Bunraku Theater Stage Set for Kamakura Sandaiki from the Illustrated Collection of Famous Japanese Puppets of the Osaka Bunrakuza

Seitaka Dōji from the folio Collection of One Hundred Kumadori Makeups in Kabuki, Collection 2

 Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Bunraku Theater Stage Set for

Kamakura Sandaiki

[Three Generations of Kamakura Shoguns]

from the Illustrated Collection of Famous Japanese Puppets of the Osaka Bunrakuza

Hasegawa Sadanobu III, 1927 and post-WWII

Portrait of Saigō Takamori

IHL Cat. #2472 (first edition with tissue overlay)

IHL Cat. #1658 (later edition)

About This Print

Two editions of an illustration of the stage set for the play Kamakura Sandaiki [Three Generations of Kamakura Shoguns] written by Takeda Izumo II (1691-1756) and others and first staged in 1748 under a different title.

The top print, issued in 1926 came with a tissue overlay showing the outlines of the three puppets positioned on the stage. The later edition, likely post-WWII, does not have this overlay.

This set presents us with the house in Kinugawa Village,Orachi where Toza's mother is convalescing. Betrayal, murder and suicide will follow!

Brief Plot Summary - Kamakura Sandaiki
Miuranosuke is a samurai serving the lord of a besieged castle. Tokihime, the woman he is betrothed to marry, is the daughter of the lord leading the attack on the castle. While he is away at battle, she comes to a lonely farming village to care for his sick mother. Miuranosuke comes back from the battle to see his mother, but she refuses to let him in since he has come away from his duties. In turn, Miuranosuke refuses to see Tokihime because she is the daughter of the enemy. Finally, all is revealed to be a plot by the brilliant strategist Takatsuna, to force Tokihime to assassinate her father.

Bunraku Stage Set

Stage Set for  Ehon Taikoki (Records of the Taiko)

Source: Bunraku: The Art of the Japanese Puppet Theatre, Donald Keene and Hiroshi Kaneko, Kodansha International, Ltd., 1965, p. 22.
For those unfamiliar with the stage set for bunraku the following passages from Donald Keene's Bunraku: The Art of the Japanese Puppet Theatre are instructive:

"Soon after the chanter enters his description of the new scene, the curtain is drawn aside to reveal the set, a naturalistic rendering of a landscape or interior. If the backdrop represents an outdoor scene, it is painted on a series of vertical panels which may be moved laterally to suggest that characters (who remain in one place) are traveling. If an interior, the gate, framework of the house, and generally one room are depicted, with the suggestion of other rooms beyond.  A garden or nearby building may also be represented. A doorway at the rear-center of the stage is usual, for it permits the female characters to make spectacular exists, displaying their figures from behind. Very few props are used; unless necessary to the action, the furnishings are generally  painted on the backdrop, to allow the operators the maximum freedom of movement.

The Bunraku stage, traditionally 36 feet wide, 25 feet deep, and 15 feet high, is divided into various playing areas. The main stage occupies about half the total area, and often serves as the interior of a house. Three raised partitions of different heights run across the width of the stage, standing before the trench-like passages in which the operators work. The partitions conceal the lower half of the principal operator's body, more of the operator of the left hand (who does not wear high-platformed clogs), and almost all of the operator of the feet; at the same time, they provide tha apparent floor or ground level on which the puppets walk or sit. To the audience's right is a dais projecting into the auditorium from the stage. There the chanter perches on bulky cushions before an elaborately fashioned reading-stand; to his left, the samisen player sits on a single cushion, dwarfed by the chanter."

The Other Prints in the Kamakura Sandaiki Set

As further explained below, each stage set print was part of a set of five prints consisting of a black and white explanatory sheet and three portraits of puppet characters appearing in the play.
explanatory sheet
鎌倉三代記 Kamakura Sandaiki
Source: The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University 201-1528
click on image to enlarge

The four print set for Kamakura Sandaiki
puppets from left to right (as positioned on the stage set print's tissue overlay):
Miuranosuke Yoshimura 三浦之助義村,  Sasaki Takatsuna 佐々木高綱,
Tokihime daughter of Tokimasa 時政息女時姫

About the "Illustrated Collection of Famous Japanese Puppets of the Osaka Bunrakuza"

This collection of forty-eight color woodblock prints was designed by Hasegawa Sadanobu III (Konobu III) (1881-1963) and issued over the period March 1926 (Taishō 15) to August 1927 (Shōwa 2)1 by the publishing houses Bijutsusha 美術社 in Tokyo and on a subscription (members only) basis by Hangakai hanmoto 版画会板元 (板畫會板元) in Kyoto. The cost per print set was 3 yen. The editor and publisher for both the Bijutsusha and Hangakai hanmoto sets was Hayashi Eikichi 林榮吉, who was also the editor for Hasegawa's Collection of One Hundred Kumadori Makeups in Kabuki. (See Hasegawa Sadanobu III (Konobu III) (1881-1963) for prints from this collection.)

The Illustrated Collection of Famous Japanese Puppets of the Osaka Bunrakuza consists of twelve sets of prints each set depicting a specific play in the bunraku repertory, as listed in the below table. Each set contains a stage set for the specific play along with three prints of puppet characters appearing in the play and an explanatory sheet, for a total of forty-eight color woodblock prints and twelve monochrome explanatory sheets. Each of the stage set prints was originally issued with a tissue overlay showing the position of the three puppet characters on the stage. All of the plays pictured were performed at the Bunraku Theater (Bunraku-za) located within the Goryō Shrine compound in Osaka. The Goryō Bunraku-za burned down in November 1926 after what has been described as "an extremely difficult managerial era" and "lost interest" by the public in the late Taishō era.2 It is unknown what role, if any, the management of the Goryō Bunraku-za may have played in the formulation and issuance of this print series in their efforts to revitalize the theater.

For more complete information on this series see the article Illustrated Collection of Famous Japanese Puppets of the Osaka Bunrakuza

1 Dates are taken from the colophons on the envelopes containing the print sets in the Waseda University Archives
2 National Diet Library website page http://www.ndl.go.jp/scenery/e/column/kansai/goryo_bunrakuza.html which provides a history of the Goryō Bunrakuza.

 Play Name in Japanese Play Name in English
 Dan-no-ura kabuto gunki
 Chronicle of the Battle of Dan-no-ura
 Yoshitsune senbon zakura 
 Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees
 Ichi-no-tani futaba gunki
 Chronicle of the Battle of Ichinotani
 Kanadehon Chūshingura, go danme
 The Treasury of Loyal Retainers, Act 5
 Kanadehon Chūshingura, shichi danme
 The Treasury of Loyal Retainers, Act 7
 Igagoe dōchū sugoroku
 The Revenge at Igagoe
 Shinjū ten no amajima
 The Love Suicides at Amijima
 Shinpan Utazaimon
 The New Scandalous Ballad of Osome and Hisamatsu
 Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami 
 Sugawara and the Secrets of  Calligraphy
 Honchō nijūshikō
 Twenty-four Examples of Filial Piety
 Kamakura sandaiki
 Three Generations of Kamakura Shoguns
 Natsumatsuri Naniwa kagami 
 Summer festival at Naniwa (Osaka)

Print Details
 IHL Catalog
 #2472, #1658
 Title or Description Bunraku Theater Stage Set for Three Generations of Kamakura Shoguns
 Bunraku ningyō butaizu Kamakura Sandaiki
 Series Illustrated Collection of the Famous Japanese Puppets of the Osaka Bunrakuza
 Ōsaka Bunraku-za Ningyō Gashū: Nihon Meibutsu 
 Artist Hasegawa Sadanobu III (Konobu III) (1881-1963)
 not signed 
 Seal not sealed
 Publication Date IHL Cat. #2472: July 1927 (Shōwa 2)
 IHL Cat. #1658: not dated but likely post WWII
 Publisher IHL Cat. #2472: 美術社 Bijutsusha, Tokyo and 版画会板元 Hangakai hanmoto, Kyoto
 IHL Cat. #1658: Uchida Publishing
 Carver IHL Cat. #2472: 佐藤重一 Satō Jūichi
 IHL Cat. #1658: 佐藤重一 Satō Jūichi (if original woodblocks were used)
 Printer IHL Cat. #2472: 板垣八重松 Itagaki Yaematsu
 IHL Cat. #1658: unknown
 Impression IHL Cat. #2472: excellent
 IHL Cat. #1658: excellent
 Colors IHL Cat. #2472: excellent
 IHL Cat. #1658: excellent
 Condition IHL Cat. #2472: excellent
 IHL Cat. #1658: excellent
 Genre puppet theater stage set picture 文楽人形、舞台図 bunraku ningyō, butaizu
 Miscellaneous IHL Cat. #2472: included in volume (envelope) 11 issued in July 1927
 H x W Paper 
 IHL Cat. #2472:  9 7/8 x 14 1/4 in. (25.1 x 36.2 cm)
IHL Cat. #1658: 9 1/4 x 15 1/8 in. (23.5 x 38.4 cm) 
 H x W Image IHL Cat. #2472:  9 7/8 x 14 1/4 in. (25.1 x 36.2 cm) 
 IHL Cat. #1658 :7 9/16 x 14 3/8 in. (19.2 x 36.5 cm)

 Collections This Print
 Waseda University Cultural Resource Database 201-1532(A and B); Ritsumeikan University Art Research Center AcNo. arcBK06-0002_57; National Diet Library Call Number 414.38; The Met Thomas J. Watson Library  240.3081 H27 Quarto; British Library System number: 018894603 
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