The Battles of Coxinga (Kokusen'ya Kassen), Act 1

Utagawa Kunikazu (active 1848-1868)

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

The Battles of Coxinga (Kokusen'ya Kassen), Act 1

by Utagawa Kunikazu, 1859

Police Confront Burglar in Kabuki Theater

IHL Cat. #689

About This Print

Act 1 of the play The Battles of Coxinga written by Japan's great Edo-period playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon (近松 門左衛門 1653-1724).

Source: website of Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Scripps College 2012.14.1
To the left is Jitsukawa Ensaburō 実川延三郎 as Watōnai; in the center is Arashi Kichisaburō III 嵐吉三郎 as Kanki; to the right, Bandō Hikosaburō V 坂東彦三郎 as Kinshōjō. The image depicts a performance given at the Kado Theater in Osaka January 1859.

The Play

Source: website of Calisphere University of California
"The Battles of Coxinga/ Kokusenya kassen is based on the true adventures of Coxinga/ Watonai, a warrior of Chinese and Japanese parentage, who fought for the restoration of the Ming Chinese government after its defeat in the 17th c. by Manchu invaders. In the kabuki play Watonai joined forces with Kinshojo, his Chinese step-sister, and Kanki, her husband."

A Deluxe Printing

As with many theater prints published in Osaka, a deluxe edition of this print was created, as seen below. Note in particular the differences in Watonai's costume on the left and the stage curtain on the right.

 "Kokusenya Kassen" Act 1, 1859
Utagawa Kunikazu, Japanese, (1830–1910)
9 13/16 x 21 1/4 in. (24.92 x 53.98 cm)
Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Scripps College 2012.14.1

Osaka Region Prints - Kamigata-e (Osaka-e)

While Edo/Tokyo was the dominant center of woodblock print production, Osaka was an important regional production center focusing on the Osaka theater. Osaka actor prints (kamigata-e) took on a different, smaller (chūban-size) and less spectacular, appearance than those produced in Edo/Tokyo. While Edo audiences demanded their fire and brimstone, Osaka kabuki patrons craved intricate, heartrending plots.

Kawasaki Kyosen (1841-1899) the son of Yoshitaki and a print designer himself, provides a glimpse into the start of the design process in his account of the Osaka print making process, as follows:

In those days, certain Osaka publishers set out to the theaters on opening day with the artists who drew actors’ likenesses. The dividers were removed from four or five boxes right in the middle of the floor section of the theater and spread with rugs. Tables were set up with brushes and paper, and all was made ready to sketch the happenings on stage. The artist sat in the middle, with the proprietor of the publishing house and his clerks alongside. Besides them, some first-class female entertainers managed the food and drink, so things were quite lively. This was a form of promotion, as much as to say that actor prints were being designed for this performance.1 – an account by the artist’s son, Kawasaki Kyosen (1841-1899)

1 The Theatrical World of Osaka Prints, Roger S. Keyes and Keiko Mizushima, David R. Godine in association with Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1973 p. 318. For a complete transcript see the article "Production of Actor Prints in Osaka" on this site at

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description Kokusen'ya, Act 1 国性爺 卷一 
 Battles of Coxinga 
 Series N/A
 Artist Utagawa Kunikazu (active 1848-1868)
left: 国員 Kunikazu (signature on center panel)
right: 国員 Kunikazu (signature on left panel)

 Seal not sealed
 Publication Date 1859 
 unknown - no publisher's marks on print
 Impression good
 Colors excellent
 Condition excellent
 Genre ukiyo-e; yakusha-e
 Format vertical chuban
 H x W Paper 
 right: 10 x 7 1/16 in. (25.4 x 17.9 cm) 
 center: 10 x 6 15/16 in. (25.4 x 17.6 cm)
 left: 10 x 7 3/16 in. (25.4 x 18.3 cm)
 H x W Image right: 10 x 7 1/16 in. (25.4 x 17.9 cm) 
 center: 10 x 6 15/16 in. (25.4 x 17.6 cm)
 left: 10 x 7 3/16 in. (25.4 x 18.3 cm)

 Collections This Print
 Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Scripps College 2012.14.1
latest revision:
5/31/2021 created