The Actor Yamashita Kinsaku I Performing the Tea Vendor’s Soliloquy

Artist: Torii Kiyomasu II (1706?-1763?)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, mid 1720s
Woodblock print; ink, hand-applied color, brass powder and embossing on paper
H x W (overall): 32.3 x 15.5 cm (12 11/16 x 6 1/8 in)
Credit Line
The Anne van Biema Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Woodblock print

actor, Anne van Biema collection, Edo period (1615 - 1868), hosoban, Japan, tea, theater, ukiyo-e, yakusha-e
Provenance research underway.

Vocal performance was an important skill for kabuki actors. The actor Yamashita Kinsaku I plays a female vendor of hojicha (roasted tea) who presents an amusing sales pitch. The speech, which may have been intended for amateur recitation by kabuki fans, fills the print. Such stage speeches (serifu) were lively and entertaining, but they also demonstrated the actor's skill in vocal performance. The speech reads, in part:

"Have a taste of some fresh-roasted tea!

It's just right for both a leisurely flower-viewing excursion and to meet an urgent need. . . . First of all, tea did not begin in India, nor did it originate in Japan. Rather a person from [China] called [Shen Nong] was the first to take a drink of tea.  Later, the Reverend Myoe. . . brought some as a souvenir. . .and it has remained popular ever since.
As for its efficacy, tea brings youth to the elderly and makes everyone feel healthier. That is why the character for "tea" is written from a combination of the characters for "twenty-year-old," "person," and "tree."

Now, the old crone has her tea-water jar, tea ladle, tea bowl, tea pouch, . . . and her tea container, containing tea, and a one, and a two, and a three, and a tea for two, and old and young, and whatever-That's it!"

Translation of text by Lawrence E. Marceau

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura, et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 2, pp. 56-57.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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