Gosotei Hirosada (ca.1810 - 1864) Kasa Ippon-ashi (One Legged Umbrella Demon) 1855. Chuban.
This is one of my favourite prints in the show... a terrific image, haunting and mysterious; but what is going on with this strange man inside an umbrella? The print depicts Kasa Ippon-ashi or Kasa-obake, the one legged umbrella ghost. The ghost is in fact a Tsukumogami, an 'artefact spirit'. In Japanese tradition when objects achieve their one hundredth birthday they become alive and aware. They occupy much the same position as poltergeists in western culture. Tsukumogami rarely cause harm but are prone to playing tricks and harmless pranks. Some are more popular than others; hence the umbrella demon is common, as are sandal demons and lantern demons. Tsukumogami should perhaps be rehabilitated since they become angry at people who are wasteful or who thoughtlessly throw away useful objects.
This print is so entertaining. The picture represents a kabuki actor in the part of Kasa-obake. Kasa-obake is usually portrayed as one eyed with an enormous tongue, though here the restrictions of the staging mean that the actor has limited his portrayal to the umbrella and tying his leg up in order to hop around the stage.
The print is in good condition, strong colour and a fine impression. The black is burnished and this rare print remains a very early, polished example of an enduring myth.
Kasa-obake remains very popular in modern culture. There are many plastic toys of the creature and it appears in many anime cartoons and movies. A particularly entertaining example is here on Youtube.