ANDO HIROSHIGE
BASIL STEWART: A GUIDE TO JAPANESE PRINTS


CHAPTER XXXI

CHUSHINGURA BROTHER-PICTURES

BY Brother-Pictures are meant scenes from the play which are adapted or compared to everyday scenes in life, parodied by women or Yoshiwara beauties, or acted by children in play.

The artist who turned his attention to illustrating the Chushingura in this form more than any other was Utamaro, doubtless because he declined to paint actors or theatrical scenes as such, yet designed these brother-pictures as a kind of compromise between his aversion to the theatre as a subject for his brush, and the public demand for dramatic prints.

His best-known set of this nature is one with the title Chushingura, in which scenes from the play are compared to various incidents in everyday life, one act of which we reproduce at Plate 51.

The scene parodied is given in an inset in the top corner, together with the title and number of the act on a narrow label. Large size, upright (15 x 10 in.); each signed Utamaro; publisher Yeijudo; date about 1795. Rare.

Act I. A girl from behind a screen watching another, who has brought a cup of tea to a manzai dancer, flirting with him; compared to Moronao caught by Wakasa while making his advances to Lady Kawoyo.

Act II. A young man delivering a love-letter in a letter-box to a girl kneeling near the entrance to a house, whose mother stands by her; compared to love-scene between Rikiya and Konami.

Act III. A man attacking a nagging wife with a miso pestle, while a woman arrests his arm and a man drags him back from behind, and another woman tries to soothe the angry wife, at whose feet lie the remains of the broken mortar (suribachi); compared to Yenya's attack on Moronao and Honzo restraining him. (See Plate 51, Illustration 1.)

Act IV. Two women and a man arranging flowers and bringing an offering of sake for the Tsukimi (moon festival), which is held twice a year, on the 15th day of the eighth month, and on the 13th of the ninth, when poems are composed to the moon, accompanied with sake drinking; inset Rikiya bringing Lady Kawoyo a basket full of the rare eight and ninefold cherry-blossom.

Act V. A Yoshiwara girl taking a bag of sweetmeats from another girl; compared to Sadakuro's robbery of Yoichibei.

Act VI. A geisha preparing to go out to an engagement, while her manservant gets ready her samisen, and another servant holds a lantern; compared to Okaru preparing to be taken away to the Ichiriki tea-house, to the grief of Kampei and her aged mother.

Act VII. The well-known letter-reading scene at the Ichiriki tea-house parodied by a nude man (as Yuranosuke) seated on the engawa of a bath-house, cooling himself, and anxiously perusing the long bill which his dissipation at the joro-ya has entailed, while a woman (as Okaru) seated on the balcony above fans herself, the fan being held like a mirror to reflect the contents of the bill the man is perusing, while the part of Kudayu is taken by a dog lying curled up under the engawa. Inset, Okaru reading Yuranosuke's letter by means of a mirror, and Kudayu scanning it from under the engawa. This act and that showing the man attacking the nagging wife are the two best-known plates of this series.

Act VIII. The Bridal Journey; compared to two strolling players or tori-oi (women of the eta class).

Act IX. A woman at her toilet, seated before a mirror, while a servant dresses her hair, is interrupted by a street singer disguised in a basket hat bawling outside; inset Honzo's appearance at Yuranosuke's house disguised as a komuso, interrupting Tonase by the sounds of his flute just as she was about to take her daughter's life, and then her own.

Act X. A nude reveller, drunk with sake, in a Yoshiwara joro-ya, sits upon the wine-tub (sakadaru), and prevents the servants from getting at it, notwithstanding the efforts of one man to shift him, while a woman endeavours to coax him off; inset Gihei defying the ronin.

Act XI. The attack on Moronao; compared to a scene in the kitchen of a joro-ya, the combatants being a shinzo with a standing floor candlestick, and two men armed with a mop and a broom.

 

At Plate 51, Illustration 2, we reproduce Act III of another Chushingura analogue series, in which all the characters are taken by women, for comparison with the same scene in the foregoing set.

This series is entitled Ukiyo Chushingura (Passing World Chushingura); is small size, upright (12½x8½ in).; publisher Tsuru-ya; wash background.

The characters in the play which the women represent are indicated by the mon which they wear on their dress.

One woman, as Yenya, slaps another with her hand, who is trying to hide a letter from her in the bosom of her dress, while a third, in the character of Honzo, pulls the former back. In Act V, a woman as Sada- kuro is shown taking another's purse from her, as Yoichibei.

 

Our next illustration (Plate 51, Illustration 3) is from a series, full size, upright, entitled Komei Bijin Mitate Chushingura (A comparison of Celebrated Beauties and the Loyal League), publisher Omi-ya. Rare.

The following acts from this series have come under observation:–

Act I. A lady in the character of Lady Kawoyo kneels before a stand on which sake cups are placed, and is examining one, behind her stands another as Moronao, while Tadayoshi is represented by a man seated in the background holding out a sake cup for inspection.

A comparison with Lady Kawoyo selecting Yoshisada's helmet. (See Plate 30, page 182.)

Act III. Three courtesans playing the attack on Moronao. Hishiya, a full-length figure, as Yenya, holds a rolled-up towel above her head in both hands threatening Taka-shima as Moronao, while Fukujiu, as Honzo, kneels between them, and endeavours to draw off Hishiya.

Act VIII. The Bridal Journey. Iwai Hanshiro as Tonase, and another actor, Ro-ko,as her daughter Konami, walking along the seven ri beach. Behind them is the island of Enoshima, and in the distance rises the cone of Fuji. (See Plate 51, Illustration 3.)

As Utamaro never drew actors as such on the stage, he here depicts two who took female parts, dressed as in private life, as women. He also, in addition, gives their personal names, and not those by which they were known in the theatre, Hanshiro being really To-jaku in private life. As the actor in the character of Konami has no crest on his dress, we cannot identify his stage name.

Act XII. A woman placing a box on a shelf above the tokonoma, in comparison to Yuranosuke laying Moronao's head before Yenya's tomb, while other women represent the priests with censers.

As an example of the Chushingura imitated by children we will quote scenes from a set also by Utamaro entitled Chushingura Osana Asobi (The Loyal League, compared to Children's Amusements); medium size, upright; publisher Tsuru-ya. Rare. The scene parodied is given in an inset view in the top corner.

Act II. A boy cutting off a branch of bamboo, while his little sister (as Wakasa) watches him from the engawa; inset Honzo cutting off the pine branch.

Act III. One boy holds back a baby brother, armed with a drumstick, endeavouring to attack another boy who sprawls on the floor; inset Yenya's attack on Moronao.

Act V. Sadakuro's attack on Yoichibei imitated by one boy trying to steal a charm-bag from another.

Act VII. A mother dressing her little girl for the girls' doll festival (third day of the third month), and putting on her obi; inset Okaru, in the presence of her mother and Kampei, changing round her obi to the front before being taken away to the joro-ya in Kyoto. (See Plate 51, Illustration 4.)

Act IX. A boy with a basket on his head playing the Shakuhachi (flute) as he passes the screen behind which his mother is dressing his sister's hair; inset, Honzo appearing at Yuranosuke's house.

Act XII. Three boys, armed with mops and brooms, finding a fourth crouching in the corner, trying to hide from them behind a fusuma (sliding door); inset, the ronin finding and dragging out Moronao.

 

Under the title Chushingura, Utamaro has designed several series of prints, various single sheets from which have come under observation at different times.

These are generally bust, half, or three-quarter length figure-studies, very similar to the scenes by Shunyei illustrated at Plate 44, but without any background. These, however, partake more of the nature of Utamaro's figure-studies and can hardly be called brother-pictures in the sense that the above are, yet they are quite different to the ordinary scenes from the play such as we have been describing. Sometimes, however, they assume the idea of an analogue where a male character in the play is taken by a woman, as, for example, in the eleventh act of a series which shows a bridesmaid supporting a bride, representing Rikiya followed by his affianced wife, Konami, on his way to the attack.

Other scenes, however, such as Yuranosuke helping Okaru down the ladder at the Ichiriki tea-house, are without any suggestion of an analogue.

At Plate 3, Illustration 3, we reproduce a fine and very uncommon Chushingura print from a series by Kikumaro (w. 1790-1820), in large hoso-ye form (14 in. by 6 in.), publisher Tsuta-ya, showing Rikiya on his way to the attack (Act XI) followed by Konami, for sake of comparison with the above analogue of this scene by Utamaro, of a bride and her bridesmaid, which is reproduced in colour in the late Dr. Anderson's Portfolio monograph Japanese Wood Engraving.

Kunisada has designed a set of Chushingura analogues, similar to those by Utamaro, in which the different acts are compared to women engaged in various occupations. Title, Yekiodai Chushingura (Loyal League Brother-Pictures); full size, upright; each signed Kochoro Kunisada; publisher, Sanoki; c. 1840; rare.

In the foreground is a large figure of a woman, and in the upper background, separated by conventional clouds, the different acts represented.

For purposes of identification of other scenes from this set we here reproduce, at Plate 52, Acts IV and X.

Act IV. A woman kneeling, dramatically holding out a closed razor, in front of her is a whetstone; in the background, Yuranosuke showing the sword of death to Rikiya and Goyemon.

Act X. A woman resting while engaged in spring-cleaning, sitting on a pile of floor mats; compared to Gihei sitting on the chest of armour, and defying the ronin to dislodge him.

 

Yeizan has also left a set of Chushingura prints with figure-studies of woman compared to the play, the scene shown above, separated by a cloud from the figure, like the above series.

Title, Furyu Chushingura Gwa (Refined Chushingura Pictures ); each full size, upright; signed Yeizan.

As a final example of a Chushingura analogue, we illustrate at Plate 52 (Illustration 3) a print from a series entitled An Imitation of the Ogura Selection of the Hundred Poets, by Kuniyoshi, in which the fourth act, showing Rikiya and Yuranosuke leaving Ako Castle at nightfall after their lord's seppuku, the latter dramatically holding out the fatal dirk, is compared to the poem by the priest Do-in, No. 82 of the anthology.

Porter's translation of this poem runs as follows

How sad and gloomy is the world,
   This world of sin and woe!
Ah! while I drift along Life's stream
   Tossed helpless to and fro,
   My tears will ever flow.

An apposite epilogue on the sorrows of humanity, which might be taken as the epitaph of the unfortunate Yenya.

 

CHUSHINGURA HAK'KEI

This is a very rare and interesting set, half-plate size, upright, by the artist CHOKI, consisting of eight scenes from the Chushingura treated on a Hak'kei basis. Each scene is in a circle, and the margins outside are gauffraged with an embossed brocade pattern; both the colouring, soft tints of yellow, green, and violet, and the drawing are very delicate. As this set is very rare, in addition to its interest both by reason of its subject and as a work of art, we here reproduce each view from it. (See Plate 53.)

Act III. Evening Bell; Quarrelling. Scene outside the Castle of Kamakura. Kampei protecting Okaru from Bannai Sagisaka who attempts to arrest him, but gets the worst of the encounter.

Act IV. Clearing Weather at Ogigayatsu. Scene outside the Castle of Ako; Yuranosuke showing the dirk with which Yenya committed seppuku to his retainers, by the edge of the castle moat.

Act V. Evening Rain on the Mountains. The meeting of Kampei and Yagoro near Yamazaki; behind, along a narrow winding path comes Yoichibei followed by Sadakuro.

Act VI. Homing Geese at Yamazaki. Kampei, who has returned home, being denounced by Yagoro and Goyemon as the murderer of Yoichibei, while at the same time Yagoro indignantly throws down on the veranda before Kampei the purse of money which the latter had given him the evening before towards the purchase of the ronins' armour, adding that Yuranosuke does not want money obtained by murder.

Outside Okaru being taken away in a kago, and over the distant landscape a flock of geese flying to rest.

Act VII. Autumn Moon at Gion Street. Yuranosuke, with the letter from Lady Kawoyo in his hand, looking up at Okaru in the balcony above, while Kudayu reads it from under the veranda. The moon, however, is not even indicated in gauffrage, though the letter-reading scene is generally represented to the accompaniment of a full moon. This plate alone of the set carries the signature of Choki.

Act IX. Evening Snow at Yamashima. Tonase, about to take her daughter's life, is interrupted by the appearance of Honzo at the gate of Yuranosuke's house at Yamashima.

Act X. Returning Boats at Amakawa-ya (i.e. the sign, or house, of the Heaven-river, the Japanese term for the Milky Way, the name given by Gihei to his house at the harbour of Sakai). Boats sailing into the harbour of Sakai; Gihei seated on the chest containing the arms of the ronin and defying them to open it.

Act XI. Sunset: Night-killing. The ronin crossing the bridge on their way to Moronao's castle.

 

There is in the British Museum collection a tanzaku print (11¾x2¾ in.) by Toyonobu showing Gihei (represented by an actor) standing on the wharf, under a lantern, superintending the loading of a junk with the arms and armour for the ronin. Like the above Act X in the set by Ch5ki, this tanzaku is evidently one of a set of Eight Views compared to the Chushingura, this scene being Returning Boats.

As Toyonobu died in 1785, and practically ceased designing prints about 1765, while the Chushingura play was not staged till 1748, this tanzaku print must not only be a very early one dealing with this play in any form, but a great rarity in treating it in the form of an analogue.