Sketches of kabuki as souvenirs for the afterlife

Meido no miyage shibai no omokage 冥府苞苴劇容彩

This series of 33 sketches was made by Ôta Masamitsu in 1950's, but I do not know what is the media. Woodblock prints? Hand-colored sketches? Watercolors? Probably watercolors based on photographs. Some of these have been re-used for the woodblock print series described in the website.

Translation of the title is difficult. Meido no miyage "Souvenirs for the netherworld" is normally used for something one desires or something one has to accomplish before dying. Here these are the sketches which we want to keep in mind for the last voyage, so my translation tries to convey this message. Any other suggestion is welcome.

All images are courtesy of the Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum - Waseda University, Tokyo. I am very thankful to Darrel C.Karl for the commentaries.


Actor: Takada Minoru (1880-1916)

Role: Arao Jôsuke, here in 1912

Play: Arao Jôsuke

Note: Arao Jôsuke is the sequel of Konjiki Yasha, a novel by Ozaki Kôyô adapted to kabuki in 1898


Actor: Nakamura Karoku III (1848-1919)

Role: Yôjirô no Hahaoya, here in 1915

Play: Horikawa (Chikagoro Kawara no Tatehiki)


Actor: Nakamura Baigyoku II (1840-1921)

Role: Magoemon, here in 1914

Play: Ninokuchi-mura (Act II of Koi no Hikyaku Yamato Òrai)


Actor: Ichikawa Danshiro II (1853-1922)

Role: Heisaku, here in 1920

Play: Numazu (act IV of Igagoe Dôchû Sugoroku)


Actor: Sawamura Sôjûrô VII (1875-1949)

Role: Takechi Jûjirô Mitsuyoshi, here in 1922

Play: Ehon Taikôki

Note: The cartouche identifies the actor as Sawamura Sônosuke I (1885-1924). But this actor was primarily a onnagata specialized in female roles and never played the role of Takechi Jûjirô Mitsuyoshi. In 1922, however, he played Hatsukiku, Mitsuyoshi's betrothed opposite Sawamura Sôjûrô VII. Ota Masamitsu was likely working from a photograph which he misread and mistakenly reversed the two names.


Actor: Murata Masao I (1870-1925)

Role: Oshima, here in 1923

Play: Shimizu Jirochô


Actor: Nakamura Jakaemon III (1874-1927)

Role: Princess Yaegaki-hime, here in 1922

Play: Honchô Nijûshikô (Twenty-four Examples of filial Piety)


Actor: Onoe Matsusuke IV (1843-1928)

Role: Kômori Yasu, here in 1927

Play: Kirare Yosa (Yowa Nakase Ukina no Yokogushi)


Actor: Sawada Shôjirô (1895-1929)

Role: Kunisada Chûji, here in 1929

Play: Kunisada Chûji


Actor: Morita Kan'ya XIII (1884-1932)

Role: Hayami no Tôta

Play: Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura (Yoshitsune and the thousand cherry trees)

Note: The actor name is written wrongly in the cartouche: Kan'ya XIV (instead of XIII)


Actor: Ji Hôyô (1870-1932)

Role: Hayase Chikara, here in 1908

Play: Onna Keizu (Women's pedigree)


Actor: Onoe Kôzô II (1854-1932)

Role: Nikki Danjô, here in 1910

Play: Meibôku Sendai Hagi (The disputed succession)


Actor: Kataoka Nizaemon XI (1856-1929)

Role: Yojirô no Hahaoya, here in 1929

Play: Horikawa Saru Mawashi (The monkey showman from Horikawa)


Actor: Onoe Baiko VI (1869-1934)

Role: Princess-demon Sarahina, here in 1933

Play: Momijigari

Note: This watercolor (?) is similar to the print and may have been the model


Actor: Nakamura Ganjirô I (1859-1935)

Role: Kamiya Jihei, here in 1931

Play: Shinju ten no Amijima” (Love suicide at Amijima)

Note: The design of this watercolor is similar to the print's.


Actor: Bando Shûchô III (1879-1935)

Role: Okaru, here in 1928

Play: Kanadehon Chûshingura (The Revenge of the 47 Ronin)


Actor: Sawamura Gennosuke IV (1858-1936)

Role: Otomi, here in 1924

Play: Kirare Otomi (Scarface Otomi)

Note: Gennosuke played this role from 1888 to 1926. This sketch is based on a 1924 photograph.


Actor: Ichikawa Chûsha VII (1859-1936)

Role: Takechi Mitsuhide, here in1929

Play: Ehon Taikôki (Act X) (The illustrated chronicles of the Regent)


Actor: Tomoda Kyôsuke (1898-1937)

Role: Pierrot,here in 1926

Play: Yôki na shi


Actor: Ichikawa Sadanji II (1879-1940)

Role: Yashaô, here in 1940

Play: Shuzenji Monogatari (The tale of Shuzenji) or the Mask of destiny)


Actor: Ichikawa Shôchô II (1885-1940)

Role: Okiku, here in 1937

Play: Banchô Sarayashiki (The Dish Mansion at Bancho or Okiku's ghost)


Actor: Nakamura Utaemon V (1864-1940)

Role: Fujiwara no Tokihira (Shihei), here in 1928

Play: Shihei no Nana Warai (Shihei's seven laughs)


Actor: Kawai Takeo (1874-1942)

Role: Koume, here in 1940

Play: Kanaya Koume (A romance of Kanaya Koume)


Actor: Òtani Tomoemon VI (1885-1943)

Role: Teraoka Heiemon, Here in 1930

Play: Kanadehon Chûshingura (The Revenge of the 47 Ronin)


Actor: Nakamura Kaisha (1874-1945)

Role: Chiyo

Play: Ga no Iwai (Act II of Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami - Sugawara's secrets of calligraphy)

Note: Chiyo is Matsuômaru's wife


Actor: Ichimura Utaemon XV (1873-1945)

Role: Kataoka Naojirô, here in 1932

Play: Naozamurai (The faithful samuraï), scene of Kumo ni Magou Ueno no Hatsuhana (The first flower of Ueno)


Actor: Kataoka Nizaemon XII (1881-1946)

Role: Matsudaira Chôshichirô, here in 1936

Play: Umagiri (Slay a horse with a sword), scene of Sanzen Ryô Kogane no Kurairi


Actor: Nakamura Baigyôku III (1874-1948)

Role: Masaoka, here in 1935

Play: Meiboku Sendai Hagi (The disputed succession)


Actor: Soganoya Gorô (1876-1948)

Role: Kamematsu, here in 1935

Play: Hazakura (The green leaves of cherry trees)

Note: The symbol on the vest (crossed feathers) belongs to the Ako clan, clan of the 47 ronins led by Oboshi Yuranosuke


Actor: Matsumoto Koshirô VII (1869-1949)

Role: Benkei,here in 1946

Play: Kanjinchô (The Subscription list)


Actor: Sawamura Sojurô VII (1874-1949)

Role: Osome, here in 1930

Play: Shinpan Utazaimon (A newly published ballad)


Actor: Onoe Kikugorô VI (1884-1949)

Role: Yasuna, here in 1949

Play: Yasuna (Kosode monogurui - The short-sleeve garment madness)


Actor: Inoue Masao (1882-1950)

Role: Morita Shinzò, here in 1948

Play: Taii no Musume (The Capitain's daughter)

Note: Play based on a novel by Puchkin