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VJP title
Utamaro print showing


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Hasegawa Sadanobu I (長谷川貞信)


Hasegawa Sadanobu I (長谷川貞信 1809-1879) was active from 1834 to 1879. We know that his addresses in Osaka included Andôji-machi Naniwabashi-suji and later on in Horie Ichinogawa. His personal names were Naraya Bunkichi (奈良屋文吉), Naraya Tokubei (奈良屋徳兵衛), and Senzô (専蔵). He also sang jôruri under the name Rankô (蘭孝). The family business dealt in high-quality chakin (茶巾 small rectangular cloths used to wipe teabowls during the tea ceremony); it also operated under the name "Naraya" (奈良屋).

Sadanobu 1841 Bokan Yonakiishi
Hasegawa Sadanobu: Onoe Kikugorô III (尾上菊五郎) as Yonakiishi no bokan (spirit of Yonakiishi 夜泣石ノ亡魂)
Ume no haru gojûsan tsugi (Spring plums along the fifty-three stations: 梅初春五十三駅)
Kado Theater in Osaka, 4/1841
Woodblock print, deluxe edition, ôban format (378 x 260 mm)

At a young age, his first employment was as an apprentice in a wholesale shop operated by the main branch of the Hasegawa family called Narachû (良忠) in Kitakyutarô-machi (北久太郎町), Edo, which sold washi (handmade paper: 和紙). When that family business closed, Sadanobu, who by then had already begun his art studies (see below), concentrated on designing ukiyo-e prints.

Sadanobu first studied with the Shijô painter Ueda Kôchô (act. c. early-mid 19th C.), and possibly later with the Edo master Utagawa Kunisada. In Osaka it appears that he also trained with Ryûsai Shigeharu and Gochôtei Sadamasu [later Kunimasu]. He was adopted briefly by the publisher Tenmaya Kihei (at which point he took the personal name Senzô), and was also closely linked with Konishi Hirosada, although apparently not as a pupil. Sadanobu had pupils of his own (see the list below).

Sadanobu I was a prolific artist, at least by the standards of the Osaka publishing industry (i.e., much smaller than the Edo-based Utagawa juggernaut). Beginning c. 1834, he designed around 200 yakusha-e (actor prints: 役者絵), some counted among the best examples of the period. These were done in both ôban (大判 approx. 370 x 280 mm) and chûban (中判 250 x 180 mm) formats.

One of Sadanobu's fine actor prints is shown above, a portrayal of the Edo actor Onoe Kikugorô III (尾上菊五郎) as the spirit (bokan, 亡魂) of the courtesan Yonakiishi (夜泣石ノ亡魂) in the play Ume no haru gojûsan tsugi (Spring plums along the fifty-three stations: 梅初春五十三駅). The staging was done in 4/1841 at the Kado Theater in Osaka. premiered in 1835 as an adaptation of the 1827 play Hitori tabi gojûsan tsugi (Traveling alone along the 53 stations: 独道中五十三駅) by the playwright Tsuruya Nanboku IV (1755-1829), creator of the best known kaidan mono (ghost plays: 怪談物). The star of the Hitori tabi premiere, Kikugorô III, had introduced the hugely popular role of Oiwa in Nanboku IV's Tôkaidô Yotsuya kaidan (Tôkaidô ghost story at Yotsuya: 東海道四谷怪談) in 7/1825. Hitori tabi was written by a group of playwrights, including Nanboku's son, Tsuruya Nanboku V. Given the title, audiences might have expected a version of Jippensha Ikku's (十返舎一九, 1765–1831) best-selling comic novel Tôkaidôchû Hizakurige (東海道中膝栗毛, popularly known as Shank's Mare), but what they got instead was a spectacle of frightening scenes, along with erotic interplay and comic spoofing of Nanboku's favorite themes. Ume no haru, like its predecessor, included a monstrous demon cat, but also added a renegade priest who masters rat magic and a thief named Nezumi Kozô ("Kid Rat"). With these elements, the play qualified as a type of drama called neko sôdô mono ("cat-family dispute plays": 猫騒動物). The playwrights also added story lines from other kabuki and bunraku plots, transforming the famous greengrocer's daughter Oshichi into Sayoginu Oshichi and bringing in the dashing young samurai Shirai Gonpachi (白井権八) and his lover, the courtesan Komurasaki (小紫). With such a roster of fanciful characters and keren (special effects: 外連), Ume no haru gojûsan tsugi became a long-running hit and inspired other plays featuring spectacular scenic effects.

Sadanobu's small number of bijinga (pictures of beautiful women: 美人画) include chûban sets in the Edo-Utagawa style, such as the series Naniwa jiman meibutsu zukushi (Collection of celebrated specialties from Osaka: 浪華自慢名物盡). These are standouts in Osaka printmaking. Also in the bijinga mode are his nerimono-e (邌物絵) or pictures of the annual costume parades in Kamigata. Across the canal north of Osaka's Dôtonbori theater district was an area called Shimanouchi, the city’s largest unofficial pleasure quarter. Shimanouchi hosted a parade early each summer featuring waitresses, geisha, and courtesans dressed in elaborate costumes and portraying, in skits or pantomimes, figures from contemporary society, theater, history, and legend. The women were sometimes accompanied by decorative floats carrying musicians and dancers.

Sadanobu 1836 Kinuha of the Kyokiya
Hasegawa Sadanobu: Kinuha of the Kyôki-ya (京喜屋 きぬ葉)
in a skit for the play Hagoromo (Feather-mantle: 羽衣)
Series: Shimanouchi nerimono (Costume parade in Shinmanouchi: 島之内ねりもの) in 6/1836
Woodblock print, deluxe edition, ôban format (372 x 250 mm)

The deluxe print shown immediately above depicts Kinuha of the Kyôki-ya (京喜屋 きぬ葉) dressed in the feathered robe made famous in the play Hagoromo (Feather-mantle: 羽衣). She holds a sheng (Jp., shô: 笙) or mouth organ. Sadanobu's design is from the series Shimanouchi nerimono (Costume parade in Shinmanouchi: 島之内ねりもの) published in 6/1836. The inscription to the left of the title cartouche reads Yamamura Goto konomi (Yamamura Goto's taste), designating the costume designer and choreographer Yamamura Giemon, born 1781, who had also acted as Yamamura Tomogorô I, then as Yamamura Goto I beginning in 1830. In the play Hagoromo, a fisherman named Hakuryô finds a feathered robe hanging on a pine tree at Miho no Matsubara, Suruga Bay, near Mt. Fuji. A celestial maiden appears, informing him that the hagoromo is hers and asks for its return. He resists until she promises to teach him her dance (treated in the play as the origin of the dance called Suruga-mai), one of six pieces in the Azuma asobi (East country songs). The maiden performs her dance and then she and the robe float windborne above the shore and pine woods of Mio, up beyond Mt. Fuji, mingling with mists until they fade into the heavens. The other artists involved with this series were Shunbaisai Hokuei, Shunshôsai Hokuju (春松齋北壽 a pupil of Hokuei), Gochôtei Sadahiro (五蝶亭貞廣), and Ryûsai Shigeharu.

Sadanobu also produced a large number of fûkeiga (landscapes: 風景画) totaling roughly 450, including some very small-format mameban ("bean-print": 豆判 approx. 130 x 100 mm down to 100 x 65 mm or smaller!) that were downsized copies of ôban nishiki-e by Utagawa Hiroshige I. Sadanobu also produced his own original Hiroshige-style designs, such as the chûban nishiki yoko-e series Naniwa hyakkei no uchi (From the 100 Views of Osaka, c. late 1850s) or the series Miyako meisho no uchi (Famous places in the capital: 都名所之内) from 1870-1871 published by Wataya Kihei (大坂綿屋喜兵衛梓). The image below from the Miyako meisho series is titled Kôdai-ji aki no kei (Autumn scene at Kôdai Temple: 高台寺秋之景). It is a design original to Sadanobu, but the influence of both Utagawa Hiroshige I and Utagawa Hiroshige II is clearly evident in the idiomatic visual language, including strolling figures seen from a distance, trees partly interrupting views of the main structures, seasonal foliage and its particular style of coloration, including a vibrant pink horizon line and a gradated blue sky.

Sadanobu 1870 kodaiji
Hasegawa Sadanobu I: Kôdai-ji aki no kei (Autumn scene at Kôdai Temple: 高台寺秋之景)
Series: Miyako meisho no uchi (Famous places in the capital: 都名所之内), 1870, chûban (179 x 244 mm)

Also to be counted among Sadanobu's works, starting in the late 1850s, were some tatebanko ("Standing printing-block models" or dioramas: 立版古), which became something of a Hasegawa artist-family specialty in the late Edo and Meiji periods. One such tatebanko comprised 14 separate sheets meant to be cut up and assembled as a three-dimensional display for the final act of the great kabuki and puppet play Kanadehon chûshingura (Copybook of the treasury of loyal retainers: 假名手本忠臣藏).

In addition to his numerous yakusha-e and fûkeiga, Sadanobu was also involved in many other genres. He produced some kachôga (nature pictures, or bird and flower prints: 花鳥画), and occasionally, musha-e (warrior prints: 武者絵) in mameban format, kodomo-e (pictures of children: 子供絵) in ôban format, jiji-e (current events prints: 時事絵), and chizu (maps: 地図). For some lighthearted fare, Sadanobu designed small-format prints for the series Dôke kyôga zukushi (Myriad crazy pictures from plays: 童戯狂画尽). Moreover, he contributed designs for various book genres, including e-iri nehon (illustrated kabuki playbooks: 絵入根本), kyôkabon (collections of humorous verses: 狂歌本), kokkeibon (popular books of humor or satire with a single story: 滑稽本), hanashibon (popular humorous books with various anecdotes or stories: 噺本), jitsurokubon ("true tale books" or non-fiction: 実録本), and oraimono (primary education textbooks: 往来物). What are most commonly encountered in the book genre are Sadanobu's rather plentiful illustrations for covers and contents of utahon (songbooks: 唄本 or 歌本).

Sadanobu's I's names and signatures

Hasegawa (長谷川)
Konishi (小西) in 1843

Personal names (jinmei):
Naraya Bunkichi (奈良屋文吉) childhood name
Naraya Tokubei (奈良屋徳兵衛) later name
Senzô (専蔵) as adopted son of the publisher Tenki in 1843

Note: Sadanobu's father's name was Hasegawa Jisuke (長谷川治助) and his mother's name was Rokujo (鹿女). The family business in high-quality chakin (茶巾 small rectangular cloths used to wipe teabowls during the tea ceremony) also operated under the name "Naraya" (奈良屋). It was located in Minami-senba, Andojibashi-dori, Naniwabashi-suji (南船場安堂寺橋通浪波橋筋), in Edo.

Art names (geimei):
Sadanobu (貞信)
Yûchô (有長)

Art pseudonyms ():
Gosôtei (五雙亭) also found as a geimei signature 1834
Nansô (南忩)
Nansôrô (南忩樓)
Sekka (雪花)
Sekkaen (雪花園) also found as a geimei signature c. 1848–55
Sekko (雪江)***
Shin'ô (信翁)
Shiten'ô (信天翁)
Kinkadô (金花堂)
Yûen (楢園)
Ryokuitsusai (緑一齋)
Rankô (蘭孝 as a jôruri singer)

Naniwatei (浪花亭) ? possibly a different artist using the geimei "Sadanobu" c. 1823

Pupils of Sadanobu I

Sadanobu I's pupils included (in order of known years of activity):

Sadamasa (貞政 act. c. 1834-1838)
Sadaharu (貞春 act. c. late 1830s-1840)
Nobuhiro (信廣 act. c. late 1830s-1840)
Munehiro (宗廣 later called Toyohide II, 豊秀, act. c. 1848–63)
Konobu I (一代目 小信 1848-1940 later Sadanobu II: 二代目 貞信)
Konobu II (二代目 小信 died in 1886 before he could produce many prints or take the Sadanobu geimei).

Sadanobu and Konobu lineage art names (geimei)

Beginning with Sadanobu II, artists of the Hasegawa lineage all began their careers with the geimei Konobu. The lineage has been entirely hereditary through direct descent within the same family (i.e., no adoptions or conferring of Konobu or Sadanobu geimei upon non-family members).

Sadanobu I
(一代目 貞信)
1809-1879 Active 1809-1879 (did not use the Konobu name); gave up the Sadanobu geimei to his son Konobu I sometime around 1875
Sadanobu II
(二代目 貞信)
1848-1940 Son of Sadanobu I; his given name was Tokutarô (徳太郎); first geimei was Konobu I (1867-c. 1875?); worked in father's style
Konobu II
(二代目 小信)
died July 1886 Konobu II, given name Sadakichi (貞吉), younger brother of Konobu I, designed a few works as Konobu II but died at age 20, never taking the Sadanobu geimei
Sadanobu III
(三代目 貞信)
1881-1963 Son of Sadanobu II; began as Konobu III; became Sadanobu III after his father's death; worked principally in the shin hanga manner
Sadanobu IV
(四代目 貞信)
1914-1999 Son of Sadanobu III; started as Konobu IV; continued working in the shin hanga style
Sadanobu V
(五代目 貞信)
born 1946 Daughter of Sadanobu IV; started as Konobu V until she ascended to the Sadanobu geimei in 2003

© 2020-2021 by John Fiorillo


  • Matsudaira, Susumu: Shôdai Hasegawa Sadanobu hanga sakuhin ichiran (Catalog of the printed works of Hasegawa Sadanobu I), 1997.
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