September Kyogen at the Asakusa-za

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

September Kyōgen at the Asakusa-za

by Toyohara Kunichika, 1893

IHL Cat. #592

About This Print

This print announces a September kyōgen program at the Asakusa-za theater featuring a scene from Katsugurō's Revenge, starring the actors (from right to left) Ichikawa Kuzo III 市川九蔵 as Kōzuke (Gōsuke) 上野; Nakamura Shikan IV 中村芝寛 as Iinuma Katsugorō 飯沼 勝五郎; Onoe Taganojō II 尾上多賀之丞 as the ghost of Hatsuhana (standing under the waterfall); Sawamura Tosshi VII 澤村訥子 as the servant Fudesuke 内ノ筆助; and two Sawamura-line 澤村 actors in unnamed roles, the left-most actor's name (as shown in the yellow cartouche) likely being Sawamura Tossho III 澤村訥升.

Katsugurō's Revenge

Given the characters, this kyogen must be based around the story Katsugorō's Revenge from The Hakone Reigen Izari Ktaki-uchi, a summary of which follows.

Source: Tales from Old Japanese Dramas, Asataro Miyamori and Stanley Hughes, G.P. Putnam's Sons, The Knickerbocker Press, 1915, p. 273-322.
Sampei, a valiant warrior and retainer of the regent Hideyoshi, saves the life of a fellow samurai Gōsuke (later to change his name to Kōzuke), who is as dishonest and deceitful as Sampei is upright and honest.  True to his nature, Gōsuke, rather than being grateful, is jealous of Sampei.  He tries to steal Sampei's girlfriend Okatsu and when she won't respond to his advances he attacks and kills Sampei and then murders Okatsu.

Sampei has a younger brother named Katsugorō who regards his older brother as his father, as their father died when he was quite young and he was raised by Katsugorō.  Katsugorō requests Hideyoshi's permission to avenge his brother's death and he is joined in this vendetta by Fudesuke, the servant of his dead brother.  For over four years they wander incognito through the provinces looking for Gōsuke, but to no avail.

Finally Katsugorō learns that Gōsuke has taken refuge with Hōjō Ujimasa, a relative of Gōsuke's.  Katsugorō assumes the name Michisuke and gets a job working for the Hōjō clan's fencing instructor Shinzayemon.  Michisuke falls in love with Shinzayemon's beautiful daughter, the 17 year old Hatsuhana, who returns his affections.  Gōsuke tries to steal Hatsuhana's affections but is rejected by her.  Over time, Hatsuhana's passion for Michisuke grows but Michisuke must fulfill his task of vengence and will not accede to marriage.   She begs her parents to arrange a marriage with Michisuke which they agree to, as they are trying to keep Gōsuke, who they know is a murderer and scoundrel, away from their daughter.

Shinzayemon is summoned to H
ōjō's castle and ordered to kill Michisuke, as Hōjō has been told by Gōsuke that Michisuke is an impersonator and is really Katsugorō.  Rather than kill Katsugorō, Shinzayemon commits harakiri but before he dies he asks Katsugorō to promise and make Hatsuhana his wife.  As Shinzayemon lies dying, Katsugorō marries Hatsuhana.  Knowing that Hōjō will now send troops after him, he escapes with Hatsuhana and plans his revenge on Gōsuke.

For many long months they wander about suffering great hardship which reduces them to begging and makes Katsugorō lame.  When they are attacked on the road by the evil Hōjō-appointed governor Mizoguchi, they are aided by a passerby, who turns out to be the servant Fudesuke, who had been searching to no avail for Gōsuke this entire time.  They all take refuge at Hakone, where Hatsuhana goes every morning and evening to the waterfall of Shirataki at Tonosawa, where she stands in the column of icy water, fervently praying to the god Gongen to cure her husband.

While in the Hakone area, Fudesuke, through much trickery, finds out that Gōsuke will be passing by as part of Hōjō's retinue.  Fudesuke goes off and two of Gōsuke's spies spring upon Katsugorō who, despite his lameness, throws them off.  Suddenly, who should appear but Gōsuke.  Limping and grabbing the hilt of his sword, Katsugorō cries out: "I am glad to meet you, Gōsuke.  I have suffered many long years in search of you.  My opportunity for revenge has come!  Come, prepare to fight with me!"  Hatsuhana also draws her dirk and cries:  "My father has committed suicide on your account.  His death shall now be revenged!"  However, the cowardly Gōsuke is prepared and orders his retainers to drag out Hatsuhana's mother, Sawarabi, who he has kidnapped.  He then says to Hatsuhana, "I have ruined your house, and arrested your mother.  If you will give up your crippled husband and yield to me, I will restore your house, and consider Sawarabi as my mother-in-law.  If you refuse, I will kill your mother and your husband.  Their fate entirely depends on your answer.  Let me hear it at once."

The lame and ill Katsugorō is struck dumb by these words and collapses.  As Gōsuke is about to kill him and Sawarabi, Hatsuhana submits to him.  Gōsuke takes her away and leaves Sawarabi and Katsugorō overwhelmed and speechless with emotion. 

Katsugorō prays to Buddha, and while repeating the prayer "Namu Amida Butsu!" an apparition of Hatsuhana appears to perform her last penance at the waterfall and offer her 100th prayer to Gongen.  Plunging into the basin of the falls with a splash, standing just below the column of icy water with her long hair flowing down her shoulders, she prays fervently.  At the completion of her prayers, one of Gōsuke's spies springs forth and attacks Katsugorō from behind.  Responding, as if fully recovered, Katsugorō cuts off the spy's head and proclaims, "I am cured! Hatsuhana's prayers have been answered!  May Gongen be praised."  Hatsuhana's apparition cries "What glad news?  Thanks be to Gongen!" and then vanishes.

Fudesuke returns, finding Katsugorō well, but must tell him that Hatsuhana has met a cruel death at the hands of Gōsuke, after she tried to kill him.  Katsugorō and Sawarabi know now that it was Hatsuhana's ghost that returned to pray in the waterfall.  Fudesuke then informs Katsugorō that Gōsuke will pass Hakone the next morning and that they can kill him then. 

The next morning, a great fight ensues with Fudesuke, Sawarabi and, finally, Katsugorō, battling with Gōsuke.  When at last Katsugorō cuts Gōsuke down, stabbing him in the throat, he exclaims, "My brother is now avenged" and Sawarabi and Fudesuke cry, "My husband and daughter are now avenged!" and "My lord is now avenged."

In recognition of their perseverance and heroic revenge, the Regent Taikō restores the family estate of Katsugorō and appoints Fudesuke as his chief retainer.  Sawarabi is then afforded the kindness and respect she is due and the three of them live happily ever after.

The Actors Pictured

For background on the actors Ichikawa Kuzo III, Nakamura Shikan IV, Onoe Taganojō II, and Sawamura Tosshi VII see their respective entries in the article The Kabuki Actor on this site.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #592
 Title (Description) September Kyōgen at the Asakusa-za
 Artist  Toyohara Kunichika (1835–1900)
 Signature Toyohara Kunichika hitsu with toshidama seal
 Seal  none
 Publication Date 1893
 Fukuda Kumajirō 福田熊次郎; Address Nihobahsi-ku Hasegawachō 19-banchi [Marks: 30-046; pub. ref. 071]
二代目彫栄 (Nisei daimeuo? Hori Ei)
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition fair- trimmed to image; backed with heavy papers; numerous small wormholes
 Genre ukiyo-e; yakusha-e
 Format vertical oban triptych
 H x W Paper
 14 1/8 x 9 1/4 in. (35.9 x 23.5 cm) each sheet
 Decadence and Dissolution: Tattoo and Kabuki Art by Kunichika, Ukiyoe-Master Series: Volume Four, Jack Hunter, ed., Solar Books, 2012, p. 150
 Collections This Print