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. 

 

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Ôboshi Rikiya Yoshikane (大星力弥良兼) strikes a naginata out of the hands of Takano Uheinosuke Moroyasu (高野右兵衛佐師安)

Robinson: S57.2

 

Image courtesy of Richard Norcross

 

 

Yazama Kihei Mitsunobu, 1848

 

Scene: Yazama Kihei Mitsunobu (矢間亀兵衛光延) 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

 

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Senzaki Yagorô Noriyasu (千崎弥五郎則休) cutting at the fallen Shimmi Yashichirô (真見矢七郎) who blocks his downward sword stroke

Robinson: S57.7

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Horie Yasubei Taketsune Taketsune (堀江安兵衛 武庸) and Kobayashi Heihachi Kaneyoshi (小林瓶八兼義) fighting by a fallen screen

Robinson: S57.8

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Fuwa Katsuemon Masatane (不羽勝右工門正種) and Torie Riemon ( 理右工門) fighting eyeball to eyeball with crossed swords

Robinson: S57.9

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Kataoka Dengoemon Takafusa (片岡傳五石衛門髙房) with sword in hand running past a cowering woman

Robinson: S57.10

 

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Takebayashi Sadashichi Takashige (武林貞七隆重) in combat with Kwandayû Terukage (?官太尤照景)

Robinson: S57.11

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Okajima Yasôemon Tsuneki (岡地島八十右エ門常樹) in combat with Saitô Jurobei (西藤十郎兵衛)

Robinson: S57.13

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Sakagaki Shigetaka (坂垣??) in combat with Mori Hanemon

Robinson: S57.14

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Aihara Esuke Munefusa (相原江助宗房) pulling Kempachi down from his hiding place

Robinson: S57.15

 

Image courtesy of Richard Norcross

 

Scene: Yukugawa Sampei Munenori (与川三平宗敬) with a sword in combat with a foe armed with a pole arm

Robinson: S57.16 (listed but not described)

 

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Rear view of Hayami Tôzaemon Mitsutaka (早見藤左工門 満尭) fighting a foe who is stumbling over two potted plants

Robinson: S57.17

 

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Chiba Saburohei Kanamaru (?江矢兵衛金丸) in combat with Magohachi (左石田孫八) who waits for him behind an archway

Robinson: S57.21

 

 

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Chiba Saburohei Mitsutada (千馬三郎平衛満忠) with a drawn sword discovers Nakamatsu Kurobei (中松黒平) hiding under a blanket

Robinson: S57.22

 

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Kadono Jûheiji Tsugufusa (角野重平次次房) in combat with Iwata Yagoemon (岩田与五右工門)

Robinson: S57.22 bis.

 

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Ôboshi Seizaemon Nobukiyo (大星 清左衛門信清) in combat with Sutô Senemon (須藤仙右衛門)

Robinson: S57.28

 

 

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Katsuta Shinzaemon Taketaka (勝田真左衛門武尭) seizing an unnamed opponent by his kimono and holding a sword to his throat

Robinson: S57.29

 

 

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Ôtaka Dengo Tadao (大高傳吾忠雄) fending off bundles of charcoal that are being thrown at him

Robinson: S57.30

 

Image courtesy of Richard Norcross

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

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

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Rear view of Hayano Wasuke Tsunenari (早野和助常成) using a pole arm against Hamano Tadanoshin (濱野尺之進) who is armed with a sword

Robinson: S57.37

 

Image courtesy of Richard Norcross

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Tokuda Tadaemon Yukitaka (得田唯右工門行高) attacking Miya-ishi Shozaemon (見矢石所左工門) who is hiding under a snow-covered ledge

Robinson: S57.38

 

Image courtesy of Richard Norcross

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Yatô Yomoshichi Norikane (矢頭与茂七教兼) making a two-handed sword stroke at Masuhara Sachû (益原左仲) who blocks it with his own sword

Robinson: S57.41

 

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Yata Goroemon Suketake (?五郎右エ門祐武) pulls Sansuke out from a kitchen range (kamado) in which he had been hiding

Robinson: S57.42

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Uramatsu Handayû Takanao (浦松半太夫高直) falling backwards into a frozen pond is attacked by Koshio Denshirô (小塩傳四郎) with a pole arm

Robinson: S57.43

 

Image courtesy of Richard Norcross

Kuniyoshi - Comparison of the High Renown of the Loyal Retainers & Faithful Samurai (S57

 

Scene: Shikamatsu Kanroku Yukishige (鹿松諌六行重) 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.

Tsuba

 

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

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