Chichi no on

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Chichi no on ("A Father's Gratitude") is a woodblock-printed publication prepared at the request of kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjûrô II, as a memorial book in memory of his father, kabuki pioneer Ichikawa Danjûrô I. This was the first such kabuki memorial book, setting a precedent for the future production of numerous such publications, prepared and distributed in memory of popular actors.

The book, sponsored and published by Danjûrô II himself, under the pseudonym Ichikawa Sanshô, contains illustrations by Hanabusa Ippô and Ogawa Haritsu, and calligraphy by Goshû and Katsuma Ryûsui. A man by the name of Fuhyaku (富百) is known to have made the book covers, and Ôkubo Ippu (大久保一富) to have carved the woodblocks.

The year 1730 marked the 27th anniversary of the death of Danjûrô I, who had been killed onstage in 1704.[1] It was in this year that Danjûrô decided to compile and publish a book in memory of his father, to be shared privately with close friends and family. The book consists of two volumes, and is organized according to the concept of jo ha kyû prominent in kabuki, as throughout the Japanese arts, starting off gradually, reaching a breaking point, and then concluding rapidly. After two prefaces and several pages of poetry, the remaining sixty-five openings[2] feature images by Ippô and Haritsu, and poems composed by friends and relatives, memorializing both Danjûrô I, and seventy-eight other kabuki actors who had died in the 27 years since his passing. One of these verses was composed by his ten-year-old son, contributing further to the theme of continuation of a legacy.

The second volume opens with a unique feature - a Chinese poem which begins on the outside cover, and is completed on the inside cover. This is followed by four circular images by Ogawa Haritsu, symbolically alluding to the journey of Danjûrô I on his way to the Western Paradise. Each of these is printed using four different color blocks, an innovative technique for the time, combined with elements of hand-coloring. Each is also accompanied by a haikai composed by Danjûrô I during his life, inscribed here in the hand of young calligrapher Katsuma Ryûsui, and marked with Danjûrô's poetry name, Saigyû (才牛).


  • Roger Keyes, Ehon: The Artist and the Book in Japan, New York Public Library (2006), 72-74.
  1. As with births, Japanese traditional counting of anniversaries of one's death began with the year of the death as the first year. Thus, with 1704 as the first year, 1730 becomes the 27th year anniversary of Danjûrô's death.
  2. An "opening" refers to each combination of left & right pages in a book. For example, the inside cover and first page of a given book, taken together, comprise the first opening; pages two and three comprise the second opening, and so on.