Stories of the True Loyalty of the Faithful Samurai, Part I

(Seichû gishi den, 誠忠義士傳)

Publisher: Ebi-ya Rinnosuke

August 1847 – January 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.  The prints in this series represent the characters in the story, with some of the names altered.  Each sheet is about 14 by 10 inches (36 by 25 centimeters), a size known as ôban.

 

Description: Ôboshi Yuranosuke Yoshio (大星由良之助良雄), the historical Oishi Kuranosuke Yoshitaka, seated on a camp-stool holding a drum and a stick with a spear over his shoulder

Robinson: S54.1

Weinberg: I.1

 

 

In the right lower corner, this state has a different seal of the same publisher, Ebi-ya Rinnosuke, and the number “1” within a circle has been omitted.

 

Description: Ôboshi Rikiya Yoshikane standing with a spear under his arm

Robinson: S54.2a

Weinberg: I.2a

 

 

 

Description: Ôboshi Rikiya Yoshikane (大星力弥良金) seated, his helmet attached to the head of his spear, which is over his shoulder

Robinson: S54.2

Weinberg: I.2

 

NOTE: The text in this print is identical to that of the preceding print.

 

 

 

This print has the same image as the above print, but a different text.  In the left lower corner, this state has a different seal of the same publisher, Ebi-ya Rinnosuke, and the number “2” within a circle is omitted.

 

 

Description: Yatô Yomoshichi Norikane (加藤與茂七教兼) holding his spear and drinking from a porcelain cup

Robinson: S54.3

Weinberg: I.3

 

 

In the left lower corner, this state has a different seal of the same publisher, Ebi-ya Rinnosuke, and the number “3” within a circle is omitted.

 

 

Description: Fuwa Katsuemon Masatane (不羽勝右衛門正種) examining the edge of his sword

Robinson: S54.4

Weinberg: I.4

 

 

Description: Shikamatsu Kanroku Yukishige (鹿松諫六行重) with his spear, wringing out his sleeves

Robinson: S54.5

Weinberg: I.5

 

 

This state has a different seal of the same publisher, Ebi-ya Rinnosuke, and the number “5” within a circle is omitted.

 

 

Description: Yoshida Sadaemon Kanesada (吉田定右衛門兼貞) cutting arrows in flight

Robinson: S54.6

Weinberg: I.6

 

NOTE: It is said that an expert swordsman can protect himself from an arrow shot at him by severing the arrow in mid-air.

 

In the right lower corner, this state has a different seal of the same publisher, Ebi-ya Rinnosuke, and the number “6” within a circle is omitted.

 

 

Description: Sakagaki Genzô Masakata (阪垣源蔵正堅) seated on a broken stone garden plinth, grasping his spear

Robinson: S54.7

Weinberg: I.7

 

 

This state has a different seal of the same publisher, Ebi-ya Rinnosuke, and the number “7” within a circle is omitted.

 

Description: Yukugawa Sampei Munenori (行川三平宗則) cutting at a flying handheld lamp

Robinson: S54.8

Weinberg: I.8

 

Description: Onodera Jûnai Hidetomo (小野寺重内秀和) crouching with drawn sword, shading his eyes

Robinson: S54.9

Weinberg: I.9

 

NOTE: Onodera Jûnai Hidetomo has a sashimono on his uniform.  This is a flag attached to the back to facilitate recognition in battle.

 

 

In this state, the number “9” within a circle is omitted.

 

Description: Isoai Juroemon Masahisa (磯合重郎右衛門正久) making a stroke with his naginata

Robinson: S54.10

Weinberg: I.10

 

 

Description: Okano Ginemon Kanehide (岡野銀右衛門包秀) holding out a lantern with a drawn sword in his other hand

Robinson: S54.11

Weinberg: I.11

 

 

This state has a different seal of the same publisher, Ebi-ya Rinnosuke, and the number “11” within a circle is omitted.

Description: Senzaki Yagorô Noriyasu (千崎矢五郎則休) running with a spear in his hand

Robinson: S54.12

Weinberg: I.12

 

 

This state has a different seal of the same publisher, Ebi-ya Rinnosuke, and the number “12” within a circle is omitted.

 

Description: Yazama Jûjirô Moto-oki (矢間重次郎元與) blowing a signal whistle with a drawn sword in his other hand

Robinson: S54.13

Weinberg: I.13

 

 

Description: Ôtaka Gengo Tadao (大鷹玄吾忠雄) making a thrust with his spear

Robinson: S54.14

Weinberg: I.14

 

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

“Weinberg” refers to listing in Kuniyoshi, The Faithful Samurai by David R. Weinberg (Hotei Publishing, Leiden, The Netherlands, 2000).

 

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