Soga Brothers New Year's Farce

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 


(Soga Brothers New Year's Farce)

by Toyohara Kunichika, 1878

The actors Onoe Kikugorō V, Ichikawa Danjūrō IX and Ichikawa Sadanji I (in the play Matsu no sakae Chiyoda no shintoku)

IHL Cat. #616

About This Print

Much discussion has ensued over what play, or plays, or scenes are being depicted in this untitled triptych issued in January 1878.  The center panel presents us with Ichikawa Danjurō IX as Kudō Suketsune and Ichikawa Sadanji as (Soga no) Gorō Tokimune, characters in the Soga Brothers Revenge1, a variation of which is traditionally staged in the beginning of the New Year.   The left panel depicts Danjurō, again, playing a priest or monk with the  partial name Mitsume 三つ目 (literally, "third-eye") and Iwai Hanshirō VIII playing a princess, possibly named Otohime おとひめ.  In the right panel we see the god of wealth, Daikokuten 大黒天, played by Onoe Kikugorō V, carrying a giant daikon 大根, played by a Bandō family actor. (The bottom character's in the yellow cartouche to the right of the daikon remain unread, below the characters 坂東 for the name Bandō.)  While an actor dressed as a daikon appears in the Soga Brothers related play Yanone, it appears in the scene where Gorō, discovering that his brother is in trouble,  jumps on the horse of a passing daikon vendor and, brandishing a giant daikon as a whip, prepares to rush to his brother's side.  Daikoku neither carries a giant radish in Yanone, nor does he appear in this play, so any association with Yanone is tenuous.  Lynn Katsumoto, Research Associate at the Portland Art Museum, was kind enough to look in the Kabuki Nenpyo, but found no mention of a play(s) that matched this print. 

One might wonder whether the presence of the daikon in this print suggests that there was some "ham" acting going on as audiences would insult bad actors using the infamous word daikon (meaning "ham").

1 The Soga Brothers Revenge, one of the most popular vendetta stories in Kabuki, tells of Jurō's and Gorō's suffering for eighteen years before being able to avenge the death of their father who was murdered by Kudō Suketsune.

The Actors Pictured

For information on the actors see the article The Kabuki Actor on this site.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #616
 Title (Description) untitled (Soga Brothers New Year's farce)
 Artist  Toyohara Kunichika (1835–1900)
 Signature Toyohara Kunichika hitsu
 Seal  red Toshidama seal beneath signature
 Publication Date
January 14, 1878
Note: This image has been enhanced for readability.
Tamura Tetsujirō 田村鉄治郎
Left cartouche - Tamura Tetsujirō - address in Honjo (Ishihara-chō 11 banchi) [Marks: Publisher ref. 530]
Right cartouche - artist's name 荒川八十八 (Arakawa Yasohachi, the artist's given name) followed by his address
Note: this image of the publisher's seal and artist's name and address has been enhanced for readability as the black ink in which the seal is printed on the dark blue ink of the background renders it almost invisible.  It is located on the right edge of the left panel.

 Carver Horikō Hira 彫工平
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good- trimmed to image; separate sheets; not backed; minor soiling
 Genre ukiyo-e; nigao-e; yakusha-e
 Format vertical oban triptych
 H x W Paper
 13 3/4 x 9 1/4 in. (34.9 x 23.5 cm) each sheet
 Collections This Print