Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers and Faithful Samurai

(Chûshin gishi kômei kurabe, 忠臣義士高名比)

Publisher: Kobayashi Taijirô

 

1848

 

In 1702, Lord Asano of Akô was provoked by Kira Kozukenosuke Yoshinaka into drawing his sword in the shogun’s palace, for which he was forced to take his own life, and his estate was confiscated.  Forty-seven of Lord Asano’s retainers, who were now rônin (samurai without masters), planned and carried out a successful attack on Kira’s palace.  Kira’s head was cut off with the same dagger Lord Asano used to commit seppuku.  (The term “hara-kiri”, although more common in English than “seppuku”, is considered in Japan to be a vulgar and disrespectful description of an honorable act.).  The 46 surviving rônin were forced to take their own lives.  These events were made into the play, Kanadehon Chûshingura.  This series of prints portrays some of the 47 rônin.  The total number of prints in this series is unknown.  The twenty-four prints that Robinson had seen are listed below in addition to S57.16, which he had not seen.  The prints are each about 14 by 10 inches (36 by 25 centimeters), a size known as ôban. 

 

Scene: Ôboshi Rikiya Yoshikane strikes a naginata out of the hands of Takano Uheinosuke Moroyasu

Robinson: S57.2

 

Image courtesy of Richard Norcross

 

Scene: Yazama Kihei Mitsunobu making a sword stroke at a fleeing adversary by a shôji screen on which the shadow of another fleeing figure is seen

Robinson: S57.6

 

 

Scene: Senzaki Yagorô Noriyasu cutting at the fallen  Shimmi Yashichirô who blocks his downward sword stroke

Robinson: S57.7

 

Scene: Horie Yasubei Taketsune and Kobayashi Heihachi Kaneyoshi fighting by a fallen screen

Robinson: S57.8

 

Scene: Fuwa Katsuemon Masatane and Torie Riemon fighting eyeball to eyeball with crossed swords

Robinson: S57.9

 

Scene: Kataoka Dengoemon Takafusa with sword in hand running past a cowering woman

Robinson: S57.10

 

 

Scene: Takebayashi Sadashichi Takashige in combat with Kwandayû Terukage

Robinson: S57.11

 

Scene: Okajima Yasôemon Tsuneki in combat with Saitô Jurobei

Robinson: S57.13

 

Scene: Sakagaki Shigetaka in combat with Mori Hanemon

Robinson: S57.14

 

Scene: Aihara Esuke Munefusa pulling Kempachi down from his hiding place

Robinson: S57.15

 

Image courtesy of Richard Norcross

 

Scene: Yukugawa Sampei Munenori with a sword in combat with a foe armed with a pole arm

Robinson: S57.16 (listed but not described)

 

 

Scene: Rear view of Hayami Tôzaemon Mitsutaka fighting a foe who is stumbling over two potted plants

Robinson: S57.17

 

 

Scene: Chiba Saburohei Kanamaru in combat with Magohachi who waits for him behind an archway

Robinson: S57.21

 

 

 

Scene: Chiba Saburohei Mitsutada with a drawn sword discovers Nakamatsu Kurobei hiding under a blanket

Robinson: S57.22

 

 

Scene: Kadono Jûheiji Tsugufusa in combat with Iwata Yagoemon

Robinson: S57.22 bis.

 

 

Scene: Ôboshi Seizaemon Nobukiyo in combat with Sutô Senemon

Robinson: S57.28

 

 

 

Scene: Katsuta Shinzaemon Taketaka seizing an unnamed opponent by his kimono and holding a sword to his throat

Robinson: S57.29

 

 

 

Scene: Ôtaka Dengo Tadao fending off bundles of charcoal that are being thrown at him

Robinson: S57.30

 

Image courtesy of Richard Norcross

 

Scene: Kiura Okaemon Okiyuki (木浦 岡右エ門 奥行) in combat with Horibuchi Kanzaemon (堀淵寒 左エ門)

Robinson: S57.34

 

Image courtesy of Richard Norcross

 

Scene: Rear view of Hayano Wasuke Tsunenari using a pole arm against Hamano Tadanoshin who is armed with a sword

Robinson: S57.37

 

Image courtesy of Richard Norcross

 

Scene: Tokuda Tadaemon Yukitaka attacking Miya-ishi Shozaemon who is hiding under a snow-covered ledge

Robinson: S57.38

 

Image courtesy of Richard Norcross

 

Scene: Yatô Yomoshichi Norikane making a two-handed sword stroke at Masuhara Sachû who blocks it with his own sword

Robinson: S57.41

 

 

Scene: Yata Goroemon Suketake pulls Sansuke out from a kitchen range (kamado) in which he had been hiding

Robinson: S57.42

 

Scene: Uramatsu Handayû Takanao falling backwards into a frozen pond is attacked by Koshio Denshirô with a pole arm

Robinson: S57.43

 

Image courtesy of Richard Norcross

 

Scene: Shikamatsu Kanroku Yukishige holding a lantern discovers the maid Sumiji

Robinson: S57.44

The title cartouche for this series is in the shape of a hand-guard on a Japanese sword called a tsuba.  A tsuba served to keep the user’s hand from sliding onto the blade, to counterbalance the weight of the blade and to protect the hand from an opponent’s blade.  Tsuba were often beautifully decorated, and three exceptional examples are shown below.

“Robinson” refers to listing in Kuniyoshi: The Warrior-Prints by Basil William Robinson (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1982) and its privately published supplement.

 

CLICK HERE TO RETURN TO MAIN PAGE