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The Enigmatic Ukiyo-e Artist, Sharaku, and His Connection to Kagurazaka

Updated: 5 days ago


The Enigmatic Ukiyo-e Artist, Sharaku, and His Connection to Kagurazaka


Who is Sharaku?


Toshusai Sharaku is a unique figure in the world of Ukiyo-e. In a brief period between May 1794 and January 1795, he produced over 145 works primarily focused on actor portraits, and then suddenly vanished. His prolific output in such a short time and his mysterious disappearance leave many unanswered questions.


The Enigmatic Ukiyo-e Artist, Sharaku, and His Connection to Kagurazaka

Characteristics of Sharaku’s Art


Sharaku's works are distinguished by their unique expressive power. His portraits of actors are boldly and realistically captured, which was unusual for the time. This approach quickly made him popular but also controversial due to his unflinchingly real depictions of actors. One of his most famous pieces, "Otani Oniji III as Yakko Edobei," vividly portrays the actor's expressions and gestures.


The Enigmatic Ukiyo-e Artist, Sharaku, and His Connection to Kagurazaka

The True Identity of Sharaku


Over the years, various theories about Sharaku's identity have been proposed. Recently, the theory that Sharaku was Saito Jurobei, a Noh actor in the service of the Awa Tokushima Domain, has gained traction. According to this theory, Saito Jurobei temporarily took up painting while serving the daimyo. His existence and his work as a painter have been substantiated through various documents, including records of his residence in Hatchobori Jizobashi.


The Enigmatic Ukiyo-e Artist, Sharaku, and His Connection to Kagurazaka


The Ongoing Connection Between Ukiyo-e Artist, Sharaku and Kagurazaka


The relationship between the Awa Tokushima Domain and Kagurazaka dates back to the early Edo period. The construction of the "Ushigome Gate (Ushigome Mitsuke)," which marks the beginning of Kagurazaka near Iidabashi Station, was commissioned in 1636 by the third Shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu, to the Awa Tokushima Domain. The "Kagurazaka Awa Dance Festival" started in 1972 due to this historical connection and attracts many tourists and locals every year. The 2024 festival is planned for July 26th and 27th.


Kagurazaka Awa Dance Festival


Kagurazaka is also home to the Yarai Noh Theater, the second oldest Noh theater in Tokyo, and Takahashi Kobo, Japan's oldest Ukiyo-e studio. We offer experiences at Yarai Noh Theater and Ukiyo-e making at Takahashi Kobo (Studio). Contact us for more details.


Experiences at Yarai Noh Theater

Ukiyo-e making at Takahashi Kobo (Studio)

The geisha district of Kagurazaka, which began around Gyoganji Temple in 1788, coincides closely with Sharaku’s active period from May 1794 to January 1795.


Why not explore the mysterious connection between the enigmatic Ukiyo-e artist Sharaku and Kagurazaka? Through Sharaku's works and Kagurazaka, glimpses of the art, culture, and lives of people during the Edo period are revealed.


The geisha district of Kagurazaka

Book Experience





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