Ishikawa Tomonobu (Ryûsen)
Hōraku Dance and Butterfly Pair
c. 1687

From an album with 12 illustrations of love stories (higa kumimono) oban, yoko-e, 25.4 x 35.2 cm; sumizuri-e

From an album with 12 illustrations of love stories This print, along with the previous one, belongs to a shunga album with twelve illustrations by Ishikawa Ryûsen. Unclear, however, is the relationship between this scene and the short, satirical poem (senryû) in the form of a haiku in the box on the upper edge: “The hōraku dance – /and together is a / butterfly pair.” Japan_48-127.qxd:Japanische Holzschnitte 30.01.2009 14:24 Uhr Seite 63

Geyger, inv. no. 16395 (KG p. 20)

A young couple are sitting in an interior room. The girl is wearing a long, trailing, courtly hakama, her outer robe is decorated with plum blossoms. Leaning on an armrest, she is listening to the words of a young man in courtly attire. His outer garment is adorned with clouds and fragments of Shintō shrine architecture. Large cherry blossoms embellish his trousers. His sword with its cock’s head identifies him as a court noble. A parcel of books and a toilet case are lying in the tokonoma. Incense is burning on a small lacquered table. The door opens. An ugly samurai looks in angrily with wide open eyes. He has two swords in his belt, and his robe is decorated with large, stylizes wheels.

The poem in the cartouche reads:

Hōraku no
The Hōraku-Dance –

mai ya kochō no
a butterfly pair


It is possible that the joke in these senryū verses (humorous satirical versions of the haiku which also have seventeen syllables) lies in the fact that Hōraku not only is the name of a sacrificial dance but in popular speech usually means „enjoyment, pleasure“, and may also allow association with the Bugaku dance Kochō-raku („Butterfly dance“). Kochō (butterfly) is written in the poem with the popular but erroneous character for ko (small) instead of ko (Hu-barbarian). This is another scene which can scarcely be identified. Butt he setting of the event does not seem to be a 17th c. brothel. The courtly attire of the two young protagonists suggests an earlier period. One is tempted to identify the young couple as Soga Jurō and his mistress Oiso-no-Tora, the rough samurai as Asahina. But cherry blossoms are not found as emblems of the Soga brothers.