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Nōgakuzue, Kayoi Komachi


 Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Kayoi Komachi 通小町

(The Courtship of Komachi)

from the series Nōgakuzue

by Tsukioka Kōgyo, 1899

Nōgakuzue, Shiga

IHL Cat. #1929

About This Print

One of 261 prints from the series Nōgakuzue (Illustrations of Noh), depicting a scene from the play Kayoi Komachewritten by Kanami (1333-1384), in which the ghost Komachi asks a priest to pray for her soul while being held back by her former suitor's (Shōshō's) ghost.

For background on the Noh theater see the article on this site "Noh - A Brief Summary by Beata Kubiak Ho-Chi".

Museum Commentary:
In this scene, Ono no Komachi’s ghost asks the Buddhist monk (shown at right) to pray for her rebirth in the Pure Land, but Fukakusa no Shosho’s spirit, filled with anger and regret over his failed efforts to win her, grabs Komachi’s sleeve and declares he won’t let her go. The inset inscription records his lines that he will be like a steadfast dog following his earthly desires and will never leave her side; the second inset shows an angry dog.

When the ghost of the great beauty and poet Ono no Komachi asks a wandering priest (right) to pray for her soul, she is held back by the ghost of a former suitor, Shii no Shosho. He had sacrificed his life in a vain effort to prove his love and cannot bear to have her leave him again. Komachi: Would you still have me suffer The tortures of hell? Shosho: Even when we suffered them together The pains were grievous, But if you alone attain The Way of the Buddha You will add to the weight I bear Yet another cloak of sorrow, Piling grief on grief.

Right Margin Description of Scene
click on image to enlarge

The Play - Kayoi Komachi (The Courtship of Komachi) by Kanami

Source: A Guide to No, P.G. O'Neill, Hinoki Shoten, 1929, p.75-76.


Waki - a priest
Tsure - Ono no Komachi
Shite - Fukakusa no Shōshō

A priest who is spending the summer in the mountain village of Yase is brought wood and fruit every day by an unknown woman.  When he asks who she is, he realizes from her reply that she is the ghost of Ono no Komachi, the poetess of old who was so famed for her beauty.  He therefore goes to her grave and prays.  At this, her spirit and that of her most ardent suitor, Fukakusa no Shōshō, appear and tell the priest of the trial Komachi set him.  She promised herself to him if he came to her house every night for a hundred nights, but after braving all manner of obstacles to fulfill his task, he failed on the hundredth night.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #1929
 Title Kayoi Komachi 通小町 (The Courtship of Komachi)
 Series Nōgakuzue 能樂圖繪 (Illustrations of Noh)
 Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927)
Kōgyo 耕漁
 Seal White letter seal in a rectangular shape: 年久 [Toshihisa] (as shown above)
 [ref. seal #57, p. 170 in The Beauty of Silence]
 Date is trimmed from the left margin of this collection's print. The Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University lists the dates as follows:
Printed on January 10, 1899 / Issued on January 16?, 1899
 Edition unknown
 Publisher Matsuki Heikichi (Daikokuya Heikichi 大黒屋平) [Marks: pub. ref. 029] Publishing information is trimmed from the left margin.
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - minor soiling; original album backing; left margin trimmed
 Genre ukiyo-e; 能楽図絵 Nōgaku zue [Noh play picture]
 Miscellaneous The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston notes Part II, Section I, kōhen, jō  後編、上下
 Format ōban yoko-e
 H x W Paper 9 1/2 x 14 in. (24.1 x 35.6 cm)
 H x W Image
 8 13/16 x 13 in. (22.4 x 33 cm) area within printed black border
 Collections This PrintArt Research Center, Ritsumeikan University arcUP0958 (January 16, 1899); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 53.2928.14 (January 10, 1899); Art Institute Chicago 1939.2258.113 (1898?); University of Pittsburgh 20091209-kogyo-0290 (c. 1899); Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery 2007.1.154 (1904);  Japan Arts Council BK014-137 (?); The Walters Art Museum 95.248 (c. 1899); The British Museum 1949,0409,0.43 (1899)
 Reference Literature
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