Sensational series of three narrative color woodblock prints, which together illustrate one of the most notorious crimes in Meiji-era Japan, published a few weeks after the incident. The text cartouche at the head of the leftmost sheet explains the gruesome scene:
A young man from Fukushima prefecture of the former samurai class named Tokunaga Satoshi came to view the lanterns on the night of July 20, 1880. At a place of assignation called Sugitoya on the south side of Edomachi Nichōme in Shin Yoshiwara, he was presented with unreasonable charges and he was unable to pay the exorbitant bill. Because the tout insulted him, at ten o’clock in the morning on the following July 23—daytime being the inverse of the brocade world of the pleasure quarters—he took his blade of grudge and ran up to the second floor of the brothel. The impure winds of impermanence blew and he murdered the courtesan he had met with, Hatsuito, 16 years old, and injured her manager Okano, who was 30 years old. Then he descended the staircase and cut down the master Shigejūrō as well as the tout Masakichi. Just coming out of the bath, the courtesan Kosakura was tremendously startled by the commotion, and though she was a woman, she did her utmost. He was caught off guard and dropped his dagger. Kosakura grabbed the weapon and ran outside the brothel and sought help from an inspector at the station where he was taken into custody. [Tr. © 2021 Matthew Fraleigh.]
Each of the seven victims, as well as the perpetrator, are named in smaller cartouches. From right to left, top to bottom:
Yarite Okano. Known as "Doer" Okano, she was the madam of the Sugitoya brothel. She was 30 years old.
Koaikata Oshige. Nicknamed "the little courtesan" was a youthful prostitute still undergoing training by Okano and the other courtesans.
Tokunaga Satoshi. The bad guy.
Hatsuito. A 16-year-old courtesan. Tokunaga's favorite. Hatsuito was his first victim.
Kosakura. An older prostitute whom Tokunaga surprised while she was bathing. She fought him off, and survived.
Masakichi. The tout, or barker, who cajoles potential customers into the brothel and acts as bouncer and keeper of the peace. He was likely the one who insulted Tokunaga.
Aruji Shigeju. The owner of the Sugitoya brothel, referred to as Shigejūrō.
Shinzo Okayo. Recently "turned out," she was the youngest full-fledged prostitute at Sugitoya.
Horrific but strangely poetic and highly motive imagery, by one the Meiji era's greatest ukiyo-e artists, Yoshu Chikanobu, well known for his many triptychs, especially those illustrating battle scenes.
Tokyo: Yamamura Kinzaburo, Meiji 13-8 [August] 1880.
Ukiyo-e printed on paper with the nishiki-e process, three single sheets in series, dimensions [from right to left]: 372 x 242 mm; 368 x 249 mm; 368 x 247 mm. Tail margins trimmed to imprint; rightmost margins also trimmed to imprint (so that the joins are not interrupted by white areas); some wear to extremities. Prints well-inked with colors still bright, no adhesive residue, prints never lined, no worming. A fine set in original condition.
Acquired by W. S. Cotter Rare Books from Alex Byrne at Bakumatsuya Rare Books, Yokohama, Japan, September 2021.
One copy of the print located, at Waseda University Library.