Hirosada, Mimasu Daigoro IV as Namiki Shoza and Nakamura Utaemon IV as Danshichi Mohei

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Mimasu Daigoro IV as Namiki Shoza and Nakamura Utaemon IV as Danshichi Mohei in Shigure no Karakasa, 1851. Deluxe Chuban Diptych.

Click here for a detailed enlargement.

The story of Danshichi is one of the most reproduced in kabuki theatre prints. Perhaps there was something in Danshichi’s hapless, well-meaning, flawed personality that struck a chord with the rebellious and restless townsmen of Edo and Osaka. There are several versions of the play and several plays with the character Danshichi as the lead. In all productions, Danshichi is a dishonoured man, earning his living as a fishmonger because he lost a valuable sword belonging to his master, a samurai. He intends to retrieve it and its accompanying certificate of authenticity, but this is complicated by his rival Kazuemon who wants not only the sword but also Danshichi’s lover, the courtesan Tomi (Otomi). In this version of the play, the authors have inserted the actual playwright Namiki Shozo I (1730 - 1773) as a central character. Keyes describes the action in the closing scenes, where Danshichi has recovered the sword but fails to see the role that his lover has played in it:

At the moment that Danshichi is about to strike Tomi, a crowd appears led by Namiki Shozo, the author of the play. Shozo remonstrates with [Danshichi], begging him to be patient and control his temper. As the author, he is aware that Tomi’s estrangement is  only feigned, that the heirloom sword will be recovered through her self-sacrificing efforts... He knows, in other words, that the story has a happy ending. He cannot say this however; nor can he control the actions of his character who now displays a life and will of his own. (Keyes, Hirosada: Osaka Printmaker, UAM/CSULB 1984 p. 117.)

Danshichi, who in the original play has tattooed himself to control his temper, runs amok, killing many people before taking his own life. The original play is about the virtues of self control - of maintaining one’s temper. This later version seems to be a compelling interrogation of theatre as theatre in the modern sense. The print shows Danshichi at left and the author seated with his ink stone and brush on a small table.

A lovely print. Colour, condition and impression are all fine.

A copy of this print is in the collection of the MFA in Boston.

38 x 25 cm.