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The Old Story of Sanshō Dayū (Mukashi-banashi Sanshō Dayū)

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

The Old Story of Sanshō Dayū

(Mukashi-banashi Sanshō Dayū)

by Utagawa Kunisada, 1852

The actors Ichikawa Danjūrō VIII, Seki Sanjūrō III and Onoe Baikō IV


IHL Cat. #1355

About This Print

The highlight of this performance involving kidnap, slavery, revenge and redemption, is the afflicted Osan turning into a fowl, as she is depicted in the left panel, in the play The Old Story of Sanshō Dayū, as performed at the Kawarazaki theater in the 4th month of 1852. Osan will soon chew the ropes from Kanamenosuke (right panel), with whom she is in love, and then kill herself. The evil Sanshō Dayū, in the center panel, looks on. A number of kabuki plays have been written on the legend of Sanshō Dayū.  A complete summary of one play (similar but not identical to the play depicted in this print) based on the legend is given below, as is a description of the "special effect" that is used to transform Osan into a chicken. 

From right to left, the actors and their roles are:

right sheet: Asao Okuyama IV [see note under the below section "The Actors Pictured in This Collection's Print"] as Tokikiyo, Lord of Ōe; Ichikawa Danjūrō VIII as Motoyoshi Kanamenosuke [also translated as Motoyoshi Yonosuke] 

center sheet: Ichikawa Ebizō V as Sanshō Dayū

left sheet: Iwai Kumesaburo III as Gondō Futoshi nyōbō rachi [kidnapped wife] or as Gonroku’s Wife (Nyōbō) Orachi; Arashi Rikan III as Dayū musume Osan [Dayū’s daughter, Osan]

While only the actor's roles are provided on the print (within the orange and yellow rectangular cartouches), the website of Ritsumeikan University provides the actors' names and the title of the play. (Although, please see note on the actor Asao Okuyma below.)

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston1 has the below Kabuki playbill (tsuji banzuke) in their collection, showing the play depicted in this piece along with an accompanying play, as performed during the April showing at the Kawarazaki-za.

Tsuji banzuke advertising the kabuki dramas “Mukashi-banashi Sanshô Dayû” and “Ise ondo koi no netaba”. These were staged at the Kawarazaki Theater (Edo) from the 24th day of the 4th lunar month of Kaei 5 (1852). Published by Ogawa Hansuke.


Turning Osan into a Fowl - Tricks of the Trade

Niwatori musume [‘chicken girl’]

Source: Theatre Survey 38:2 (November 1997), “What Really Happens Backstage: A Nineteenth-Century Kabuki Document," Samuel L. Leiter, p. 122

“As shown in the illustration, there is a central shaft in the stone lantern, with a thick rope coiled at least one hundred times around it, and this should be yanked via a pulley. However, there should be scenic pieces to hide the trick mechanism.” (B) “A [prop] chicken should be affixed to a long pole [sashigane] and its wings made to flap via a string. A fan should be flapped rhythmically to simulate the sound of flapping wings.” The technique is used in Yuranami Nato Sengen Chōjima (better known as Sanshō Dayū), in which a character has an affliction that turns her into a fowl. The illustration reveals a device for the actor to display some bizarre bird-like behavior when the pulley system causes him to spin wildly. The bamboo sashigane pole manipulated by a stagehand is one of kabuki’s most common devices, and is often used to introduce birds, butterflies, and the like.

The Play "Yura no Minato Sengen Chōja" 由良の港千長者

Source: New Kabuki Encyclopedia: A Revised Adaptation of Kabuki Jiten, Samuel Leiter, Greenwood Press, 1997, p. 716.

Authors: Takeda Koizumo II (later Takeda Izumo III), Chikamatsu Hanji, Takemoto Saburōjbei, Miyoshi Shōraku, Kitamado Goichi.  Also called Sansho Dayū, Tori Musume.  Jidaimono. Nigyōj jōruri.  Three acts.  Fifth month 1761.  Takemoto-za, Osaka.

This play is based on the legend of Sanshō Dayū, first recounted in the sekkyō bushi (a religious musical narrative) Sanseu Dayū, and first dramatized in Takeda Izumi I’s Sanshō Dayū Gonin Musume (1727).  Kabuki’s first production was in 1784 at Osaka’s Kado-za, while Edo first saw it in 1837 at the Ichimura-za.  Only the evens of Act II, “Tori Musume,” are still performed.

Masauji, head of the Iwaki family Oshū, has been assassinated by a rōnin because of the ambitions of Tokikado, Lord of Ōe.  Masauji’s wife, Mutsuki no Kata (or Kita no Kata), accompanied by the faithful retainer Motoyoshi Kanamenosuke, flees with their children, Princess Anju and Tsushiomaru.  The loyal Iwaki retainer Yamato Tamonoshin commits suicide because of his master’s death.  Mutsuki no Kata gets as far as Ōgi Bridge in Echigo, where she is separated from her offspring by a slave dealer.  The slaver is an old Iwaki retainer who is trying to raise money to form an army in hopes of restoring the Iwaki clan, and does not recognize the family he is splitting up.  Mutsuki no Kata is sent to Sado, and the children are sold to Master Sanshō (or Sanshō the bailiff), the very rōnin who murdered Masauji.  He has become an avaricious millionaire who gets his name, meaning “Three Villas,” from the homes in different places in Tango with which he has been rewarded by Tokikado.  The children, now called Nobuo and Wasuregusa, are engaged in back-breaking labor on his property in Yura Bay, where they haul salt from the sea and cut grass, being tortured if they complain.  Kanamenosuke visits the youngsters in hopes of saving them, but is captured by Sanshō’s nephew, Yurami Saburō.  Recognized as an Iwaki, he is sentenced to death by beheading, along with the siblings, when the first cock crows at dawn.

Osan, Sanshō’s daughter – in love with Kananmenosuke, whom she once met at a flower viewing – is, because of her father’s bad karma, afflicted with a disease that causes her to be transformed into a fowl before dawn, when she flaps her wings and crows.  She is thus called Tori Musume or “Chicken Girl.”  There is a saying that if you buy one thousand white chickens, your daughter will become empress, but in the present case, Sanshō has bought one thousand chickens in hopes of his daughter’s strange ailment.  She hopes to save Kanamenosuke’s life by preventing her father’s thousand chickens from crowing, and runs around killing them, but cannot prevent herself turning into one of them and crowing.  She chews Kanamenosuke’s ropes off and then kills herself.  The children are set free and escape, and the samurai confronts Sanshō.  The latter, however, recognizes him as the child who was stolen from him years ago and realizes that Masauji was his own master.  Repenting of the crimes that he had committed (modori), he allows his long-lost son to kill him.  Kanamenosuke takes his own life to atone for having slain his father.  The children head for Sada, where they are reunited with their mother.

The highlight comes with the vision of the mad Osan in the form of a fowl, a transformation effected largely by the use of a costume, revealed via bukkaeri, on which a unique feathered pattern has been dyed.  The subject of a woman turned into a bird resembles that of Sage Musume.

The Actors Pictured in This Collection's Print

For profiles of the actors depicted in this print please see the article The Kabuki Actor.

Note that the database of the Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University, lists the actor playing the role of the Lord of Ōe [大江郡領時廉] in the right panel, rightmost figure as Asao Okuyama III [〈3〉浅尾奥山], but according to the website Kabuki21, Okuyama III died in 1836, making the actor most likely his successor Asao Okuyama IV, who take that name in 1846.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #1355
 Title (Description) The Old Story of Sanshō Dayū
 Mukashi-banashi Sanshō Dayū 昔談柄三升太夫
 Series n/a
 Artist 
 Utagawa Kunisada I (1786–1865)
 Signature 
Toyokuni ga 豊国画 inside of Toshidama cartouche 年玉枠
 Seal 
 Publication Date
子四 1852 (Kaei 5), 4th month
censor seals of Kinugasa 衣笠 and Murata 村田
 Publisher
清 "sei" seal of the publisher Shimizuya Naojirō 清水屋直次郎 
[Marks pub. ref. 468; seal no. 01-081]
 Carver

 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - three separate sheets; not backed; minor mounting remnants verso; vertical folds on edges; crease upper right of right panel; repair to wormhole verso center panel
 Genre ukiyo-eyakusha-e
 Miscellaneous 
 Format oban triptych
 H x W Paper right sheet: 13 7/8 x 9 5/8 (35.2 x 24.4 cm); center sheet: 13 7/8 x 9 1/2 in. (35.2 x 24.1 cm); left sheet: 14 x 9 7/16 in. (35.6 x 24 cm)
 Collections This Print Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University mai03f04

 Reference Literature
 
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