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Hayano Kanpei from the series Legends of the Loyal Retainers

Jōruri Chūshingura Nidan me Sannin Yakko from the play Chushingura Sugata no Eawase

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Hayano Kanpei from the series

Legends of the Loyal Retainers

by Utagawa Kunisada II, 1863

IHL Cat. #631
IHL Cat. #927

About This Print

This print, in its two variations, pictures the character Hayano Kanpei from the play Kanadehon Chūshingura (TheTreasury of Loyal Retainers; a.k.a. The Forty-Seven Ronin).  The play is based on the real-life Akō Incident (1701-1703) in which forty-seven retainers of Lord Asano (the character Enya Hangan in the play) take revenge against the shogun's court official Kira Yoshinaka (the character Ko no Moronao in the play), whose actions caused the death of their lord.  The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum Digital Archives Collection identifies the actor playing Hayano Kanpei as Ichimura Kakitsu IV 市村家橘, although the actor's name does not appear on the print.

The cartouches in the upper right corners, onemulti-colored and the other yellow, give the name of the series, Legends of the Loyal Retainers, and the name of the character portrayed is given to the immediate left of these cartouches, in this case Hayano Kanpei 早野勘平. The background script may provide an account of Yuranosuke's role in the play or actual lines spoken by the character.

The version on the right does not carry a publisher's seal and may have been a type of proof or trial print, despite its inspection (aratami) seal.  

To read more about the representations of Chūshingura in woodblock prints see the article on this site Chūshingura (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers) in Woodblock Prints.

Three Related Series

Note: Please reference the images under "Three Related Series" on the page for the print Ōboshi Yuranosuke (IHL Cat. #630) for the below discussion.

I have located eleven similar appearing prints that at first glance appear to be part of the same series.  However, the series titles which appear in the prints' cartouches are not all the same.  Nine of the prints bear the series title Legends of the Loyal Retainers [Gishi eimei den no uchi 義士英名伝(傳)之内], one print bears the series title Legends Related to the Loyal Retainers (Gishi gaiden no uchi 義士外伝之内) and one print bears the series title Stories of Virtuous Women (Teijo eimeiden no uchi 貞女英名伝之内). The prints were not all published in the same year, with two published in 1863 and the remainder published in 1866.   At least two of the prints appear to form a diptych and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has grouped three of the prints as a triptych. Scene names (shown beneath the figure portrayed) from the play Kanadehon Chūshingura are given on several of the prints and it is likely that the others also correspond to particular scenes in the play.

The Actual Events: The Akō Incident (1701-03)

The so-called Akō Incident began on April 21, 1701, when the lord of Akō, Asano Naganori, drew his sword in a corridor of Edo Castle and slashed the senior bakufu protocol official, Kira Yoshinaka, in retaliation for a perceived slight.  While Kira suffered only a light wound, Asano was arrested and ordered to commit seppuku later the same day, largely for drawing his sword in the Castle. His estate was confiscated and dissolved leaving his retainers without jobs, or as ronin.  Forty-seven of these ronin signed an oath to avenge their lord by killing Kira and twenty-one months later attacked his Edo mansion, took his head, and marched across the city to the temple of Sengakuji, where they placed it before the grave of their master and surrendered. After almost two months of debate, the bakufu ordered the seppuku of the ronin and on March 20, 1703 they committed ritual suicide. Their ashes were interred at Sengakuji.

Hayano Kanpei and his real-life counterpart Kayano Sanpei

The theatrical adaptation of the Akō Incident, Kanadehon Chūshingura or simply Chūshingura, combined historical characters from the Akō Incident, assigning them thinly disguised fictitious names, along with unrelated historical characters and fictional characters, mostly added to spice up the play with erotica.  Hayano Kanpei is the fictitious name in the play for the real-life Kayano Sanpei, a young retainer of Asano's, who was caught in the dilemma of agreeing to be part of the revenge plot against Kira and then being offered into the service of another lord by his parents.  Trapped in a situation where he will either disgrace his family by not fulfilling their offer of his service or disgracing himself by not fulfilling his pledge of revenge, he commits suicide.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #631 and #927
 Title/Description Hayano Kanpei 早野勘平
 Series Legends of the Loyal Retainers (Gishi eimei den no uchi 義士英名伝(傳)之内)
 Utagawa Kunisada II (1823-1880)
 Baichōrō Kunisada ga 梅蝶楼国貞画
 Seal None
 Publication Date
inspection and date seal 亥四改 1863 (bunkyū 3), 4th month
Sagamiya Tōkichi 相模屋 藤吉, seal name 'Shitaya Aito' 下谷 相ト  [Marks: pub. ref. 435; seal 24-009]
Seal is absent on print #927.
 Impression #631 excellent
 #927 good
 Colors #631 excellent
 #927 excellent
 Condition #631 good - numerous worm holes repaired from back
 #927 - good - general soiling; minor wrinkling
 Genre ukiyo-e; yakusha-e
 Format Vertical Oban
 H x W Paper #631 14 3/8 x 9 5/8 in. (36.5 x 24.4 cm)
 #927 14 5/8 x 9 3/4 in. (37.1 x 24.8 cm)
 Collections This Print The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University 100-1478

 Reference Literature