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The full moon coming with a challenge to flaunt its beautiful brow - Fukami Jikyū from the series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

The full moon coming with a challenge

to flaunt its beautiful brow – Fukami Jikyū

from the series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon

by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1887


 
 
IHL Cat. #43

About This Print


Fukami Jikyū was a former samurai whose martial skills became superfluous once peace was established under Tokugawa rule. Like many other young men in the samurai class, he joined the otokodate, or chivalrous men. These groups dedicated themselves to righting abuses and upholding what they saw to be justice. Often associated with excessive behavior, elegant clothing and pride, many groups turned into notorious gangs, believed by some to be the predecessors of the yakuza, or Japanese gangsters. Here, Jikyū strolls boldly through the streets of the pleasure district, looks up at the moon and composes the poem, The full moon, coming with a challenge to flaunt its beautiful brow!

The Story Depicted in the Print as Told by John Stevenson

Source: Yoshitoshi's One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, John Stevenson, Hotei Publishing, Netherlands 2001
55.
The full moon
coming with a challenge
to flaunt its beautiful brow – Fukami Jiky
ū

meigetsu ya
kite miyo gashi no
hitai giwa - Fukami Jiky
ū

After the establishment of the Tokugawa rule in 1600 ended the long and destructive civil wars of the sixteenth century, martial skills became superfluous.  Samurai who did not become bureaucrats often found themselves unemployed, and the class as a whole was gradually impoverished.  At the same time, the social and economic standing of the merchant and artisan classes quickly improved.  Yet the samurai retained many privileges, and a merchant had little recourse against a samurai who cheated or ill-treated him.  Young men in the towns formed groups of otokodate, “chivalrous men,” who dedicated themselves to righting abuses and upholding what they saw to be justice.  They achieved a semi-official status when they were recruited to accompany the journeys of provincial lords to and from Edo.  They even had their own mon, or crests, like samurai.

In fact these groups often became no more than an excuse for excessive behavior.  Colorful characters would swagger around, showing off their fine clothes and picking fights.  They wore one sword instead of the samurai’s two, and often carried a flute to indicate their artistic talents.  In Kabuki plays they are invariably the sons of samurai who have given up their privileges in order to defend the oppressed.  Many became folk heroes.  Notorious gangs were formed, which were eventually disbanded by Tsunayoshi, shogun from 1680 to 1709.  The yakuza of today’s Japan are their spiritual descendants.

In this print a young otokodate, identified in the cartouche as Fukami Jiky
ū, walks jauntily down the street.  He wears a black kimono with a huge chrysanthemum pattern, made even more magnificent in the original by black-on-black burnishing.  It is just the sort of robe that a dandy would wear in a Kabuki play, and the print has a strong Kabuki flavor.

Jikyu’s bearing brilliantly suggests his boldness and pride.  The print radiates with confidence, from the young man’s square shoulders to the petal placed in the very center of the moon.  It is spring, cherry trees are in bloom, and the moon is full, an exhilarating combination.  Falling petals and the distinctive street lantern to Jiky
ū’s right indicate that the scene is set in the Yoshiwara pleasure district with its famous cherry trees.  The young man looks up to receive the moonlight on his face and composes a poem which implies that he is quite as beautiful as the full moon.

Fukami Jiky
ū was the grandson of a general who served the Fukushima, a family suppressed under the Tokugawa shogunate.  He was originally known as Fukamizo Sadakuni Jūzaemon.  In 1681 the historical Jūzaemon, rather older than the man in the print, was arrested for gang activities – he was so feared that whole division of police was sent to bring him in.  At his hearing, he stated that he was a samurai and demanded to know why he had been arrested like a common criminal.  He then refused to answer questions, and was exiled for thirty years.  When he returned to Edo, aged eighty, he became a priest and took the name Fukami Jikyū.  Still robust, he lived for another ten years.

Source: The Beauty & The Actor, Ukiyo-e: Japanese Prints from the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam and the
Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden, Matthi Forrer, C. v. Rappard-Boon, Hotei Publishing, Amsterdam / Leiden, 1995, p. 191

Fukamai Jikyū was a seventeenth-century otokodate. An otokodate ("chivalrous commoner") took it upon him to defend the interests of the poor and oppressed.  They were celebrated figures in novels and they figure prominently as heroes in kabuki plays, often in opposition to villains.  In these plays, they are often the sons of samurai who have renounced their status in order to defend the interests of the poor.  In keeping with their showy characters they wear spectacular kimono, and are skilled and courageous fighters.  Although in theory the otokodate were meant to defend the needs of the poor and oppressed, in reality, the border-line between these otokodate bands and petty criminals was at times very vague.  In this composition, Yoshitoshi reverts to the old tradition in kabuki prints of depicting the human subject in full-length against an empty background.  However, in this print a few but nevertheless very important elements are included: the moon, a burning lantern and falling cherry petals.  Together these elements create the feel of a quiet and peaceful spring evening, against which the heroic figure in his splendid kimono stands in sharp contrast.

The poem in the cartouche reads:

The famous moon, well,
but watch
my forehead

meigetsu ya
kite miyo kashi no
hitaigiwa

Jikyū was known for his high forehead as well as for his golden teeth.  He shares this first feature with one of the characters from the kabuki play Sukeroku, who was in fact based on him.  The first Sukeroku play was written in 1713 for Ichikawa Danjuro II at a time when Fukami Jikyū was in exile on the island of Oki.

Image from Publisher's Bound Album (Issued shortly after Yoshitoshi's death)


About the Series "One Hundred Aspects of the Moon"
For details about this series which consists of one hundred prints with the moon as a unifying motif, see the article on this site Yoshitoshi, One Hundred Aspects of the Moon.


Print Details

 IHL Catalog #43
 Title The full moon coming with a challenge to flaunt its beautiful brow – Fukami Jikyū
(Meigetsu ya kite miyo gashi no hitai givwa - Fukami Jikyū 深見自休)
 Series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon (Tsuki hyaku sugata 月百姿)
 John Stevens Reference No.*
 55
 Artist
 Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)
 Signature
 Yoshitoshi 芳年
 Seal Yoshitoshi 芳年
 Date June 23, 1887 (御届明治廿年六月廿三日)
 Edition Likely from the album issued by publisher Akiyama Buemon shortly after Yoshitoshi's death
 Publisher  Akiyama Buemon (秋山武右エ門) [Marks: seal 26-132; pub. ref. 005]
 Carver Enkatsu tō 円活刀 [full name Enkatsu Noguchi]
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition excellent - Japanese album backing paper; very minor marks and flaws
 Genre ukiyo-e
 Miscellaneous Fukami, a young man in full bloom, made a poem implying he was as beautiful as the full moon.
 Format oban
 H x W Paper 14 1/8 x 9 5/8 in. (33.9 x 24.4 cm)
 H x W Image
 12 7/8 x 8 3/4 in. (32.7 x 22.2 cm)
 Collections This Print The British Museum 1906,1220,0.1439; The New York Public Library Humanities and Social Sciences Library / Spencer Collection Digital ID: 1269829; Yale University Art Gallery 2011.143.1.55; Hagi Uragami Museum (Yamaguchi, Japan) UO1552; Tokyo Metropolitan Library 加4722-29; The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University 201-4451; Ritsumeikan University ARC NDL-541-00-032
 Reference Literature * Yoshitoshi’s One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, John Stevenson, Hotei Publishing, Netherlands 2001, pl. 55; The Beauty & The Actor, Ukiyo-e: Japanese Prints from the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam and the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden, Matthi Forrer, C. v. Rappard-Boon, Hotei Publishing, Amsterdam / Leiden, 1995, p. 147, pl. 156
 
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