October’s delivery from Japan

This 1887 print features Ichikawa Danjūrō IX as the central figure, a lion dancer – accompanied in the dance by his butterfly attendants. It is known that Danjūrō actually wrote this dance for his 2 daughters (Ichikawa Suisen II & Ichikawa Kyokubai II) to perform with him.

This trio of prints is from a large and very beautiful bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women) series contrasting keishas with scenes representing popular restaurants. The series was produced in 1870-71 and is called “Thirty Six Tokyo Restaurants” (東京三十六会席). There are many restaurant series and I suspect that the owners of the restaurants paid for them to be featured so they were early forms of printed advertising.

I chose this print primarily because I liked the hat on the right-most character and the furs on the left side. The print is called “Bandō Hikosaburō V, Nakamura Shikan IV, Sawamura Tosshō II & Ichikawa Sadanji I in a play about “Ryōjin Wataru Heiji” (猟人弥平治) performed from August 1875”. 

Various actors plus Ichikawa Danjūrō IX in the play “Okige no kumo harau Asagochi” (西南雲晴朝東風) at the Shintomi-za from 23rd February 1878. This is another print from one of the most popular plays of its age. 

Here are a couple of interesting prints that show exactly the same scene from 2 runs of this design.

Here is an unusual close-up composition of the classic scene from “Kanjinchō”, “the Subscription List”. The play features Prince Minamoto Yoshitsune, who is accompanied by his loyal retainer Benkei as they try to cross the country disguised as wandering priests. They encounter a road block manned by an aristocrat called Togashi and the play centres around how Benkei skilfully tricks his way around Togashi. Togashi claims that priests collecting money would be expected to have a list of subscribers (a kanjinchō) and although Benkei doesn’t have one (and Togashi knows this) they proceed to duel in words until Togashi allows them through, understanding Benkei’s skill and great loyalty to his master.  

The next scene is unremarkable, except for the gorgeous red asa-no-ha design backdrop, but I love to collect any yakusha-e by Adachi Ginkō because so little is known about him – but he seems to have studied Kunichika’s style very closely. 

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