New Versions of Figures on the Stage: Actor Nakamura Kanzaburo XVII as the Tobacconist Genshichi
(Shinpan butai no sugata-e: Nakamura Kanzaburo, Tobakoya Genshichi)
signed Shunsen with artist's red maple leaf seal, publisher's seal Watanabe (Watanabe Shozaburo), ca. 1951
dai oban tate-e 15 3/4 by 10 5/8 in., 40 by 27 cm
The actor Nakamura Kanzaburo XVII (1909-1988) is in the role of the tobacconist Genshichi from the play Komochi Yamanba (The Mountain Witch Mother). Genshichi is a tobacco peddler who is invited to the palace of Iwakamura no Kanefuyu and soon finds himself embroiled in palace intrigue. He successfully prevents the abduction of a princess by insisting the would-be kidnapper smoke tobacco to excess while the princess safely steals away. Genshichi is also a talented singer and shamisen player, and provides the audience a reprieve from the action with frequent musical interludes.
Later in the play, Genshichi is revealed to be Tokiyuki, the estranged husband of the beautiful Yamanba no Yaegiri. On the pretext of avenging his father's death, Tokiyuki abandoned his wife. However, as is clear by his current occupation, Genshichi has long ago abandoned that intention, and instead has been living a life of careless adventure while Yaegiri was forced to work in the pleasure quarters. When they meet in the following act, she is furious to see him in such a capacity and insists that he commit seppuku.
Yamaguchi Keizoro, Shunsen Natori Exhibition Catalogue, Kushigata, 1991, no. 61
Kozo Yamada, Shunsen Natori: Collection of the Kushigata Shunsen Museum of Art, 2002, p. 49, cat. no. 60
Samuel L. Leiter, Historical Dictionary of Japanese Traditional Theater, 2014, p. 660 (re: play)
Scholten Japanese Art is open Monday - Friday, and some Saturdays by appointment only
Contact Katherine Martin at
(212) 585-0474 or email
to schedule a visit between 11am and 4pm preferably for no more than two individuals at a time.
Visitors are asked to wear face masks and practice social distancing at their discretion.
site last updated
December 2, 2021
Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475
Join our mailing list...