北斎が生きた江戸を見る

[From May Issue 2015]

201505-9-1

Sarusuberi, Cover of first issue
Written by SUGIURA Hinako. Published by Chikuma Shobo


Sarusuberi (Crape Myrtle)
This story is about “ukiyoe” (wood block print) artist KATSUSHIKA Hokusai, and his daughter Oei, who lived in Edo – the former name of Tokyo. Drawing on her knowledge as a scholar of Edo manners and customs, writer SUGIURA Hinako carefully depicts the culture and lifestyle of the common people of those times. The title, “Sarusuberi,” is taken from a flower that blooms for about 100 days from early summer to autumn. According to the writer, the vitality of the plant whose recurring blossoms are heavy enough to bend its branches, chimes with her image of Hokusai. The story was serialized in Manga Sunday Magazine from 1983 to 1987.
On a winter morning in 1814 towards the end of the year, IKEDA Zenjiro, one of Hokusai’s pupils, rushes into the tenement house where his master Hokusai and his master’s daughter, Oei live. When Oei says she does not want any trouble, Zenjiro hands her a picture, saying he has just seen a freshly severed woman’s head. He has drawn a picture of a head that has been displayed in front of the gate of a samurai residence. Hokusai says he wants to see the sight for himself and, accompanied by Zenjiro, sets off to see it for his own amusement.
But the facts about the case of the severed head become clear when Zenjiro saves the life of a man who tries to take his own life by throwing himself into the river. The man was in service to a samurai and the head belonged to this samurai’s daughter. The daughter had fallen in love with a man from a different class and had been forced to break off the relationship. Subsequently this man was executed. Following him in death, the daughter took her own life. The man who had tried to throw himself into the river, had told his master about the couple’s relationship. After placing the woman’s head at the gate, he tried to kill himself, too.
Unsurprised by this, Hokusai simply convinces the man to enter the Buddhist priesthood so he can free himself from his suffering. Hokusai never offers consolation that is considerate of people’s feelings, nor does he give advice to lighten the heart. The way Hokusai behaves reflects the unsentimental mind-set of Edo’s citizens.
Hokusai is a sharp-tongued and short-tempered man who, despite being married, has affairs with his female pupils. When he is invited to show off his painting skills to the shogun, he fails to impress. A lively portrait is painted of an eccentric and fallible human being.
The appeal of this work is, in addition to the character of Hokusai, its affectionate depiction of people living in Edo. Mingled with the stories dealing with everyday life are stories in which dead people and ghosts appear. During this period of undeveloped medical treatment, earthquakes and famines occurred. Death was close at hand and this world and the afterlife existed side by side. The wall between reality and illusion was thin, enabling humans and fantastical beings to easily come and go between the two worlds.
At the story draws to a close, Hokusai divines that his infant daughter has died when a strong wind blows on his tenement house. Here, more than sorrow, the fragility of life is emphasized. At the same time, Hokusai’s deep fear of death is portrayed. This is not the only part of this work in which Hokusai shows his weak side. The work shows Hokusai not only as a great artist but also as KAWAMURA Tetsuzo, an ordinary man, as well as depicting the town of Edo where he lived.
Text: HATTA Emiko[2015年5月号掲載記事]
201505-9-1

百日紅上巻表紙。杉浦日向子著。筑摩書房発行


百日紅
東京が江戸と呼ばれていた頃、浮世絵師として活躍した葛飾北斎と、娘お栄の暮らしを描いた物語です。江戸風俗研究家でもあった作者、杉浦日向子の知識を活かして、当時の文化や庶民の生活がていねいに描かれています。タイトルの百日紅は、初夏から秋まで百日間花が咲く植物のことです。作者は、花の重みで枝が曲がるほど咲き、花を散らせてはまた咲かせ続ける百日紅の生命力が、北斎に重なったと語っています。漫画サンデーにて1983年から1987年まで連載されました。
時は1814 年、年の瀬が近い冬の朝、北斎とお栄が住む長屋に弟子の一人である池田善次郎が飛び込んできます。面倒はお断りだと文句を言うお栄に、善次郎は「女の生首を見た」と絵を手渡します。武家屋敷の門前に置かれた生首を描き写してきたのです。北斎は自分も見たかったと悔しがり、気晴らしに善次郎を連れて出かけます。
途中で川へ身を投げる男を目撃し、善次郎がその男を助けたことから、生首事件の真相が明らかになります。首の主は男が仕えていた武士の家の娘でした。娘は身分違いの恋をして仲を引きさかれたうえに、愛した人を死罪にされてしまいました。そして後を追って命を絶ったのです。二人の仲を主人に告げ口したのが、身投げした男でした。彼は娘の首を門前に供え、自分もまた死のうとしていたのです。
北斎は驚きもせず、あっさりと男を出家させて苦しみを断ち切ってやります。決して相手の気持ちに寄りそってなぐさめたり、心を軽くする言葉をかけるような思いやりを表には出しません。こうした北斎の振る舞いは、湿っぽさを嫌がる江戸っ子ならではの気質です。
口が悪くて気が短く、妻がいながら女弟子と関係を持ちます。絵を描く様子が見たいと将軍に招かれれば、いいところを見せようとして失敗する。人間くさい変人ぶりが、いきいきと描かれます。
北斎のキャラクターに加え、江戸の町で暮らす人々が細やかに描写されているのも本作の魅力です。生活感にあふれた話の中に、動き出す死人や妖怪の出てくる話が混じっています。医療が発達しておらず、地震や飢饉も起こった時代です。死はとても身近にあり、この世とあの世は隣り合って存在していました。現実と幻想を隔てる壁は薄く、人間も異形の者たちも、たやすく互いの世界を行き来します。
物語の終盤で、北斎の幼い娘が病気で亡くなったのを、長屋に吹き付ける強風が知らせます。そこでは悲しみよりも、去っていく命のはかなさが表現されています。同時に死をひどく恐れる北斎の思いも語られます。本作の中で唯一、北斎が弱さを見せる場面です。歴史に名を残す偉大な絵師としての姿だけでなく、川村鉄蔵という一人の人間としての北斎と、彼の生きた江戸を見ることができる作品です。
文:服田恵美子

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