Chikanobu Toyohara, Nanso Satomi Hakken-den, Kabuki


Artist: Chikanobu Toyohara (1838-1912)
Title: Nanso Satomi Hakken-den
Publisher: Hatano Tsunesada
Date: 1883
Dimensions: (L) 24.1 x 35 (C) 24.2 x 35 (R) 24.3 x 34.9 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.

Japanese kabuki theatre started out as a type of dance and evolved into a theatre play, where in order to make a more dramatic and memorable performance the actors wear decorative costumes and apply make-up. Thus, Japanese kabuki is a type of stylised dance-drama. 

Surprisingly, it all started with Izumo no Okuni, a woman who began performing a special her own style of dance. Then, kabuki adopted her moves and both male and female artists performed it skillfully. However, in 1629, the government banned women from the theatre as it started attracting bad crowds.


Nanso Satomi Hakkenden (The Eight Dog Chronicles) is a Japanese epic novel by Kyokutei Bakin.
Hakkenden is set in the Sengoku period (c. 1467 – 1615) and tells the adventures of eight samurai half-brothers, all of them originated from a dog and bearing the character for "dog" in their names.


The image consists of countless patterns and elaborate designs, which makes the whole scene quite compelling.

Chikanobu Yoshu (1838 - 1912)

Chikanobu Yoshu was a woodblock print artist from the end of the 19th century. He was one of the most prolific woodblock print artists of this period, working with both traditional subjects, such as actors, courtesans, scenes of famous sites, beautiful women, and with topical subjects, such as war and rebellion. Born into a samurai family in Echigo province, Chikanobu became one of the final, great, ukiyo-e artists aiming to preserve the traditional culture of Japan at a time when the country was becoming rapidly modernised. As a child, he studied Kano style painting. When he moved to Tokyo he studied print design first at the studio of Kuniyoshi Utagawa (1797-1861) and later on at that of Kunisada I Utagawa (1786–1865).

The end of the Edo period (1603-1868) and the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912) brought a rapid influx of Western values and technologies that influenced many artists of this time, including Chikanobu. As a result, he developed a distinctive personal style blending a close adherence to the traditional technique of ukiyo-e, and occasional western imagery. He designed prints rooted in traditional myths and legends but also kaika-e, prints that documented Japan's modernization, the Emperor Meiji and the imperial court's promotion of that modernization.

Even though Chikanobu’s prints showcase a variety of subjects, due to the wealth of his beauties and court ladies works, it is believed that the customs and events of the imperial family were his favourite subject. Out of these prints, the most well-known series is probably ‘The Inner Palace of Chiyoda’ (‘Chiyoda no O-oku’), which depicts the court life in the palace of the Tokugawa shogunate. Influenced by the rapid changes happening in Japanese society following the Meiji restoration, Chikanobu also produced beauty prints showing ladies in Western clothing, as opposed to kimono. Chikanobu's last works in the early years of the 20th century featured brave samurai and heroic women of Japan's past, models of appropriate behaviour for the future.

More Information
Print FormatTriptych
ArtistChikanobu Yoshu (1838 - 1912)
SubjectSamurai & Male, Male & Female, Kabuki Theatre
Size(L) 24.1 x 35 (C) 24.2 x 35 (R) 24.3 x 34.9 cm