GUIDE TO THE WEBSITE
What Is This Site About?
the title of the website suggests, this site is about modern
Japanese performing arts prints from 1900 to the
present. In particular, it focuses on such prints as
documentary evidence of theatrical performances. The
"performing arts" are defined broadly to cover not only
kabuki, bunraku, and noh, but also modern Japanese and Western
plays, opera, song, music, and dance (and in a few cases, even
film productions). Consequently, prints of singers,
dancers, and musicians will be included along with actor
prints. Kabuki and noh-themed prints will also be
included, such as prints of theatres, kabuki and noh sets,
kabuki and noh props, etc. Depending on the artist, I
have also elected to include some prints dealing with Korean,
Chinese, or other Asian theatrical subject matter.
entertainments, such as circuses, sumo wrestling, and festival
parades, however, are generally not covered, although prints
with circus bands are included. Harlequins and Pierrots
are included, but circus clowns are not, puppet prints are
included but doll prints are not, and prints of the ubiquitous
geisha dancing or playing the koto or a shamisen are included
on an ad hoc basis at the discretion of the webmaster.
kabuki and noh plays are often based on legendary or
historical figures, it is not always clear if a given print is
theatrical in nature or merely illustrates a legend or
historical incident. Likewise, there are prints based on
incidents in The Tale of the Genji, as well as prints based on
incidents in plays based on or inspired by that novel.
The more a print appears to be based on a legendary,
historical, or literary incident, the less likely it has been
included on this site. However, I have made some
exceptions depending on the artist in question and subject
2. What Types of Prints Are Covered?
general, only woodblock prints (including hand-colored
keyblock prints), linocuts, stencil prints, stone lithographs,
and intaglio prints such as etchings and mezzotints are
covered. Serigraphs, offset lithographs, and other types
of photomechanical reproductions generally have not been
included, although exceptions have been made where the subject
matter or the artist was sufficiently noteworthy or
unusual. If the medium is not identified, the default
meeting should be assumed to be a woodblock print.
time I may also include paintings from my own
collection. This site, however, will never be a
comprehensive source of information about original paintings
of 20th Century actors, whether made by kabuki and noh print
artists or by Japanese painters in general. I also
intend at some point to add photographs of certain actors upon
whom certain prints may have been based but, again, this site
is not intended to be a comprehensive source of information
about photographs of kabuki actors.
While it attempts to catalogue theatre prints by artists known
and currently unknown, the amount of information provided
about each print is limited. The publishers of the
prints are not identified, nor are the carvers or printers
involved. Print dimensions are not provided.
Nor has an attempt been made to necessarily translate every
bit of text found on the prints. Moreover, in some cases
the quality of the available images was insufficient to allow
identification of certain actors and/or their roles at this
time, or I had difficulty in reading or translating the kabuki
script. However, the catalogue often includes additional
information about the print that may not always be found on
the print itself, such as complete name of the specific
version of play depicted rather than the generic shorthand
title for the play and the date of the performance depicted,
if known. I may not have been entirely consistent, but I
have tried to include variant kanji for the names of actors,
roles, and play titles if known to facilitate on-line
How Are the Prints Organized?
When the site was originally launched in July 2021, prints were only organized according to the name of the artist, and then by date (as more fully explained below). Starting in May 2023, prints are also organized according to the names of the performers depicted therein, by the names of the plays, films, or dances depicted, and by certain key word topics (e.g., music, dance, puppets, masks, kumadori, theatre/cinema buildings, etc.). In addition, a subset of prints are listed chronologically by the dates/venues of performance.
a decision that may be controversial to some people, I have
decided to organize the prints not by their publication dates
but by the dates of production depicted. I made this
decision in part because the publication dates of many prints,
particularly smaller prints, woodblock printed postcards,
pochibukuro, and senshafuda, are usually omitted from the
prints themselves and, unless set forth on a surviving print
wrapper, can only be approximated by performances depicted
therein. Second, the print may be published months,
years, or even decades after the performance in question, or
even in the prior month in order to advertise an upcoming
production. Third, organizing the prints by dates of
performance will make it easier to determine how different
artists depicted the same performance, what other plays may
have been on the same bill, and what the overall arc of a
particular actor's career looked like.
said, performance dating creates its own set of issues, as
usually only Meiji-era prints tend to indicate the date of
performance (and not always even then). However,
if one knows the name of the actor, the role, the play, and
the venue depicted, available reference materials will often
allow one to determine the month of the performance. If
the opening date of the performance run was readily available
to me, I have included that as well. If one only knows
some of those variables, it may or may not possible to
determine the performance date with certainty, although in
many cases it can be deduced with the use of additional
information, such as the print's publication date or the date
of photographs upon which the print appears to have been
based. When multiple possibilities exist, for example,
when a given actor has performed the same role several times
over the course of his career, especially at the same theatre,
I have attempted to indicate that fact, but generally have
gone with the performance date closest to the publication date
as the operative date unless there is some overriding reason
not to do so.
those cases when a performance date for a given print is not
known and cannot be reasonably deduced, then the print's
publication date has been used by default (if known) until
better information comes to light. Likewise, the
publication date is always used for prints depicting generic
kabuki characters who are not portrayed by any specific actor
(e.g., generic or idealized portraits of Benkei, Sukeroku,
avoid confusion with plays that may have opened earlier in the
same month at the same theatre and to be consistent with the
approach taken by some reference authorities, kabuki plays
that opened near the end of a given month are treated as if
they opened in the following month. For example, if a
play opened at the Kabuki-za on October 30, 1901 and ran
through the bulk of November 1901, it will be listed as a
November 1901 play. The play's opening date will
be noted as October 30, 1901 for form's sake, but the print
will nonetheless appear under the November 1901 header.
Dates are given using a Gregorian calendar reported in the
American format where the month, day, and year appear in that
older Japanese prints are generally read from right to left,
characters in displayed prints are identified in order of
appearance from left to right (and/or top to bottom).
Why Are Certain Print Artists Omitted?
site is a work in progress. As prints by additional
artists are added to the site, they will be noted in the
Updates section, as will new additions by artists already
listed on the site.
Having Trouble Viewing The Site?
site looks best on a larger monitor (especially using a
Firefox browser). Individual images can always be opened
on a new page in full size. Visitors using a smaller
screen device may find the formatting of images on rows of
some pages to be problematic. The smaller the screen,
however, the less images will fit on a single row, and surplus
images will wrap around to the next line or "hang" at the
right of the next line. In some cases, this can be
manually corrected by adjusting the left/right frame divider
to force the image(s) back on the prior row. iPhone and
iPad viewers can also change the Aa font size % on Safari
(down to 50% if necessary), which will often also force the
spillover images back onto the prior row and allow the viewer
to see images on multiple rows at one time.
iPhone and iPad viewers can choose to viewing such pages in
"Reader View" on Safari, which will display images in one long
continuous column. This is fine for single sheet prints,
but less ideal when the print is a triptych consisting of
three separately scanned sheets.
will notice that the size of images my vary within a row, from
row to row, or from page to page. This is
intentional. For example, a postcard print shown
adjacent to an oban size print will appear to me smaller than
the oban size print. A chuban-size print or square
surimono print will be shown larger than a postcard size print
but smaller than an oban size print, and so forth. The
size of a print shown on this website is not, however,
strictly proportional to the size of the print in real life,
and is only intended to suggest a relative size differential
when the viewer encounters multiple images of different sizes
on the same page.
am studying to read Japanese, but most of the translations of
kanji on this site were done with Google Translate, and may
not always be accurate. If the kanji is not printed but
in script form, the odds are that I am not capable of
deciphering most of it on my own. Also, I do not profess
to be an expert on Japanese theatre or to possess an in-depth
knowledge of all things kabuki. or noh. I have learned a
lot in creating this website and I continue to learn new
things with each new update, especially when it comes to
kabuki costume design that is often critical to identifying
kabuki characters. Nonetheless, gaps in my knowledge no
doubt have left me blind to certain errors or omissions that
would be immediately apparent to kabuki aficionados and/or
those better versed in Japanese. All I can say under the
circumstances is mea culpa, and apologize in advance. If
you will kindly notify me about problems and errors that you
have encountered, I will endeavor to correct them.
the parameters I have set, I have striven to make the entries
as complete as possible for the artists covered to date.
If you are aware of prints by such artists which I have
omitted, I welcome images and whatever other information you
may have about such prints. I can be reached at the
e-mail address on the entry page of the website.