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Bamboo Joints: The Chrysanthemum Garden

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Chikanobu Yoshu, Japanese, (1838–1912)
Bamboo Joints: The Chrysanthemum Garden, 01/04/1903
Ink on Paper
14 1/8 in. x 9 1/4 in. (35.88 cm x 23.5 cm)

Object Type: print
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Period: Meiji (Japan, 1869-1912)
Credit Line: Purchased with funds from the Aoki Endowment for Japanese Arts and Cultures
Accession Number: 2003.1.56

Alternate Title: Take no hito fushi: Kikubatake

Very good impressions with gauffrage and lacquer.

Colored ink woodblock triptych on off-white paper (three oban tate-e).

Object Description
In the last act of this 5 act play, "Lord Kiichi's Three Books of Tactics" (Kiichi hogen sanryaku no maki) written for the puppet theater in 1731, the famous warrior Yoshioka Kiichi has retired from the conflicts between the Genji and Heike clans. While his family had long served the Genji, Kiichi had chosen to fight with the Heike. He was a brave warrior and brilliant strategist, but Kiichi did not receive the recognition he thought he deserved from the Heike leader, Taira Kiyomori, merely because of his ancestors' past connections with the enemy.

In retirement Kiichi wrote three volumes about battle tactics, but is uncertain who should receive this treasure trove of information.

Kiichi's younger half brother Kisanta, whom he has not met, is allied with the Genji and wants to get a hold of the three books containing family secrets. Kisanta and his Genji friend Ushiwakamaru (later known as Minamoto Yoshitsune) get jobs in the Yoshioka household in order to meet Kiichi. One day in the garden, Kiichi strikes up a conversation with Kisanta and soon realizes the young man's identity and purpose. In the meantime, Kiyomori has learned of the three volumes and requests that they be delivered to him. Kiichi sends his daughter Minazuru-hime to tell Kiyomori that the books are not ready. She is accompanied to the Heike headquarters by the disguised Ushiwakamaru, with whom she falls in love. Kiyomori is outraged by the delay and demands that the books be delivered the next day.

When Minazuru returns home, she finds her father in the chrysanthemum garden and relays Kiyomori's message. Kiichi knows he must smuggle the books out of the house immediately, so he threatens to beat Ushiwakamaru in order to throw both Kisanta and the Genji warrior out of the Yoshioka compound (with the precious manuscripts). In this print, Kiichi appears angry, for the sake of appearances, while Minazuru hovers protectively over her beloved Ushiwakamaru, to whom she has slipped the lacquered box containing the documents.

While Chikanobu has depicted the actors in kabuki costumes, he gives their faces far more individualized character and emotions than he might have 30 years earlier. Kiichi scowls, but is not bombastic in his anger. His face is wrinkled with age and seems almost photographic in its realism. The youthful Ushiwakamaru appears confused and mistrustful, not yet realizing what is happening. Minazuru's gesture to her father is pleading for Ushiwakamaru's safety, but her loving downward gaze reveals her own emotional state.

Aubrey S. & Giovanna M. Halford, The Kabuki Handbook (Charles E. Tuttle, Tokyo, 1956), pp. 180-186.

For more information, please refer to the Chikanobu exhibition catalogue.

Akiyama Buemon

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