Tamenobu Fujikawa (Japanese, active circa 1910-1920)
DimensionsSheet : 9 9/16 x 14 in. (24.29 x 35.56 cm)
Credit LineHope College Collection
LabelTokugawa-period Japanese society was officially composed of four classes: samurai warriors (at the top), farmers, artisans, and merchants (at the bottom). Actors, prostitutes and people who performed other jobs that were considered menial or unclean constituted a sub-caste that was outside and below the official four-class structure. Social mobility was greatly restricted and in theory people of different classes interacted only in prescribed circumstances. In reality, however, Tokugawa society was much more complex and people of different classes mixed together frequently, especially in cities and towns or when engaged in public activities like traveling. This print depicts an episode in which Yaji and Kita (a merchant and a former actor) encounter a traveling samurai at a teahouse in Numazu. Needing more traveling funds, Yaji approaches the samurai and offers to sell him a leather pouch. When the samurai rebuffs Yaji, Kita performs for him by singing songs, reciting poems, and engaging in clever wordplay and eventually the samurai agrees to buy Yaji’s pouch.