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The Aoki Endowment for Japanese Art

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Utagawa Yoshitaki, Japanese, (1841–1899)
Kanadehon Chushingura: Act 3, The Shogun’s Palace, c. 1870
Ink on Paper
9 13/16 in. x 14 5/8 in. (24.89 cm x 37.08 cm)

Object Type: Print
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Credit Line: Purchased with funds from the Aoki Endowment for Japanese Arts and Cultures
Accession Number: 2008.1.3

Alternate Title: Kanadehon Chushingura: Act 3, The Shogun’s Palace
Full Title: Kanadehon Chushingura: Act 3, The Shogun’s Palace: The Bribe; The Quarrel; and The Rear Gate

Signature: Yoshitaki.

Object Description
Japan’s most famous loyalty-revenge story — Kanadehon Chûshingura (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers), popularly known as Chûshingura, is based upon events that occurred at the beginning of the eighteenth century. In 1701 Asano Naganori, lord of the provincial Akô domain (in present-day Hyôgo Prefecture, central Japan) was placed in charge of ceremonial duties at the shogun’s castle in Edo (present-day Tokyo). He sought instruction from the master of ceremonial duties, Kira Yoshinaka but, naively, failed to offer the usual bribe. Kira humiliated Asano to the extent that the latter drew his sword and inflicted a slight wound on Kira. The penalty for drawing a sword in the shogun’s castle was strict: suicide for the offending lord, confiscation of property, and dispersal of retainers. Asano’s retainers decided to avenge their master’s death and adopted a strategy that culminated in a raid on Kira’s mansion eighteen months later. They decapitated Kira and then paraded through the streets of Edo to the grave of their master at Sengakuji Temple where they placed the severed head on Asano’s grave. The shogun could not permit the retainers to go unpunished because the vengeance represented a choice between loyalty to a vassal lord versus that to the supreme ruler, the shogun. The retainers were ordered to commit suicide and complied.   Chûshingura, originally a jôruri (puppet) play in 11 acts in the jidamono (history play) style, was written by Takeda Izumo II, Miyoshi Shôraku, and Namiki Sôsuke in 1748. Chûshingura was quickly adapted into kabuki. Chûshingura’s popularity has persisted for three centuries.
In this act, Hayano Kampei, distracted with his lover, Okaru, at the rear gate arrives too late to contain his master. Ashamed at his failure, Kampei decides to abscond with Okaru to her home in the country. The journey scene is titled “The Fugitives,” a dance-drama with kiyomoto (shamisen) accompaniment and was added in 1833.

"In this act, Hayano Kampei, one of the 47 ronin, is distracted with his lover Okaru, and arrives too late to help revenge his master. Ashamed at his failure, Kampei decides to abscond with Okaru to her home in the country. The journey scene is entitled “The Fugitives,” a dance-drama with shamisen accompaniment. This print was produced in Osaka, where Yoshitaki was a popular artist in the late 19th century."
(BC, student in 2010 seminar ARHI154 Japanese Prints)

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