Illustrated Collection of Famous Japanese Puppets of the Osaka Bunrakuza, 1926-1927

Prints from an Illustrated Collection of Famous Japanese Puppets of the Osaka Bunrakuza by Hasegawa Sadanobu III (Konobu III)

(Prints in The Lavenberg Collection)

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Illustrated Collection of Famous Japanese Puppets of the Osaka Bunrakuza, 1926-1927

by Hasegawa Sadanobu III (Konobu III) 


The 12 sets/volumes of prints

The four print set for Yoshitsune zenbon sakura (Volume 2: published April 20, 1926)

puppets from left to right (as positioned on the stage set print's tissue overlay):

 Tsuzumi Tōta 皷藤太, Kitsune Tadanobu 狐忠信, Shizuka Gozen 静御前

The four print set for Ichi-no-tani Futaba Gunki (Volume 3: published May 20, 1926) puppets from left to right (as positioned on the stage set print's tissue overlay): Mukandayū (Mukannotayū) Atsumori 無官太夫敦盛, Kumagi Jirō Naozane 熊谷次郎直実, Tamaori Hime 玉織姫

The four print set for Chushingura Act V (Volume 4: published June 20, 1926)

puppets from left to right (as positioned on the stage set print's tissue overlay):

Hayano Kanpei 早野勘平,  Hyakushō Yoichibei 百姓与一兵衛, Ono Sadakurō 斧定九郎

The four print set for Chushingura Act VII (Volume ?: published 1926 or 1927) 

puppets from left to right (as positioned on the stage set print's tissue overlay):

Ōboshi Yuranosuke 大星由良之助 , Yūjo Okaru 遊女お軽 , Teroka Heiemon 寺岡平右衛門

The four print set for  Igagoe dōchū sugoroku (Volume 6: published September 20, 1926) puppets from left to right (as positioned on the stage set print's tissue overlay): Musume Oyone 娘お米, Oya Heisaku 雲助平作, Gofukuya Jūbei 呉服屋十兵衛

The four print set for Dan-no-ura Kabuto Gunki  (Volume ?: published 1926 or 1927) puppets from left to right (as positioned on the stage set print's tissue overlay): Yūkun Akoya 遊君阿古屋, Hatakeyama Shigetada 畠山重忠, Iwanaga Saemon 岩永左衛門

The four print set for Honchō Nijūshikō (Volume ?: published 1926 or 1927) puppets from left to right (as positioned on the stage set print's tissue overlay): Koshimoto Nureginu 腰元濡衣, Takeda Katsuyori 武田勝頼, Yaegaki Hime 八重垣姫

The four print set for  Natsumatsuri Naniwa Kagami (Volume ?: published 1926 or 1927) puppets from left to right (as positioned on the stage set print's tissue overlay): Tsurifun no Sabu 釣船の三婦, Issun Tokubei 一寸徳兵衛, Danshichi Kurobei 団七九郎兵衛

The four print set for Shinjū Ten no Amijima (Volume ?: publisher 1926 or 1927) puppets from left to right (as positioned on the stage set print's tissue overlay): Kamiya Jihei 紙屋治兵衛, Koya Magoemon粉屋孫右衛門, Kinokuniya Koharu 紀の国屋小春

The four print set for Shinpan Utazaimon (Volume ?: 1926 or 1927) puppets from left to right  (as positioned on the stage set print's tissue overlay): Osome お染, Hisamatsu and Kyūsaku 久松久作 , Omitsu お光

The four print set for Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami (Volume 9: published February 5, 1927) puppets from left to right (as positioned on the stage set print's tissue overlay): Toneri Umeōmaru 舎人梅王丸, Toneri Sakuramaru 舎人桜丸, Toneri Matsummaru 舎人松王丸

The four print set for Kamakura Sandaiki (Volume 11: published July 15, 1927) puppets from left to right (as positioned on the stage set print's tissue overlay): Miuranosuke Yoshimura 三浦之助義村,  Sasaki Takatsuna 佐々木高綱, Tokihime daughter of Tokimasa 時政息女時姫

About the "Illustrated Collection of Famous Japanese Puppets

of the Osaka Bunrakuza"

Note: For background on the Bunraku puppet theater please see the list of reference materials at the bottom of this page.

This collection of forty-eight color woodblock prints was designed by Hasegawa Sadanobu III (Konobu III) (1881-1963), an Osaka-based artist with a deep interest in Japanese traditional theater, and issued over the period March 1926 (Taishō 15) to August 1927 (Shōwa 2)1 by the publishing houses Bijutsusha 美術社 in Tokyo and, on a subscription (members only) basis, by Hangakai hanmoto 版画会板元 (板畫會板元) in Kyoto. The cost per print set was 3 yen by subscription and 3 yen 50 sen for a single print set. The editor and publisher for both the Bijutsusha and Hangakai hanmoto sets was Hayashi Eikichi 林榮吉, who was also the editor for Hasegawa's Collection of One Hundred Kumadori Makeups in Kabuki. (See Hasegawa Sadanobu III (Konobu III) (1881-1963) for prints from this collection.)

The Illustrated Collection of Famous Japanese Puppets of the Osaka Bunrakuza consists of twelve sets of prints each set depicting a specific play in the bunraku repertory, as listed in the below table. Each set contains a stage set for the specific play along with three prints of puppet characters appearing in the play and an explanatory sheet, for a total of forty-eight color woodblock prints and twelve monochrome explanatory sheets. Each of the stage set prints was originally issued with a tissue overlay showing the position of the three puppet characters on the stage. All of the plays pictured were performed at the Bunraku Theater (Bunraku-za) located within the Goryō Shrine compound in Osaka. The Goryō Bunraku-za burned down in November 1926 after what has been described as "an extremely difficult managerial era" and "lost interest" by the public in the late Taishō era.2 It is unknown what role, if any, the management of the Goryō Bunraku-za may have played in the formulation and issuance of this print series in their efforts to revitalize the theater.

The prints as originally issued made use of deluxe printing techniques including embossing on many of the puppet robes and faces, use of woodgrain backgrounds, bokashi shading and black lacquer to highlight the wigs.

1 Dates are taken from the colophons on the envelopes containing the print sets in the Waseda University Archives

2 National Diet Library website page http://www.ndl.go.jp/scenery/e/column/kansai/goryo_bunrakuza.html which provides a history of the Goryo Bunrakuza.

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Detail of embossing, Tamaori Hime in

Ichi-no-tani Futaba Gunki, 1926

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Detail of embossing, Issun Tokubei in 

Natsumatsuri Naniwa Kagami, 1926 or 1927

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Detail of printing on fan to create 3D effect,

Sasaki Takatsuma in Kamakura Sandaiki

Natsumatsuri Naniwa Kagami, 1927

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Detail of woodgrain texture and bokashi in background,

Hyakushō Yoichibei in Kanadehon Chūshingura, Act 5, 1926

Reissued by Uchida Publishing


At a later date, likely after WWII, the publisher Uchida acquired the woodblocks for these prints and reissued many, if not all, of the prints. The Uchida puppet prints bear their octagonal Uchida hanmoto seal 版元 うちだ, as can be seen in the lower right corner of the below print on the right, and their prints typically have larger margins. The color palette was also altered on many of the Uchida reissued prints, although in the below first edition print on the left, the original orange ink has oxidized to a rich brown. I believe the stage set prints, although they do not carry Uchida's seal, were also reissued by Uchida but without the tissue paper overlays and added margins as can be seen in IHL Cat. #1658 Stage Set for Kamakura Sandaiki. A colophon from the Uchida reissued set is shown below under the "Colophon..." section.

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 Sasaki Takatsuna in  Kamakura Sandaiki 

left: as originally issued in 1927 by Bijutsusha and Hangakai hanmoto

right: as reissued by Uchida Publishing, likely post-war.

Note the small modification to the hair on the puppets head in the Uchida print.

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Stage Set for Kamakura Sandaiki

left: as originally issued in 1927 by Bijutsusha and Hangakai hanmoto

right: as reissued by Uchida Publishing, likely post-war.