Ohatsu

Toyohara Kunichika

"This print shows the heroine of a kabuki drama, Sonezaki Shinju. The play dates from early in the eighteenth century and is notable for being the first kabuki drama about townspeople rather than heroes or aristocrats. In this way it predicts the pivotal change in Japanese culture away from the feudal medievalism of Tokugawa Japan towards the modern urbanisation of the cities and the growth of the vast group of middle class consumers. This is important in the context of Kunichika’s series which uses changing manners and heroines to depict the steady modernisation of Edo. 

In this play, the prostitute Ohatsu falls in love with the clerk Tokube. Tokube is betrothed against his will to his employee's niece, the dowry is misappropriated and used by the evil Kuheiji to entrap Ohatsu. The situation for the lovers seems hopeless. Broke and pursued from all sides they hide out in a wooden hut. Kuheiji taunts Ohatsu whilst Tokube hides under the step. Ohatsu talks loudly of her suicide to Kuheiji and removing her sandal, she dangles her foot in front of her concealed lover… this is the sign that she intends a double suicide. In the print, Kunichika shows her contemplating the symbolic shoe. Of course the double suicide ensues, with a tragic twist that they had been saved, unknowingly, by Tokube’s boss."

(Thanks to Toshidama for the text https://www.toshidama-japanese-prints.com/item_1194/Kunichika-36-Good-and-Evil-Beauties--Ohatsu-Holding-A-Sandal.htm)

 

Publisher: Morimoto Junzaburo.

Condition: Margins as shown, good condition, great color, not backed, some creases that can probably be removed.

Date: 1876