Isoda Koryūsai 磯田湖龍斎 (1735–1790)
Kyōgen Performances by Geisha from the Green Houses during the Niwaka Festival
(Seirō geiko niwaka kyōgen zukushi)

Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), c. 1775
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
Gift of James A. Michener, 1973

Two courtesans from the Matsukaneya brothel in the Yoshiwara district stage a wrestling match while a third courtesan, standing in the background, plays the role of a referee.

The Niwaka, mentioned in the title of this print, was a theatrical festival held every autumn both within the Yoshiwara and in other locations throughout Japan since the Kyōhō era (1716–1735). The style of these performances was similar to that of Kabuki theater. The women shown here, therefore, are to some extent flouting the shogunate’s ban of women not only from the sumo ring (dohyō) but from the Kabuki stage, as well.

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