Okumara Masanobu (attributed to)
Parody of the Kokinwakashū

ōban, yoko-e, 26.4 x 36.4 cm; sumizuri-e

At the centre is a young samurai with two booklets of Kokin(waka)shū (“Collection of Old and New waka Poems”, 10th century). He is obviously discussing romantic poetry with his companion, whose kimono is decorated with motifs of the “Six Poetic Geniuses” (rokkasen), when they are disturbed by two young courtesans. This is the only known print of this motif.

Provenance: Maruyama, Tōkyō (November 1962)
Riese Collection #4

The handsome young man at the centre of the print has been summoned by the wife of a nobleman to discuss poetry; love poetry, judging from the anthology of the poetess Ono no Komachi on the floor and the open book in the ladies hand with its courtier outside the fence of a lonely cottage with the tag “The purple of the deutzia flowers ... ” Since the word ‘purple’ has erotic overtones in Japanese, and since deutzia flowers are yellow or white, not mauve, it would seem that the couple have arranged a rendezvous. The meeting is interrupted by a married woman at the right who seems to be introducing the girl kneeling beside her with the riddle written above the couple at the left: “Koigusa to kaketaru nazo ya? Sanekazura.” “What word goes with the phrase ‘grasses of love’?” The answer, sanekazura is the name of a plant in the magnolia family, but the word also contains a pun on the word sane, a colloquialism for clitoris. The young girl’s name, Takasaki, is written on the crest of her kimono, as was customary with entertainers and prostitutes. The older woman would seem to be a go-between and it is possible that behind the decorative sleeve she is exposing the girl to the young man’s view. The girl’s sleeve is decorated with the character for incense or perfume, and a lion on top of a box which may be an incense burner, or an automated toy. The emblem on the youth’s sleeve resembles an emblem for a chapter of the Tale of Genji, or a stylised form of the character for paulownia (kiri), but seems to be purely decorative. The lady at the left is dressed in a kimono decorated with banana leaves, poetic phrases, and portraits of the Six Immortal Poets, suited to her literary tastes.  
This print is not reproduced by Kiyoshi Shibui in his compilation of Moronobu albums published in Ukiyo-e no Kenkyū, nor are other plates from the set, if indeed this was the cover sheet for an erotic album, known. Lacking any signature or positive association, the attribution to Masanobu must remain uncertain. Like all prints of the period, this design is rare. No other impression seems to be known.
It should also be mentioned that kokin wakashû, “A poetic youth”, is deliberately homophonous with the Kokin Wakashū, or Kokinshū, a famous imperial anthology of poetry compiled by Fujiwara Teika.

Reproduced in Ingelheim catalogue, no. 5.
Riese, Asiatische Studien, 1972, p.75, no. 2.