Advanced Search

K-12 Educator
K-12 Student
Museum Visitor
UMMA Docent
UMMA Staff
University Faculty
University Student
Between and Mortarboard

UMMA Object Specific Fields

Query builder

Sugawara no Michizane and the Secrets of Calligraphy: Bandō Mitsugorō IV as Fujiwara Shihei and Seki Sanjūrō III as Umeōmaru

Accession Number

Sugawara no Michizane and the Secrets of Calligraphy: Bandō Mitsugorō IV as Fujiwara Shihei and Seki Sanjūrō III as Umeōmaru

Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Artist Nationality
Japanese (culture or style)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
woodblock print on paper

14 3/4 in x 10 1/4 in (37.47 cm x 26.04 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Sharlynn and Andrew Circo, in memory of Sotokichi Katsuizumi

Subject matter
The play Sugawara no Michizane and the Secrets of Calligraphy first premiered in 1746 as a puppet play. It was adapted the next month for kabuki and remains one of the most famous and frequently performed in the kabuki repertoire. The narrative is based on the life of the famous scholar Sugawara no Michizane (845-903) who was exiled to Kyushu after being accused of treason. The scene depicted in this print, “Kurumabiki” or “Struggle for the Carriage”, shows the triplets Matsuomaru, Sakuramaru, and Umeomaru, and the villain of the play, Shihei. The scene’s tension of divided loyalties between the brothers and the conflicts between their emotions and their obligations is a major theme of this play. It is also representative of many plays written at the time. The use of triplets was inspired by the birth of triplets in Osaka which had caused a sensation, and each of the three is named for a tree.  In this print, Umeomaru (ume= plum) is identifiable by the plum blossoms on his robe.

Bandō Mitsugoro IV was also known as Morita Kanya. He was born in 1802 and active from childhood until his death in 1863.

Seki Sanjūrō III was born in 1805 and began acting in the late 1810s. He died in 1871.

Physical Description
In this print, a grey-robed man with unbound hair looms over a warrior who is half-kneeling on the ground. The warrior’s robes are patterned with plum blossoms, and he carries several swords.  Behind him, a wheel and bamboo mat are visible in disarray.

This is the center panel of a tryptich (with 2011/2.199.1 and 2011/2.199.3).

Inscriptions: Fujiwara Shihei; Umeomaru; Kuniyoshi ga (Artist's signature); San (Publisher's seal); Mera, Murata (Censors' seal)

Primary Object Classification

Collection Area

If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form. Keywords
figures (representations)
plum (plant)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved

On display