Suehirogari (末廣がり)

An Umbrella Instead of a Fan,

orig. 1927-1928

by Yamaguchi Ryōshū

IHL Cat. #2692

Still frame from Suehirogari kyōgen performed at Kumamoto Castle by Mansai Nomura and Yūki Nomura

狂言 末廣かり 野村万斋 野村裕基 熊本城公演 


Depicting the angry Master and his Servant holding an umbrella in Suehirogari, this print is from the print collection "Kyōgenga taikan." Originally published in 1927-1928, this collection's print may be from the original edition or one of the later editions using the original blocks, issued in 1966 and again in 1976.

SUEHIRO (An Umbrella instead of a Fan)

Source:  A Guide to Kyogen, Don Kenny, Hinoki Shoten, 1968, p. 251-252.

Shite [lead role] MASTER

Ado [supporting role] TARŌ  KAJA

Koado [secondary role] SELLER OF UMBRELLAS

The Master sends his servant Tarō Kaja to the capital to buy a suehirogari. Suehirogari is just another word for fan, but Tarō Kaja does not know this. He reaches the capital and realized that he has come without asking for a description of the thing he is supposed to buy, so he begins shouting that the wants to buy a suehirogari.

A dishonest Umbrella Seller realizes Tarō Kaja's lack of knowledge and sells him an old umbrella. The Master has ordered a suehirogari with good strong paper, polished bones, and pictures painted on it. (zare-e meaning 'pictures' can also mean a handle to strike with.) The Umbrella Seller explains that this umbrella has all these things, and demands an exorbitant price. As a speical service, the Umbrella Seller also teaches Tarō Kaja as song to make his Master feel good when he becomes unhappy. Tarō Kaja returns home, and is, of course, scolded for his mistake, and is chased out of the house. He begins singing and dancing the song he was taught, the Master hears him, comes out to watch and finally begins dancing with him. After the sing and dance, he rewards Tarō Kaja for his cleverness.

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


蓼洲作 Ryōshū saku with Ryōshū seal

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