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Toyoharu KUNICHIKA (豊原國周)


Toyohara Kunichika (豊原國周 1835-1900), a ukiyo-e print artist, painter, and book illustrator, was born Ôshima Yasohachi in the Kyôbashi district, a merchant and artisan area of Edo. His father, Ôshima Kujû (大島九十), was the proprietor of a sentô (洗湯 public bathhouse), the Ōshūya, a business he lost sometime during Yasohachi's childhood. His mother, named Arakawa Oyao (荒川お八百), was the daughter of a teahouse proprietor. To distance themselves from the father's failure, the family took the mother's surname, and Kunichika became Arakawa Yasohachi (荒川八十八).

Toyohara Kunichika 1890 Sadanji as Masakado
ôju [by special request] Toyohara Kunichika (応需 豊原國周) with Toshidama seal (年玉印)
Ichikawa Sadanji I (市川左國次) as the ghost of Taira shinnô [imperial prince] Masakado (平親王将門)
Title: Zen Taiheiki magai no gyokuden (前太平記擬玉殿) 4/1890
Theater: Ichimura-za, Edo; Publisher: Asano Eizô (浅野英ぞ蔵); Block Carver: Enkatsu to (圓活刀)
Deluxe edition; ôban nishiki-e triptych (358 x 720 mm)

At age ten Kunichika was apprenticed to a thread and yarn store, but the following year he moved to a shop near his father's bathhouse where he helped design lampshades for andon (lamps, 行灯). When he was around twelve, his older brother, Chôkichi, opened a shop in 1846 called the Arakawa Shashinkan (Arakawa Photography Studio) to sell oshi-e (押絵 "pasted-on pictures") or collage pictures, for which Yasohachi drew the illustrations. Around age twelve, Yasohachi began to study with and provide actor portraits for Toyohara (Ichiôsai 一鶯齋) Chikanobu (popular name Toriyama Shinji). This particular Chikanobu was a minor artist of the Hasegawa school working in the Kanô style of painting who also designed actor portraits for hagoita (battledores: 羽子板) that were sold in a shop called Meirindô. He should not to be confused with Kunichika’s own student also named Toyohara Chikanobu. Yasohachi's teacher seems to have given him the name "Kazunobu." [see Hinkel ref. p. 74] The following year, at age 13, Yasohachi was accepted into the studio of Utagawa Kunisada, the leading and most prolific print maker of the mid-19th century. Kunichika produced some illustrations for books, and in 1848 he provided an inset design for a print included in Kunisada's Kuni zukushi Yamato meiyo (Collection of the provinces with honorable characters of Japan, 國尽倭名誉). By 1853-54, the still-young artist made his first confirmed signed print and took the art name "Kunichika", a composite of the names of this two teachers, Kunisada and Chikanobu. Although Kunichika used a number of different (art pseudonyms, 號), he seems never to have signed with the name Utagawa, despite studying with Kunisada and occasionally using the toshidama ("New Year's jewel, 年玉) signature cartouche favored by the Utagawa artists. Otherwise, we find the following : Ichiô (一鶯), Ichiôsai (一鶯齋 c. 1855-70), Kachôrô (華蝶楼 c. 1853), Ôsai (鶯齋), and Hôshunrô (豊春樓 c. 1891-95).

Kunichika was a prolific artist, producing over 100 series as well as numerous individual designs while working for more than an astonishing 100 different publishers, most importantly, Fukuda Kumajirô (福田熊次郎), Gusokuya Kahei (具足屋嘉兵衛), and Sawamuraya Seikichi (沢村屋清吉). Frequently encountered are his numerous triptychs, some of which feature a single figure (usually an actor) depicted across all three sheets. During his long career, Kunichika focused mainly on yakusha-e (actor prints, 役者絵), but he also designed bijinga (prints of beautiful women, 美人画), sensô-e (war prints, 戦争絵), musha-e (warrior prints, 武者絵), kaika-e (enlightenment pictures, 開化絵), jidai-e (history prints, 時代絵), omocha-e (toy prints, 玩具絵), and illustrated books (ehon, 絵本), including some erotica. In regard to yakusha-e, Kunichika was the foremost chronicler of the great acting triumvirate of the kabuki stage: the so-called Dan-Kiku-Sa, namely, Ichikawa Danjûrô IX (九代目 市川団十郎 1839-1903), Onoe Kikugorô V (五代目 尾上菊五郎 1844-1903), and Ichikawa Sadanji I (一代目 市川左國次 1842-1904).

In the triptych shown at the top of this page, we see Taira no Masakado (Soma no Kojirô, died 940), a general formerly with the regent Fujiwara Takahira, who moved to take control of the eight eastern provinces and declare himself emperor. Takahira's warriors defeated Masakado and then his son Soma Tarô failed in a attempt to avenge his father's death. Masakado had the ability to create ghostly clones of himself (as shown in Kunichika's triptych above), and his castle in Soma (near Sendai) was said to be haunted by phantoms of his retainers. Like her brother Soma Tarô, Masakado's daughter Takiyasha-hime — the subject of the well-known play Shinobi yoru koi wa kusemono premiering in 1836 — was also capable of sorcery.

By 1865, Kunichika was listed among the top ten ukiyo-e print artists in the Tokyo ryûkô saikenki (東京流行細見記 Tokyo popularity guide). Saikenki were rating guides for fads and trending personalities (lit. "close-inspection directories"). Kunichika placed eighth, and in 1867, he came in fifth. That same year, he was officially invited to submit a print to the world exhibition in Paris (Exposition universelle [d'art et d'industrie]). Nearly two decades later, he maintained his position in the print world when he placed fourth in 1885 (after Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 月岡芳年, Kobayashi Eitaku 小林永濯, and Utagawa Yoshiiku 歌川芳幾). The objectivity of these guides should be considered with some caution, but they presumably indicate some measure of industry-wide popularity. One might argue, for example, that neither Eitaku nor Yoshiiku should come to mind as notable ukiyo-e artists, whereas Yoshitoshi certainly ranks among the very best of 19th-century artists. Yoshitoshi's consistently imaginative and innovative designs and subjects are only occasionally matched by designs in Kunichika's oeuvre. In any case, it appears that Kunichika was considered good enough to ask relatively high fees for his work.

Toyohara Kunichika 1869 Kikugoro V as Shibata Katsuie
Kunichika (國周)
Onoe Kikugorô V (五代目 尾上菊五郎) as Shibata Katsuie (柴田勝家) from an untitled series, 1869
Publisher: Gosokuya Kahei (具足屋嘉兵衛) in Ningyôchô Yonchome (人形町四丁目), Nihonbashi (日本橋)
Block Carver: Ota hori Ta (太田彫殊) [Ôta Takichi]
ôban nishiki-e (358 x 251 mm)

Among Kunichika's early works in the ôkubi-e (large-head pictures, 大首絵) format, there is an untitled series featuring actors in close-up within borders decorated with their personal crests. These yakusha-e follow upon the achievements of Utagawa Kunisada and Utagawa Yoshitora in their okubi-e actor portraiture of the 1860s, and, together, all three produced prints that represent the full flowering of yakusha okubi-e in the late Edo period, although in his later works Kunichika shifted the color palettes to accommodate his mid-Meiji style. In the example shown above, Onoe Kikugorô V (五代目 尾上菊五郎 1844-1903) performs in the role of Shibata Katsuie (柴田勝家 1522-1583, also known as Gonroku 権六). He was a brilliant warrior and military strategist who was once an enemy of Oda Nobunaga (織田信長 1534-1582) but later became his loyal retainer. Shibata fought in a series of battles, including the 1571 first siege of Nagashima, the 1575 Battle of Nagashino, and the 1577 Battle of Tedorigawa. In 1583, he was defeated by the forces of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉 1537-1598) at the battle of Shizugatake. He retreated to Echizen and Kitanoshô castle, but it fell three days later and Katsuie committed seppuku (ritual suicide, 切腹) after setting fire to the castle. In regard to Kunichika's design, there are impressions with alternate coloring, for example, green instead of blue for the border with the actor's gyôyôgiku (chrysanthemum crest).

Tossho II in his dressing room Gado III in his dressing room
Toyohara Kunichika (豊原國周): Sawamura Tosshō II (二代目 澤村訥升) in his dressing room (gakuya, 楽屋), c. 10/1868; Series: Shashin gakuya kagami (Mirror of photographs backstage, 写真楽屋鑑); ôban nishiki-e (362 × 248 mm); Publisher: Tsunoi (津ノ伊 Tsunokuniya Isaburô 津國屋伊三郎) Toyohara Kunichika (豊原國周): Kataoka Gadô III (三代目 片岡我童) in his dressing room (gakuya, 楽屋), 1885; Series: Tôsei gata zokuizoroi (Fashionable present-day clothing, 当世形俗衣揃); ôban nishiki-e (365 x 255 mm); Block Carver: horiko Kosan (彫工小三); Publisher: no seal

Actors reflected in mirrors was a popular motif throughout much of ukiyo-e history. These views of private moments in the lives of actors provided a voyeuristic glimpse backstage that appealed to kabuki aficionados. Kunichika made a number of these portrayals, including the image above left showing Sawamura Tosshô II (二代目 澤村訥升 1838–86) in his dressing room (gakuya, 楽屋), c. 1859–61 from the series Shashin gakuya kagami (Mirror of photographs backstage, 写真楽屋鑑). The term "shashin" (写真) in the series title can mean "duplicated from reality" or "truthfully transcribed," but it was also used to mean "photograph." Gennosuke wears a cotton kimono and assumes a relaxed pose, holding a teacup from which steam rises and wiping his neck with a tenugui (hand towel, 手拭). Containers of makeup are arranged below while brushes hang on either side of the mirror.

Kunichika also produced a series in 1865 titled Hanazakari gakuya no sugatami (Mirror of backstage in full bloom, 花盛楽屋姿見), published by Tsujiokaya Bunsuke (辻岡屋文助) [an example is not shown here]. A design from a later series called Tôsei gata zokuizoroi (Fashionable present-day clothing, 当世形俗衣揃), which features this motif, is shown above right as a portrayal of Kataoka Gadô III (三代目 片岡我童 1851-1895) in his gakuya (dressing room, 楽屋). Gadô, wearing a blue and white kimono, applies eye-makeup with a narrow-tipped brush.

Toyohara Kunichika 1878 townswoman having her photo taken
Toyohara Kunichika (豊原國周); also personal names Arakawa Yasohachi (荒川八十八) in left yellow cartouche
A townswoman having her picture taken, 1878
Series: Kaika ninjô kagami (Mirror of the flowering of manners and customs, 開花人情鏡)
Subtitle: shashin (photograph, 冩眞)
Publisher: Kobayashi Tetsujirô (小林鉄次郎) [Maruya Tetsujirô 丸屋鉄次郎]
Carver: hori Ei (彫英) [Watanabe hori Ei, 渡辺彫英]
ôban nishiki-e (365 x 245 mm)

Another "mirror" series is Kunichika's Kaika ninjô kagami (Mirror of modern manners and customs, 開花人情鏡) from 1878. The term "kaika" brings to mind the phrase bunmei kaika (civilization and enlightenment, 文明開化) associated with Meiji-period modernization. The title also implies that the women were enlightened and open to new ways and ideas. (The series title has also been translated as "Mirror of flowering humanity," supporting this notion.) The example shown above, no. 31 in the set, which is subtitled shashin (photograph, 冩眞), portrays a fashionable young woman dressed in fine kimono who is having her photo taken. She is seated before a large-format plate camera with a cloth drape needed to limit stray light during focusing. Kunichika's print was published around 15 years after the opening of photo studios in Japan. Customers for such subjects would have understood the connection between a fashionably attired young beauty and the adoption of scientific progress in veryday life.

Toyohara Kunichika 1883 Sadanji as the fishmonger Fukushichi
Toyohara Kunichika (豊原國周); also personal names Arakawa Yasohachi (荒川八十八) in left margin
Ichikawa Sadanji (市川左國次) as the fishmonger Fukashichi (ふか七), 10/1883
Series: Jidai sewa haiyû kagami (Mirror of actors in tales of modern history, 時代せ話俳優鏡)
Publisher: Yamamura Kôjirô (山村鑛治郎); Carver: horikô Gin (彫工銀) [Asai Ginjirô, 浅井銀二郎]
ôban nishiki-e (365 x 245 mm)

The idea of the "mirror" was often extended to suggest that yakusha ôkubi-e (large-head actor portraits, 大首絵) could be taken as reflected physiognomies, even without the explicit depiction of a mirror. Print or series titles could aid in this conceit. For example, see the example above from Kunichika's series Jidai sewa haiyû kagami (Mirror of actors in tales of modern history, 時代せ話俳優鏡) published by Yamamura Kôjirô (山村?治郎). Dated 10/1883, the design features Ichikawa Sadanji (市川左國次) as the fishmonger Fukashichi (ふか七). There are variant printings in which the kumadori (隈取 elaborate style of kabuki makeup associated with aragoto or "rough stuff" 荒事 roles) different markedly from one another. In one edition, the face is lightly printed in pink; in another, there is bokashi ("shading off," 暈). The most intense coloration is found in impressions such as the example shown above where the face and hand are printed with a uniformly strong red pigment.

Toyohara Kunichika 1892 Okiku Toyohara 1893 Udanji as Sogo's wife
Toyohara Kunichika: Onoe Kikugorō V (尾上菊五郎) as the ghost of Okiku (お菊霊), Ichikawa Danjûrô IX (市川団十郎) as Aoyama Tessan (浅山鉄山), Onoe Matsusuke IV (尾上松助) as Iwabuchi Chûta (岩渕忠太) and Onoe Kikushirô V (尾上菊四郎) as the attendant Chûkan Arisuke (中間蟻助) in Sarayashiki keshô sugata kagami (Mirror of the house of blue dishes, 皿屋敷化粧姿鏡), Kabuki-za, 10/1892; Carver: Umezawa (梅澤刀); Pub: Fukuda Kumajirô (福田熊次郎); ôban nishiki-e triptych ôju special request] Toyohara Kunichika (応需 豊原國周): Ichikawa Udanji (市川右團次) as Sôgo no tsuma no tamashii (spirit of Sôgo's wife, 惣吾妻ノ魂) and Ichimura Kangorô (市村勘五郎) as Yamazumi Goheita (山住五平太) in Sakura Sôgo den (Tale of Sakura Sôgo, 佐倉惣吾傳) at the Haruki-za, Tokyo, in 3/1893; ôban nishiki-e triptych (1,125 x 255 mm); Carver: Nisei Watanabe hori Ei (二世渡辺彫英) [Watanabe Tsunejirô, 渡辺常治郎]; Pub: Fukuda Kumajirô (福田熊次郎) and Gosokuya Kahei (具足屋嘉兵衛)

Vertical ôban triptychs are rare among the hundreds of thousands of 19th-century woodblock print designs. Two of the best examples were published late in Kunichika's career. One appeared in 10/1892 for the play Sarayashiki keshô sugatami (Mirror of the house of blue dishes, 皿屋敷化粧姿鏡) at the Kabuki-za, Tokyo. Onoe Kikugorō V (尾上菊五郎) performed as the ghost of Okiku (お菊霊), Ichikawa Danjûrô IX (市川団十郎) as Aoyama Tessan (浅山鉄山), Onoe Matsusuke IV (尾上松助) as Iwabuchi Chûta (岩渕忠太), and Onoe Kikushirô V (尾上菊四郎) as the attendant Chûkan Arisuke (中間蟻助). An earlier related puppet play, Banshû sarayashiki (The plate mansion in Banshû, 播州皿屋鋪), was staged in 7/1741 at the Toyotake-za in Osaka. The story has several variants, all of which revolve around a female attendant who dies unjustly and returns to haunt the living. In the 1892 play, the samurai Aoyama Tessan attempts to seduce a beautiful lady-in-waiting name Okiku. He hides one of ten precious heirloom blue-and-white ceramic plates (for which she is responsible), blaming her for the "loss" (an error punishable by death). When Aoyama promises to forgive her for the missing plate, she still refuses to become his mistress and shamed by the loss, she takes her life by leaping into a deep well (or is thrown into the well by Aoyama in another version). Thereafter, her ghost appears each night, counting up to nine and then letting out a terrible wail. Only when a neighbor shouts the word "ten" at the end of her count does the ghost disappear, never to return.

The second example of a vertical triptych is shown above right, with Ichikawa Udanji (市川右團次) as Sôgo no tsuma no rei (ghost of Sôgo's wife) from the play Sakura Sôgo den (Tale of Sakura Sôgo, 佐倉惣吾傳) at the Haruki-za, Tokyo, in 3/1893. In real life, Sakura Sôgorô (佐倉惣五郎), also known as Kiuchi Sôgorô (木内惣五郎), was a peasant and headman in the village of Kozu who was executed by crucifixion on September 24, 1653. It was said that he returned as a ghost to haunt his murderer, the hatamoto (government retainer, 旗本) Hotta Masanobu (堀田正信), a greedy ruler who overburdened the villagers with an exorbitant rice tax. Sôgorô had insulted his lord by sending a petition directly to the shogun Tokugawa Ietsuna (徳川家綱 1641-1680), whereupon the shogun requested Hotta to consider the villagers request. He did so, but he also executed Sôgorô and his family (probably sometime between 1645 and 1652). Soon after, it was claimed, Sôgorô's apparition began to haunt Hotta and his family. In kabuki, a late play written by Segawa Jôko III entitled Higashiyama sakura no sôshi (Story of cherry blossoms on Higashiyama, 東山桜荘子) adapted this tale for a premiere in 8/1851 at the Nakamura-za, Edo.

Toyohara Kunichika 1894 Danjuro IX as Kegemasa Toyohara Kunichika 1893 Kikugoro V as Shinohara
Toyohara Kunichika (豊原國周): Ichikawa Danjûrô IX (市川団十郎) as Kamakura Gongorô Kagemasa (鎌倉権五郎景政) in Shibaraku ("Wait a minute," 暫), 10/1894; Series: Ichikawa Danjûrô engei hyakuban (One hundred roles of Ichikawa Danjûrô, 市川國十郎演藝百番); ôban nishiki-e (365 x 255 mm); Carver: Nisei Watanabe hori Ei (二世彫英) [Watanabe Tsunejirô, 渡辺常治郎]; Pub: Fukuda Kumajirô (福田熊次郎) and Gosokuya Kahei (具足屋嘉兵衛) Toyohara Kunichika (豊原國周): Onoe Kikugorô V (尾上菊五郎) as Shinohara Kunimoto (篠原國幹) with Ichikawa Danjûrô IX (市川団十郎) in the inset as Saigô Takamori (西鄕隆盛), 1893; Series: Baikô hyakushu no uchi (One hundred roles of Baikô, 梅幸百種之内); ôban nishiki-e (365 x 255 mm); Carver: not identified; Pub: Fukuda Kumajirô (福田熊次郎)

In 1893, Kunichika embarked on two ambitious series featuring two superstars of the Edo stage. The first was Ichikawa Danjûrô engei hyakuban (One hundred roles of Ichikawa Danjûrô, 市川國十郎演藝百番), and the second, Baikô hyakushu no uchi (One hundred roles of Baikô, 梅幸百種之内), where Baikô is the poetry name of the Onoe Kikugorô lineage. The second series added verses in square cartouches plus insets with supporting actors or co-headliners. The print shown above left portrays Ichikawa Danjûrô IX (市川団十郎) as Kamakura Gongorô Kagemasa (鎌倉権五郎景政) in Shibaraku ("Wait a moment!" or "Stop right there!," 暫), a showpiece scene or short-drama comprising standardized but bombastic confrontations in kabuki kaomise ("face-showing," 顔見世) performances, typical of the aragoto-style ("rough stuff," 荒事) of playwriting. It was first performed in 1692 and then slightly revised in 1/1697 by Ichikawa Danjûrô I at the Nakamura-za, Edo within the drama Daifukuchô Sankai Nagoya (大福帳参會名古屋). By the early eighteenth century, the scene had become virtually obligatory in kabuki’s season-opening performances. Shibaraku is derived from an actual occurrence when fellow actors refused to give Danjûrô I his cue to make an entrance. Danjûrô shouted "Shibaraku!" and stepped onto the hanamichi (lit., "flower path": 花道) or raised passageway extending from the kabuki stage into the audience. In various stagings of Shibaraku, the plot involves the rescue by Kamakura Gongorô Kagemasa of a group of loyalists imprisoned by an evil lord intent on usurping imperial power. The persimmon color of the flamboyant costume is meant to convey colossal strength, as does the wildly exaggerated proportions of the sleeves patterned with the Ichikawa clan’s mimasu (three rice measures, 三舛) crests. Most actors in the role wear makeup called suji-guma (blatant line makeup, 筋隈) with red lines or bands painted on an opaque white cosmetic ground.

The print above right depicts Onoe Kikugorô V (尾上菊五郎) as Shinohara Kunimoto (篠原國幹 1836-1877), a leading general in the Imperial Japanese Army and commander of the Imperial Guards. He is shown here in Western uniform with his hair cut short (zangiri, 散切 cropped-hair, i.e., the samurai's traditional top-knot removed). In 1873 Shinohara resigned and went to Kagoshima, where he began teaching at a shigakkô (私學校 a private military academy) established by Saigô Takamori (西郷隆盛 1828-1877). Saigô, once allied with imperial troops who had defeated the Tokugawa forces in 1868, had returned to his hometown of Kagoshima, having become disillusioned with reforms imposed by the imperial government. In Kagoshima he and disenfranchised samurai set into motion a rebellion against the central government. Although dismayed by the revolt, Saigô was reluctantly persuaded to lead the rebels to reestablish the shôgunate in what is called the Satsuma Rebellion (Seinan Sensô or Southwestern War: 西南戦争). During the rebellion, Shinohara commanded the largest of the troop contingents for Saigô's army and was particularly admired for leading troops in the Battle of Kichiji Pass on May 4, 1877. However, government forces ultimately overwhelmed the rebels and Shinohara was later killed in battle. As for Saigô, his death came either from seppuku (ritual suicide: 切腹) or through decapitation by his men who wanted to grant their fallen leader an honorable death rather than see him surrender or be captured. For his exploits, Saigô has long been dubbed the "last true samurai."

Toyohara Kunichika 1894 Sadanji as Akiyama Kii
Toyohara Kunichika (豊原國周) with Toshidama seal (年玉印)
Ichikawa Sadanji I (市川左國次) as Akiyama Kii no kami (秋山紀伊守)
Play: The Kôshû War strategy and the Takeda Clan preparing for battle (甲州流武田幕張)
Scene: Yakiuchi no ba (scene of the defeat in battle,, 討内場)
Series: Meiji-za shinkyôgen (New plays at the Meiji-za, 明治座新狂言), 5/1894
Theater: Meiji-za, Edo; Publisher: Akiyama Buemon (秋山武右衛門)
ôban nishiki-e triptych (360 x 725 mm)

The final image on this page (shown above) exemplifies Kunichika's achievement in triptych design. A single actor, in this instance Ichikawa Sadanji, is drawn across the three sheets in a dramatic pose and composition. The print is from a series celebrating the new kabuki theater management of the former Chitose-za (named in 2/1885; previously called the Kishô-za in 1873 and the Hisamatsu-za in 8/1879), which was destroyed by fire in 1890. Reopened as the Meiji-za in 11/1893, the new managers were none other than Sadanji himself along with his son, Sadanji II (1880-1940). This turn of events was commemorated with the publication of triptychs by Kunichika for selected new plays staged in the Meiji-za. The scene depicted here, identified on the print as yakiuchi no ba (scene of the defeat in battle, 討内場), features Sadanji as Akiyama Kii no kami (秋山紀伊守) in the premiere of "The Kôshû War strategy and the Takeda Clan preparing for battle" (甲州流武田幕張) in 5/1894. In the 16th century, the Akiyama clan (秋山氏) was a branch of the Takeda clan (武田氏) of Kai province. The Akiyama served the Takeda until 1582, when they suffered total defeat at the hands of the allied Oda (織田氏) and Tokugawa (徳川氏) clans. As an ally of Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康 1543-1616), Oda Nobutada (織田 信忠 1557-1582 eldest son of Oda Nobunaga 織田 信長 1534-1582) led as many as 50,000 warriors against the Takeda during the conquest of Kôshû. Nobutada succeeded in destroying the valiant Takeda clan at the Battle of Tenmokuzan (天目山の戦い). Even so, in 1582, Nobutada's father was forced to commit suicide when one of his generals, Akechi Mitsuhide, attacked him while he was staying at Honno-ji, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. Nobutada was quartered nearby, where he was attacked by Akechi's men and also forced into suicide.

In Kunichika's triptych, Sadanji is shown as Akiyama Kii no kami (秋山紀伊守) in a climactic pose before a conflagration as a compound or castle burns down during a battle in Kôshû province. He has wrapped a cloth around the blade of a wakizashi (short sword, 脇差), signaling that he intends to commit seppuku ("incision of the abdomen" or ritual suicide, 切腹). Designs such as this dramtic war jidaimono (history play, 時代物) represent the full development of the triptych by the last master of the ukiyo-e print.

Works by Kiyochika can be found in many institutional collections, including the Adachi City Museum of Art, Tokyo; Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; Art Gallery of New South Wales; Art Institute of Chicago; Asian Art Museum of San Francisco; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK; British Museum, London; Brooklyn Museum, NY; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin, Madison; Cincinnati Museum of Art; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Harvard Art Museums; Ikeda Bunko Library, Osaka; Los Angeles County Museum of Art;Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Diet Library, Tokyo; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; National Museum of Asian Art, Smithsonian, Wash. DC; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Rhode Island School of Design, Providence; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Tokyo Metropolitan Library; Tokyo National Museum; Waseda University, Tokyo; and Worchester Art Museum, MA.

Toyohara Kunichika's Names

Ôshima (original family name): 大島
Arakawa (altered family name, myôji gomen): 荒川 (mother's surname)
Toyohara (artist surname): 豊原

Childhood name:
Yasohachi (八十八) c. 1852-53

Art name (geimei):
Kazunobu (?) given by his teacher Ichiôsai Chikanobu (一鶯齋周延 dates unknown) at around age 12
Kunichika (國周)

Art Pseudonyms ():

Ichiô [Ittô] (一鶯)
Ichiôsai (一鶯齋) c. 1855-70
Kachôrô (華蝶楼) c. 1853
Ôsai (鶯齋)
Hôshunrô (豊春樓) c. 1891-95

Pupils of Toyohara Kunichika*

Yôshû Chikanobu 楊洲周延 (1838–1912)
Toyohara Chikaharu 豊原周春 (1848–before 1900?)
Utagawa Kunimatsu 歌川国松 (1855–1944) [also pupil of Utagawa Kunitsuru I / Kobayashi Eitaku]
Yukawa Chkamaro 湯川周麿 (act. 1861–Meiji) [or possibly Yukawa Chkamaru 湯川周丸]
Gokyôrô Chikayoshi 五橋楼周芳 (act. 1865–68)
Ryûsai Chikahide 柳斎周秀 (act. 1865–early Meiji)
Chikayuki 周幸 (act. 1865–early Meiji)
Morikawa Chikashige 守川周重 (act. 1860s–early 1880s)
Toyohara Chikayoshi 豊原周義 (act. late 1870s–before 1900)
Toyohara Chikasato 豊原周里 (act. 1887–96)
Chikamine 周峰 (n.d.)
Shûki 周李 (n.d.)
Shikamasa 周政 (mentioned in Yomiuri shinbun 27 July 1891)
Utagawa Kuniteru III 三代目歌川国輝 (act. 1886–95) (also pupil of Utagawa Kunitsuru II)
Utagawa Waka 歌川和哥 (act. late 1880s) (possibly a Kunichika student)

*Pupils based on Newland (see refs. below).

** For a discussion about Kunichika and the use of aniline dyes, see:

© 2022 by John Fiorillo


  • Hinkel, Monika: Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Eine Untersuchung seiner Meiji-zeitlichen Farbholzschnitte unter besonderer Betrachtung der Rezeption von bunmei kaika (Zivilisation und Aufkl rung). [Dissertation] Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, July 5, 2006.
  • Ihara, Toshirô (伊原敏郎): Kabuki nenpyô (Chronology of kabuki plays), vol. 7: Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten (岩浪書店), 1962, pp. 250 (for the role Fukashichi), 394 (for Sarayashiki keshô sugata kagami), 402 (for Sakura Sôgo den), and 432 (for Kôshû war strategy triptych).
  • Leiter, Samuel: New Kabuki Encylopedia: A Revised Adaptation of Kabuki Jiten. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997, p. 34.
  • Marks, Andreas: Japanese Woodblock Prints: Artists, Publishers and Masterworks 1680-1900. Tokyo / Rutland, VT: Tuttle Publishing, 201, pp. 160-161.
  • Newland, Amy Reigle: Time present and time past: Images of a forgotten master: Toyohara Kunichika 1835-1900. Leiden: Hotei Publishing, 1999.
  • Newland, Amy Reigle: Shaping the present, crafting the past: imaging self-narrative in the life and work of Toyohara Kunichika (1835–1900). [A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Department of Asian Studies, The University of Auckland, 2016].
  • Newland, Amy Reigle, et al.: The Hotei Encyclopedia of Japanese Woodblock Prints, vol. 2. Amsterdam: Hotei Publishing, 2005, pp. 497, 531.
  • Roberts, Laurance: A Dictionary of Japanese Artists. Tokyo/New York: Weatherhill, 1976, p 95.
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