print titledōke ken awase
(The assembled crazy Ken-game)
sizeōban, vertical
signatureIchiyūsai Kuniyoshi giga
artist`s sealYoshikiri-in
era nameKōka 4, 2nd month
year of publication1847/2
year of publication1847/2
censor’s sealMera, Murata
publisherIbaya Sensaburō
inscriptionSake wa kenzake iroshina wa
kairu hitohyoko mihyokohyoko
hebi nuranura
namekude mairimasho
sore janjaka janjaka janken na
basama ni Watōnai ga shikarareta
tora ga hau hau totetsuruten
kitsune de sā kinase

Sake must be ken-zake, but there are different kinds.
The frog jumps once, jumps thrice.
The snake slithers along.
Let us take the slug!
Ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong – stone ken!
Watōnai was scolded by his old mother.
The tiger crawls forward to the sound of the shamisen.
Come along with the fox!
image descriptionA fox, a tiger and a frog wearing kimono playing kitsune-ken, whereas each one of the animals adopts one of the three possible poses. The song text is written in the upper half of the print.
interpretationA fox, a tiger and a frog, dressed in kimonos, play kitsune-ken, each adopting a specific hand posture typical of kitsune-ken: The frog plays the fox, the fox plays the hunter and the tiger plays the village elder. The picture refers to the interlude Warau kado niwaka no shichifuku 笑門俄七福 (sevenfold luck with the dance at the gate of laughter), which was performed in the 4th year of Kōka (1847) in the course of the New Year's kabuki performance at the Kawarasaki theater and led to a big ken boom in Edo. The term derives from the song Sake wa kenzake 酒ハ拳酒, which accompanies the various ken games. It contains the onomatopoetic line totetsuruten トテツルテン, which imitates the sound of the accompanying instrument shamisen. Instead of its original title Warau kado niwaka no shichifuku, the dance piece was given the simple name totetsuru-ken.
The Fujiokaya Nikki contains an entry next to this print by Kuniyoshi which describes the immense popularity of the totetsuru-ken.
This print portrays the three actors, who performed the totetsuru-ken on stage, as animals. The zoomorphic representation of actors was a popular caricature technique used by Kuniyoshi in order to mask picture topics which were forbidden since the Tenpō reforms. Each one of the three animals represents a popular actor, who can be easily discerned by their distinct facial features. Nakamura Utaemon IV as the frog with thick lips represents the mushi-ken (frog, snake, snail), Matsumoto Kōshirō VI 六代目松本幸四郎 as the pointy-nosed fox represents the kitsune-ken (fox, hunter, village elder) and Ichikawa Kuzō II as the tiger with big eyes represents the tora-ken (tiger, hero Watōnai 和藤内, grandmother) (Linhart 1998a and 1998b:193-234). (N.B.)
collectionTML DB (584-C018)
referenceKatō 2004:71, Linhart 1998a and 1998b:193-234, TML DB (584-C018) , TSM 1999:53
copyrightPrivate Collection Vienna
image categorygiga, ken no e, yakusha-e
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