Actor Sanjō Kantarō II as Yaoya Oshichi, 1718

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The Kabuki actor Sanjō Kantarō II (1702–63) is depicted here in the female role of Yaoya Oshichi. Oshichi was burned at the stake after committing arson in a misguided ploy to be reunited with her lover. This composition shows Oshichi joyfully dressing her hair and suggests nothing of the terrible fate that will befall her.

When Toshinobu designed this print, Sanjō Kantarō was at the height of his career as an onnagata, an actor specializing in female roles. His family crest, a butterfly in a circle, decorates Oshichi’s right sleeve and the mirror stand. The other crest on the mirror stand, in the shape of a folded letter, is that of Arashi Kiyosaburō, who first popularized the role of Oshichi in 1709. It became customary for actors who played Oshichi to wear Kiyosaburō’s crest in addition to their own, as a tribute to him.

Actor Sanjō Kantarō II as Yaoya Oshichi
Artist Life
fl. c.1717-1750
Accession Number
Curator Approved

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