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Nōga taikan, Kumasaka


 Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Kumasaka 熊坂

(The Robber)

from the series Nōga taikan

by Tsukioka Kōgyo, 1925-1930

IHL Cat. #176

About This Print

One of 200 prints issued as part of the series ga taikan (Encyclopedia of Noh Plays), it depicts a scene from the play Kumasaka by the playwright Zenchiku Ujinobu (1405-1468) in which the outlaw lay priest Kumasaka appears with a scarf tied round his head and a long pike over his shoulder to tell of his killing by Ushikawa.

For another depiction of this play to the artist see Nōgakuzue, Kumasaka.

One of Thirteen Prints from The Lavenberg Collection

loaned to the Portland Art Museum for the

Special Exhibition

NOH Dance Drama of the Samurai NOV 17, 2012 – FEB 24, 2013

The Play - Kumasaka

Source: A Guide to No, P.G. O'Neill, Hinoki Shoten, 1929, p.89.

By Zenchiku
Fifth Group
All Noh schools


Act 1:
Waki - a traveling priest
Shite - the ghost of Kumasaka in the form of a priest
Kyōgen - a local person

Act 2:
Nochi-shite - Kumasaka no Chōban

A travelling priest stops at Akasaka in Mino Province and meets another priest who, after talking with him, gives him lodging for the night.  This second priest is in reality the ghost of Kumasaka no Chôhan, a robber, and in the dream of the real priest that night the spirit appears and describers how he was killed by the young Ushikawa.  

Source: The Nō Plays of Japan, Arthur Waley, BiblioLife, 2009 (originally published 1921)

                I was thinking.


He was thinking as he went,
"Though this stripling slash so bravely,
Yet should Kumasaka employ his secret art,--
Then though the boy be ogre or hobgoblin,
Waist-strangled he would be pressed to dust."
"I will avenge the fallen," he cried, and, turning back,
He levelled his pike ;and sheltered behind the wattled door,
Waiting for the urchin to come.
Ushiwaka saw him, and drawing his sword held it close to his side,
Stood apart and watched. But Kumasaka too stood with his pike ready.
Each was waiting for the other to spring.
Then Kumasaka lost patience. He lunged with his left foot and with his pike
Struck a blow that would have pierced an iron wall.
But Ushiwaka parried it lightly and sprang to the left.
Kumasaka was after him in a moment, and as he sprang nimbly over the pike, 
Turned the point towards him.
But as he drew back the pike, Ushiwaka crossed to the right.
Then levelling the pike, Kumasaka struck a great blow.
This time the boy parried it with a blow that disengaged them,
And springing into the air leapt hither and thither with invisible speed.
And while the robber sought him,
The wonderful boy pranced behind and stuck his sword through a chink in his coat of mail.
"Hey, what is that?" cried Kumasaka. "Has this urchin touched me?"
And he was very angry.
But soon Heaven's fatal ordinance was sealed by despair:
"This sword-play brings me no advantage," he cried; "I will wrestle with him."
Then he threw away his pike, and spreading out his great hands, p. 68
Down this corridor and into this corner he chased him, but when he would have grasped him,
Like lightning, mist, moonlight on the water,--
The eye could see, but the hand could not touch.


I was wounded again and again.


He was wounded many times, till the fierce strength of his spirit weakened and weakened. Like dew upon the moss that grows.

Noh performance of Kumasaka

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #176
 Title Kumasaka 熊坂 (The Robber)
 Series Nōga taikan 能画大鑑(Encyclopedia of Noh Plays or A Great Mirror of Noh Pictures or A Great Collection of Noh Pictures)
 Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927)
 Date 1925-1930
 Edition unknown
 Publisher Seibi Shoten (or Seibi Shoin), Tokyo
 Carver Uchida Eikichi
 Printer Yoshida Takesaburō
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition excellent - minor flaws ; not backed
 Genre ukiyo-e
 Format oban yoko-e
 H x W Paper 10 x 14 1/4 in. (25.4 x 36.2 cm)
 Collections This Print 
 Reference Literature