Iyo [Province], Asashio Tarō

Tsuneshige (active 1894-1904?)

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

Iyo [Province], Asahio Tarō

by Shunsai Toshimasa, 1890/1901


IHL Cat. #1900

About This Print

Asashio Tarō I (1864 - 1920)
while performing the dohyo-iri, a ring-entering ceremony.
Asashio Tarō I (November 28, 1864 – August 26, 1920) was a sumō wrestler from Ehime Prefecture (formerly Iyo Province). He wrestled professionally from 1890 until his retirement in January 1908. The highest rank he obtained was ōzeki.

A Very Brief Summary of Sumo and Sumo-e
Sources: "Sumo and the Japanese Print Artists", Lawrence R. Bickford appearing  in Impressions, No. 2,  Japanese Art Society of America, October, 1978, p. 1-4; Ukiyo-e: The Art of the Japanese Print, Frederick Harris, Tuttle, 2010. p. 98; Seeing Stars, Sports Celebrity, Identity, and Body Culture in Modern Japan, Dennis J. Frost, Harvard University Press, 2010, p. 40.

Although its origins are centuries old, sumō 相撲 gained its great popularity in the early Edo period. Today, sumō is considered by many Japan's unofficial national sport. With the rise in popularity of sumō, and ukiyo-e woodblock prints, came a demand for prints depicting the sumō stars of the day. As they did with other popular subjects, print publishers created woodblock prints to tap into this demand and fans could purchase prints at matches.
click on image to enlarge
Woodblock prints picturing the sport and individual sumō wrestlers date to the 1770s, to the artist Katsukawa Shunshō (1726-1792) and his followers (the "school" of Katsukawa.) (See image right.)

An impressive part of sumō-e are the depictions of the kesho-mawashi (ceremonial brocaded aprons) worn by wrestlers. These 
 Sumo Wrestlers of the
Eastern Group: Kurateyama
Yadayu (right), and Izumigawa Rin-‘emon (left), c. 1780
Katsukawa Shunshō 勝川春章
source: Art Institute Chicago 1959.594
aprons, originally bestowed by daimyō upon the professional wrestlers they retained as a "badge of accomplishment," became increasingly splendid in appearance as daimyō competed with each other in this display of ornamental finery used in classical sumō ritual in the ring.

In the late 1820s, the dominant school for sumō-e became that of Utagawa Kunisada's (1786-1865). It is estimated that Kunisada alone designed over 700 sumō-e.1 As Japan entered the Meiji Era in 1868 and the daimyō lost much of their wealth and powersumō lost sponsorship. In addition, its ritual and violence was seen by many in the new government as being incompatible with the adoption of Western customs and institutions. Sumō would go into decline up until its resurrection by Emperor Meiji in 1884, when he called for an imperial tournament, leading to its resurgence. The sumō prints by Toshimasa, which do not carry a date, can be dated from this time of resurgence until the last gasps of ukiyo-e in the early 1900s.

1 http://www.kunisada.de/Kunisada-Sumo/Sumo.htm

Same Wrestler, Same Publisher, Same Artist
Different Kesho-mawashi 
click on image to enlarge

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description Iyo, Asashio Tarō 
 伊豫 朝汐太郎
 Artist Utagawa (Shunsai) Toshimasa (1866-1913)
Shunsai hitsu 春斎筆
 Seal no seal
 Publication Date not dated - wrestler's career and publisher seal suggest a date of between 1890 and 1901
Daikokuya Heikichi  大黒屋平吉

seal reading: 東京 両国 大平製 hon Tokyo Ryōgoku Daihei sei
[Marks: pub. ref. 029; seal ref. 24-044 - Marks dates the use of this seal to 1901]

 Carvernot shown on print
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - not backed; full size; paper wrinkling throughout
 Genre ukiyo-e; sumō-e
 Format vertical oban
 H x W Paper 
 14 3/16 x 9 11/16 in. (36.2 x 24.1 cm)
 H x W Image 13 7/8 x 9 3/16 in. (35.1 x 22.2 cm)
 Collections This Print
 Library of Congress Control Number 2008660137
last revision:
5/1/2020 created