Kunichika Toyohara, Firemen and Sumo Wrestlers, Tattoo Design

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Original Japanese woodblock print.

Artist: Kunichika Toyohara (1835-1900)
Title: Azuma Meibutsu Uwasa no Shinmei
Publisher: Ishii Rokunosuke
Date: 1890
Condition: Backed. Joined panels. Some dust around the edges.
Dimensions: 36.5 x 71.9 cm

During a sumo tournament in 1805, a group of rowdy firefighters showed up and began to provoke the sumo wrestlers. The tobi firemen, named after the hooked instrument which pulls down the affected walls to create firebreaks, were quick to temper and the confrontation ended in a massive brawl leaving one fireman killed and nearly a hundred men wounded.


This event was frequently depicted in woodblock prints and became a stylized play and dance on the kabuki stage with fights on the ground, upon ladders, and rooftops.


The massive figure in the centre is a sumo wrestler lifting a ladder while the nimble firemen hold onto the tools of their trade, the hook. These two groups, the wrestlers and especially the firemen acted as police, gangsters, extortionists and peacekeepers in the still lawless streets of Edo in the nineteenth century. They not only started violence but also ended it.

More Information
Print Format Triptych
Artist Name Kunichika Toyohara
Title Azuma Meibutsu Uwasa no Shinmei
Subject Samurai & Male, Kabuki, Tattoo
Dimensions 36.5 x 71.9 cm