Okumura Masanobu 奥村政信 (1686-1764)
The Ugly Woman’s Nomori
(Akujo Nomori 悪女のもり)

Japan, Edo period (1615-1868), c. 1710
Woodblock print; ink on paper
Gift of James A. Michener, 1991

This print is a parody of Guardian of the Fields (Nomori), a Nō play by Zeami Motokiyo (c. 1363 - c. 1443). In Zeami’s original story, a wandering monk and an old man meet in a pasture and together admire a pond named after a mythical mirror that supposedly reveals the true identity of anyone reflected in it. They debate whether the mirror actually exists and when the two meet again later, the old man is found to be secretly carrying it. His reflection in the mirror reveals him to be a demon.

Simultaneously, this print makes subtle allusion to The Great Mirror of Male Love (Nanshoku ōkagami, 1687), a defense of love affairs between adult men and wakashū written by novelist Ihara Saikaku (1642-93). Saikaku’s argument is based on the tongue-in-cheek assertion that wakashū not only possess all of the physical grace and beauty of women, they also lack all of the vices, such as vanity, that make women seem as repugnant as demons. (Saikaku’s most famous work, Life of an Amorous Woman [Kōshoku Ichidai Onna, 1686], reveals him to be in fact an outspoken proponent of social justice for women.)

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