Ryūryūkyo Shinsai
Beauty and kamuro
c. 1800

Signed: Shinsai ga; Small surimono, koban, 19.2 x 11.0 cm; nishiki-e with kinginzuri and karazuri

An elegant courtesan and her kamuro are wearing red kimono with reversed manji crests (swastika), which Hokusai sometimes used in his signatures. In this case, however, the emblem presumably stands for the house of the beauty or the poets’ circle that commissioned this New Year’s surimono. Two New Year’s tanka by Seijitei Waramaru and Yomo Magao are printed over the two figures. Shinsai frequently imitated Hokusai’s style.

Kunsthalle Bremen; F. Tikotin, La Tour de Peilz (March 1964)
Riese Collection #113

The bold design of the courtesan standing with her kamuro, her outer robe, elaborately decorated with a hanging ornament used at the New Year, falling negligently from her shoulders, certainly suggests Hokusai at his best during this period, and writers like Binyon and Sexton did confuse Shinsai with the master who in his signature as well as his design, he so successfully imitated.
The poems by Seijitei Waramaru and Yomo Magao read:

Oihago no
Shuttlecocks and

kazu no go roku
battledores, five times, six

shichikuku no
by the seven lucky

onna ni makete
women won:
asobu Yoshiwara
Yoshiwara games.
(Seijitei Waramaru)

Uguisu ya
The warbler from

sakura manaban
the cherry blossom learns

kyara no ka no
and to the aloes-scented

ume no manaka o
plum returns
kaeru harukaze
the breath of spring
(Yomo Magao)

The second poem involves a pun suggesting that the spring breeze has returned from Korea. Kyara, aloes, can also be Kara or Mimana, both names for a kingdom in southern Korea. Mimana is homophonous with manaban in the second line, and manaka in the fourth.
The reversed swastika on the courtesan’s kimono and on the kamuro’s collar is the emblem of either the courtesan’s house, or the poetry circle of Yomo Magao that commissioned the print.

Reproduced in: Ingelheim catalogue, no. 100.