Tokyo, Konishiki Yasokichi

Tsuneshige (active 1894-1904?)

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

Tokyo, Konishiki Yasokichi

by Shunsai Toshimasa, 1884/1889


IHL Cat. #1899

About This Print

Konishiki Yasokichi, Yokozuna 1896-1901, while performing the dohyo-iri, a ring-entering ceremony.
Source: Wikipedia Konishiki
Yasokichi I 小錦八十吉 (1866-1914) was a sumo wrestler from Musha District, Kazusa Province. (Note that this print’s title identifies his home area as Tokyo rather than the pre-Meiji province of Kazusa.) Konishiki made his professional debut in May 1883 and reached the top makuuchi division in May 1888. He won 39 bouts in a row after his makuuchi debut. Konishiki was promoted to ōzeki in May 1890, and awarded a yokozuna licence by the house of Yoshida Tsukasa in March 1896. He was the sport's 17th yokozuna.

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 
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
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 left.)

An impressive part of sumō-e are their depictions of the kesho-mawashi (ceremonial brocaded aprons) worn by wrestlers. These 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.


Same Wrestler, Same Publisher, Different Artist
Different Kesho-mawashi 

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description Tokyo, Konishiki Yasokichi 
 東京 小錦八十吉
 Artist Utagawa (Shunsai) Toshimasa (1866-1913)
Shunsai hitsu 春斎筆
 Seal no seal
 Publication Date not dated - between 1884 and 1889. The wrestler depicted in this print, Konishiki Yasokichi I, madehis professional debut in May 1883 and retired in January 1901. In May 1894, Emperor Meiji called for an imperial tournament resurrecting the sport. The publisher of this print, Daikokuya Heikichi, also published another printof Konishiki, identical to the Toshimasa print of Konishiki with the exception of adifferent keshō-mawashi (ceremonial aprons), which carries the signature of the artistInoue Tankei (Inoue Yasuji) who died in 1889. The above indicate a production date for this print of between 1884 and 1889. This print has been dated by other to between 1870 and 1875, likely based on the particular Daikokuya publisher seal used, but this date is not consistent with the above information and  and the use of an older seal on a print is not unheard of.
Daikokuya Heikichi  大黒屋平吉

seal reading: 本 両国大平板 hon Ryōgoku Daihei han
[Marks: pub. ref. 029; seal ref. 22-094]

 Carver not shown on print
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - not backed; full size; paper wrinkling throughout
 Genre ukiyo-e; sumo-e
 Format vertical oban
 H x W Paper 
 14 1/4 x 9 1/2 in. (36.2 x 24.1 cm)
 H x W Image 13 13/16 x 8 3/4 in. (35.1 x 22.2 cm)
 Collections This Print
 Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco 1963.50.5607
last revision:
5/1/2020 created