as Rokuji Namuemon

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Nakamura Moshiho IV as Sodehagi in Sodehagi Saimon 

at the Mitsukoshi Theater

by Sasajima Kihei, 1949

Sasajima Kihei (1906-1993)


IHL Cat. #1381

About This Print

This print depicts the blind beggar Sodehagi in act III, Sodehagi saemon, from the kabuki drama Ōshū Adachi-ga-Hara. The role of Sodehagi is played by the actor Nakamura Moshiho IV 中村もしほ(4代目). 

The play was performed at the Mitsukoshi Theater (三越劇場 Mitsukoshi gekijō) in February 1949. The print is one of an unknown number of prints created by Sasajima for the 1948 and 1949 kabuki seasons at the Mitsukoshi Theater.  

The inscriptions on the print provide the name of the play 袖萩 (Sodehagi), and the name of the actor depicted, もしほ (Moshiho)1  The inscription in the upper left of the print is not yet read.

For details of this performance please visit the website "Kabuki on the web" at:


1 Details on the performances during the Mitsukoshi Theater 1948 and 1949 kabuki seasons can be found at Kabuki on the Web http://www.kabuki.ne.jp/

Sasajima's Mitsukoshi Theater Prints

I have only seen general references to these small prints depicting various productions during the 1948 and 1949 kabuki seasons at the Mitsukoshi Theater.  One reference appearing in Shizuya Fujikake's 1953 print survey book Japanese Wood-Block Prints, simply states "Since 1947, he [Sasajima] is producing a great many Kabuki prints in his unique, black and white style."1  [As can be seen by several of the prints in this collection,  Sasajima also used subtle color in some of the prints, hand-applying ink to the print's verso.] Another reference notes that in 1948 (Shōwa 23), at the age of 42, Sasajima "produces Mitsukoshi kabuki prints, but the work affects his health and he suspends the activity after three years."2 

Japanese Wood-block Prints, Shizuya Fujikake, Japan Travel Bureau, 1953, p. 173-174.
 
The Play - Sodehagi Saimon (Act III from the play Ōshū Adachi-ga-Hara)
Sources: Kabuki 21 website http://www.kabuki21.com/sodehagi.php and The Man Who Saved Kabuki: Faubion Bowers and Theatre Censorship in Occupied Japan, Shiro Okamoto, University of Hawaii Press, 2001, p. 175.

Chikamatsu Hanji's play in five acts Ōshū Adachi-ga-Hara (奥州安達原) was originally written for the puppet theater in 1762. It was adapted for kabuki in February 1763 and staged at the Moritaza. 

The historical background of this play is the zenkunen war, which pitted the Abe clan, ruler of the northern provinces of Japan (Ōshū), against the Minamoto clan. The Minamoto clan, led by Minamoto no Yoriyoshi and his son Minamoto no Yoshiie, defeated the Abe clan, led by Abe no Yoritoki and his two sons, Abe no Sadatō and Abe no Munetō. After the war, the two sons became fugitives and the play is about their actions and their last attempts to take their revenge against Minamoto. 

"Sodehagi Saimon" is the final scene of the third act of Ōshū Adachi-ga-Hara.  Sodehagi was disinherited from her samurai family at age sixteen because of an illicit love affair.  She becomes a blind, wandering beggar searching for her lost lover, Kurosawa Sachū, her out-of-wedlock little girl by her side.  She comes to the home of her father, Kenjō Naotaka, and stands outside, playing the shamisen and signing a prayerful song asking for forgiveness, but he refuses to listen.  The situation is complicated by her father having been ordered to commit suicide and by the arrival of the imperial messenger, Sodehagi's long-lost love. The father, Naotaka, commits seppuku and Sodehagi kills herself to wipe away her shame.

The Mitsukoshi Theater
Source: Tokyo from Edo to Showa 1867-1989 : the Emergence of the World's Greatest City, Edward Seidensticker et al., Tuttle Pub., 2011.
The Mitsukoshi Theater played a significant role in the revival of kabuki after the damage inflicted to the major Tokyo kabuki theaters during WWII. "Ever since its rebuilding after the 1923 earthquake [Great Kantō Earthquake], Mitsukoshi had had an auditorium which it rented out for meetings and performances. The name was changed from Mitsukoshi Hall to Mitsukoshi Theater in 1947, at which time it became a full-fledged, full-time theater.  In addition to providing another place for Kabuki, a somewhat more sumptuous and elegant one than the Tōkegi [the only major Kabuki theater to survive the WWII bombing], the Mitsukoshi Theater was very important in passing Kabuki on from an aging generation to an emerging one."

The theater was last used for kabuki in 1951, the year the Kabuki-za opened.


The Actors in the Print

For background on the actors see their respective entries in the article The Kabuki Actor on this site.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #1381
 Title Nakamura Moshiho IV as Sodehagi in Sodehagi Saimon at the Mitsukoshi Theater
 Series Mitsukoshi Kabuki Hanga 三越歌舞伎版画 [untitled series of prints for the Mitsukoshi Theater 1948 and 1949 kabuki seasons]
 Artist 
 Sasajima Kihei (1906-1993)
 Signature 
 not signed
 Seal
笹 (artist's "sasa" seal)
 Publication Date
 1949
 Publisher
 likely Mitsukoshi Gekijō or the artist
 Carver self-carved
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition excellent - minor handling/printing creases
 Genre sosaku hangakabuki-ga
 Miscellaneous 
 Format 
 H x W Paper 9 3/8 x 7 in. (23.8 x 17.8 cm)
 H x W Image 7 x 5 15/16 in. (17.8 x 15.1 cm)
 Collections This Print 

 Reference Literature
 
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