Yamamura Koka, Flowers of the Theatrical World: Ichikawa Shocho II as Oman

Yamamura Koka, Toyonari, 1885-1942

Flowers of the Theatrical World: Ichikawa Shocho II as Oman
(Rien no Hana: Ichikawa Shocho II)

white mica over printed pale buff-pink ground; signed at right, Toyonari ga with round date seal Tai kyu (Taisho 9 [1920]), with notation along left margin, Juni mai no uchi yonkai, Shocho Oman (set of twelve, number four, Shocho Oman) and rectangular artist's approval seal Toyonari followed by archaic seal unread, published by Watanabe, 1920 (pre-earthquake)

dai oban tate-e 16 1/4 by 11 1/4 in., 41.2 by 28.5 cm

The publisher Watanabe Shozaburo (1885-1962) chose well in recruiting Koka to design actor prints as he was particularly well-suited for the subject. Koka collected ukiyo-e prints and in 1919 he published Shibai nishiki-e shusei (Compendium of Theatrical Woodblock Prints). He was also an enthusiast of the theatrical arts of the time. He understood the significance of the plays and the histories and talents of the various actors. Koka's first full-sized actor print was published by Watanabe in 1916, followed by three more between 1917 and 1919. From 1920-1922 they produced this series of twelve prints, also known as Juni yakusha-e ('Twelve Actor Prints').

Ichikawa Shocho II (1886-1940), was a popular onnagata (actor specializing in female roles) from Tokyo whose father owned a brothel in the Shinjuku district. He is in the role of Sakuraya Oman from a play based a real multiple murder that happened in 1737 in Osaka. The story was first adapted as a drama for the puppet theater; then in 1792 a kabuki version written by Namiki Gohei I which was staged in Osaka and Kyoto. A few years later Gohei moved to Edo, made changes to the names and the story itself, including the ending, and staged it at the New Year's performance at the Miyako-za in 1795. In the Osaka version of the play, titled Godairiki ('Five Great Powers that Secure Love'), the beautiful Sakuraya Oman (also called Kikuno or Koman), was a courtesan at the Sakura teahouse. She is ultimately murdered in a fit of jealousy by her lover, Genogobei, due to a misunderstanding. The group of plays pertaining to their story are collectively known as the Oman-Gengobeimono. Shocho II played Oman in the play Imayo Satsuma uta ('A Modern Satsuma Song') at the Shintomi Theater in October of 1920.

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