Kyōgen kataginu with amulet and oakleaf patterns,

orig. 1927-1928

by Yamaguchi Ryōshū

IHL Cat. #2695


Each of the volumes making up "Kyōgenga taikan" includes a print depicting two designs for kataginu, the sleeveless robe with pointed shoulders used as a stage costume in kyōgen plays. 

The kataginu is worn mainly by the characters of common people, including the servant Tarō Kaja. For higher ranking characters the kataginu is combined with a pair of long hakama trousers made of the same dyed fabric.[1]

In this print, the bottom design consists of oakleaves with insect holes and an unidentified ivory colored pillow-like object. For the top design, we have the following description from the book "Kyōgen Costumes": "Kataginu with a Yasaka Shrine amulet and arrowroot design. The amulet relates to the Gion Festival that is connected to Yasaka Shrine. A string is tied around the amulet in accordance with ancient practices."[2]


[2] Kyogen Costumes (Japanese Textiles) Kyoto Shoin's Art Library of Japanese Textiles, 9, Ken Kirihata, publisher Kyoto Shoin, 1993, p. 50.

What is Kygen

In formal terms it is "the medieval comic form [dating from the mid-14th century] that evolved alongside the serious noh and, like noh, became a seminal influence on kabuki and puppet theater."[1] While "noh is usually about gods and spirits . . .  kyōgen is always about human beings."[2] It is noh's comedic counterpart, "sandwiched between two noh plays, or even between two halves of a single drama."[3] Today, there are two schools of kyōgen, the Ōkura school 大蔵流  and the Izumi school 和泉流.

"The kyōgen doings are based on a slender repertoire of situations. [About 260 plays.] A lord has a stupid servant (always called Tarō Kaja. . .) who cannot tell a fan from an umbrella [as in the play "Suehirogari"], or who inadvertently gives away to his mistress his master's philanderings, or who drinks up all the sake and fills up the bottles with hot water and then tries to talk the master into thinking he is getting drunk. Tarō is joined by a large cast of comic characters, each as distinctive as himself, each sublimely stupid, as gloriously sly, as eternally innocent. [I]t is our foibles that kyōgen celebrates.[4]

[1] New Kabuki Encyclopedia: A Revised Adaptation of Kabuki Jiten, Samuel Leiter, Greenwood Press, 1997, p. 374.

[2] A Guide to Kyogen, Don Kenny, Hinoki Shoten, 1968, p. 7. 

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid., p. 8.

Print Details

Kyōgen kataginu amulet and oakleaf patterns

蓼洲 Ryōshū mo with Ryōshū seal

Print as it was originally issued (1927-1928), tipped into a volume of Kyōgenga taikan.