Japanese Theater - A Living Tradition

                      August 2021

Centuries after their inception, the Japanese theater arts of Kabuki, Noh and Bunraku are still being performed; sets, makeup, roles and costumes are renewed by succeeding generations. Rarely, if ever, are they performed outside of Japan. Here we offer items that capture the living traditions of these arts in woodcuts, drawings, photo illustrations and text, preserving what we can of these cultural treasures. Japanese theatre has also grown beyond its traditional forms to include works by contemporary masters. Highlights include a large archive of material by Oda Otoya, a scenic master of contemporary theater, over 500 issues of a Kabuki fanzine and a peek behind the scenes of Actors Without Makeup.

To view photos and descriptions of our dramatic offerings, please click on the thumbnail.



-------------------Special Theatre Collection --------------------------


The Oda Otoya Collection of Stage Designs


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87892. Oda Otoya 織田音也, artist. Oda Otoya 織田音也 (1920-2006) began his career in the arts as an illustrator of fiction, moving to stage design in the post-war period.  He created designs for many plays at the National Theatre 国立劇場 (Kokuritsu Gekijyō) in Tokyo, as well as the famous Little Theatre 築地小劇場 (Tsukiji Kō Gekijyō) there.  He published an important book on his own work in 1977: “Butai Bijutsu Wo Kangaeru'' [Thoughts On Stage Design] 舞台美術を考える,  receiving a special Kikuta Kazuo Theatre Prize 菊田一夫演劇賞 特別賞 (Kikuta Kazuo Engeki Shō Tokubetsu Shō) in 1977 and then the coveted Shijuhōshō 紫綬褒章 [Purple Ribbon Medal of Honor] in 1983 for his advancement of the Japanese theatre arts. He was regarded as one of the grand old men of the Japanese theatre.  Besides his extensive work in Kabuki 歌舞, he also designed the sets of many modern theatre productions, including plays by Mishima Yukio 三島 由紀夫, Tanizaki Jun'ichirō 谷崎 潤一郎, and others. This collection consists of literally thousands of his original designs and design ideas for the stage.

 Price upon request


---------------------Kabuki ---------------------------------------------


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89437. Okano Seki, editor. Kabuki Shinpō 歌舞伎新報... Kabuki Shimpō (also Shinpō) [magazines] 歌舞伎新報 - 538 issues. Long run of the magazine.

Published from 1879 until its demise in 1897, the “Kabuki News'' was the primary organ of traditional Kabuki theatre in Japan. At various stages published by the so-called Kabuki Shinpōsha (Kabuki Publishing Company) 歌舞伎新報社 and later by Kitahara Suehara at Genrokukan 玄鹿館 in Tōkyō from 1895, nearly 1700 numbers of the journal were produced, with news of performances, black and white woodcut illustrations and in some later issues full-color woodblock covers or frontispieces designed by the ukiyo-e masters of the day. A remarkable resource for students of the history of Kabuki in the Meiji era. The issues were bound in wrappers.

We have 538 issues in hand in very clean condition. Some seem to have been removed from multi-volume bindings but are complete. So, almost one-third of the total published. A useful and important find.




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85885. Ōbayashi Gumi 大林組, publisher. Tōkyō Gekijyō 劇場. Showa 5 [1930]. Osaka. Tōkyō Gekijyō 劇場. Osaka, Showa 5 [1930]. Large 8vo., wrappers, illustrated with photos throughout, along with many plans.

A visual and textual discussion of Tōkyō Theatre (Tōkyō Gekijyō 劇場), a large Western-style building designed for the performance of Kabuki 歌舞, one of several Kabuki theatres in Tokyo which provided venues for the near monopoly of traditional theatre at the time by the company Shochiku 松竹.  Interestingly enough, the Tōkyō Theatre was the only one of Shochiku's venues to survive the war and became the center of Kabuki production during the Occupation. The Ōbayashi Gumi 大林組 which built the theatre and published this guide, survives today as one of the major contractors in Japan.

Very good condition throughout with slight soiling to the covers.






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89791. Utagawa Toyokuni I 歌川豊国, artist. Yakusha Ehon 役者絵本 [Yakusha Konotegashiwa 役者児手柏 ]. 1803

Utagawa Toyokuni I 歌川豊国 (1769-1825), artist. Yakusha Ehon 役者絵本 [Yakusha Konotegashiwa 役者児手柏 ]  20.7 x 14.6 cm, string-bound, Japanese-style, fukuro-toji. Brushed paper title label. One of Toyokuni's early and important books, it is a sought-after "highspot" of the ukiyo-e genre. Here found incomplete. There were two volumes, of which this is the first. The set was published in Edo in 1803. This copy is missing the last sheet of text, but has all 24 images of Kabuki actors called for in the first volume. There were a total of 48 such portraits all together in the set, so this is half.

There is a bit of staining but the printing is quite good quality with the slender yet taut line of Toyokuni I's early work. It is obvious, even in this diminished state, why it is a famous work. In a custom clasped chitsu case.




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85304 [JAPANESE POSTER] Victor Records. Poster announcing the recording of the Kabuki play (Kabukigeki 歌舞伎劇) Shinsarayashiki 新皿屋敷 featuring 7th generation Kabuki actor Onoe Kikugorō 尾上菊五郎. 1930. 79 X 36 cm. Prewar poster advertising a Victor recording ビクターレコード of a Kabuki play (Kabukigeki 歌舞伎劇), entitled Shinsarayashiki 新皿屋敷, the cast of which included Onoe  Kikugorō 尾上菊五郎.  The image of the poster is of a flower as well as of the broken dish that plays a role in the drama and is part of the literal translation of the title.

The original title of the play appears to be Shinsara Yashiki Tsuki no Amagasa 新皿屋敷月雨暈, known in English as “Sogoro the Fishmonger,”  the first performance was May of Meiji 16 明治16.5 [1883] in Tokyo at the Ichimuraza 市村座.

The recording by Victor Records was done in November 1930, when the 6th generation Kikugorō 菊五郎 6代 (1885-1949) was 45 years old, and given the (Japanese) Victor record numbers 13093 and 13094 on the poster. Writing on the poster seems to account for 2 major scene locations and acts - the violent fight in the foyer and the confrontation and reconciliation in the inner garden (Isobe Yashiki Genkanmae no Ba, Isobe Yashiki Okuniwa no Ba 磯部屋敷玄関前の場, 磯部屋敷奥庭の場). A link to the National Diet Library in Japan entry for recording 1 of the Kabuki play was accessed July 6, 2021, with further recordings 2-4 listed:  https://rekion.dl.ndl.go.jp/info:ndljp/pid/1328989 . The recording appears to have been reissued as an LP in Yokohama in 1967; see OCLC number 1126327880.

Kikugorō the 6th was a well-known actor in his time, as well as the eldest son of the 5th generation Okami Kikugorō 尾上菊五郎, one of the most famous Kabuki actors of the Meiji Period. He and his theatrical troupe apparently did a number of recordings of Kabuki plays for Victor Records.

(For a photo reproduction of the actor Onoe Kikugorō 尾上菊五郎, please see our offering #38429.)

Very good condition with a few slight closed edge tears, else bright and clean.





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90869.  Kamigata Shumi 上方趣味, 5 volumes, 大正 Taishō 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Kamigata Shumi 上方趣味 [2 hand fans on front wrapper]. 夏の巻 Natsu no Maki [Summer edition]. 大正 Taishō 8 [1919]. 15.5 x 10.7cm bound Japanese style, fukuro-toji with decorated front wrapper of 2 hand fans. 28 cho with index, ads, and information and articles on things to do and see in the Osaka region in Japanese text. One sepia tone full page ad and one ad that folds out to 15.5 x 18cm. Monochrome woodcuts throughout with 2 lovely full page color woodblock prints and one color woodcut that folds out to 15.5 x 31.5cm. Kamigata 上方 refers to the region from Osaka to Kyoto. Damage to rear wrapper. Dust staining and rips along edge of top front wrapper.

Kamigata Shumi 上方趣味 [Bon Odori dancers on front wrapper]. 夏の巻 Natsu no Maki [Summer edition]. 大正 Taishō 10 [1921]. 15.2 x 10.9cm small volume bound Japanese style, fukuro-toji with decorated front wrapper, Bon Odori 盆おどり, depicting 3 lantern festival dancers and a silver moon. 35 cho with index, ads, and information and articles on things to do and see in the Osaka region in Japanese text. Monochrome woodcuts throughout with a vibrant, full color woodblock print with silver pigment opening to 22 x 15.3cm and full page ad with a light wash of color. Front wrapper has wear and slight fading to edges with top edge of binding starting. Dust stained with damp staining on later pages.

Kamigata Shumi 上方趣味 [Ukiyo-e woodcut Danshichijima no Okaji 團七縞のお梶 on cover]. 夏の巻 Natsu no Maki [Summer edition]. 大正 Taishō 11 [1922]. 15.3 x 11cm small volume bound Japanese style, fukuro-toji with decorated front wrapper with a Ukiyo-e woodcut of the actor Bandō Shūka in the role of Danshichijima no Okaji. 團七縞のお梶 (団七縞のお梶). 40 cho with index, ads, and information and articles on things to do and see in the Osaka region in Japanese text. Monochrome woodcuts throughout with a striking, color woodcut that folds out to 23 x 15.5cm, 2 color full page ads, 1 monochrome ad that folds out to 20 x 15.5cm and another that opens to 21 x 15.2cm. A slip of 8.5cm x 11.6cm paper with woodblock print publisher info for Kamigata Shumi 上方趣味 with the dates of 大正 Taishō 5, 6 and 7 [1916,17 and 18] laid in. Some small tears to front wrapper at binding, dust staining of wrappers.

Kamigata Shumi 上方趣味 [a brown building and trees with silver borders on front].鶯宿梅の巻 [Ōshukubai edition] Showa 9 [1934]. 15.2 x 11cm small volume bound Japanese style, fukuro-toji with decorated front wrapper of a brown building and trees with silver border. Ōshukubai 鶯宿梅, the edition’s name and front wrapper artwork, refers to the legend of a plum tree where a nightingale lived. 33 cho with index, ads, and information and articles on things to do and see in the Osaka region in Japanese text. Monochrome woodcuts throughout with a color ad on inside front wrapper, 8.2 x 7.5cm tipped-in color woodcut with silver pigment, 6 x 6cm tipped-in color woodcut, and a photo reproduction color woodcut that folds out to 14.5 x 19cm on paper with a metallic sheen. Dirt staining of wrappers with chipping of top and bottom front edges and dirt staining on rear wrapper. Stain on title page with slight foxing.

Kamigata Shumi 上方趣味 [blue, red and white design on cover]. 京鹿子の巻 [Kyōkanoko edition] Showa 7 [1932]. 15 x 10.9cm small volume bound Japanese style, fukuro-toji with decorated front and rear wrapper. Kyōkanoko 京鹿子, the edition’s name and front wrapper artwork, refers to a type of Kansai region silk dyeing process that leaves small white dots on a color background. 34 cho with index, ads, and information and articles on things to do and see in the Osaka region in Japanese text. Monochrome woodcuts throughout with a color ad on inside front cover and a b+w woodcut ad on rear cover. Two lovely, color woodblock prints that fold out - one with gold and silver pigments 19 x 15cm and the other 14 x 15cm. Wear to wrappers, spot of toning to edges of a few pages and all over toned pages to final few cho and ad pages. Tear to smaller fold out woodcut.


$500.00 for 5 vols.

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90871. Shikitei Sanba (Samba) 式亭三馬, illustrator. Shibai Kinmō Zui 戯場訓蒙図彙. 東都 Tōto [Tokyo]. Aoki Suzando, publisher. c. 1890s. 8 volumes bound as 5, 22 x 15cm bound Japanese style fukuro-toji. Original, black and white woodblock prints with Japanese text. Each volume centers on a different aspect of Kabuki theater, with single page, double page, four to a page and multi page woodcuts.

This encyclopedia of Kabuki by the great comic author Shikitei Sanba (Samba) 式亭三馬 (1776 – 1822) is a novel approach to a reference work, combining a satiric and yet loving look at Kabuki on and off the stage as if they were two separate countries, based on the model of earlier Sino-Japanese encyclopedic gazetteers (See Leutner’s reference to the work in his “Shikitei Sanba and the Comic Tradition in Edo Fiction''). Sanba’s skill in humor is here combined with the artistry of Katsukawa Shun’ei 勝川春英 (1762–1819) and Utagawa Toyokuni 歌川豊国 (1769 - 1825). Toyokuni’s actor portraits and Shun’ei’s detailed drawings of stage sets, hairdos, costumes, etc. are here quite well-printed in sumi ink.

The work in general and this particular copy are quite interesting bibliographically. The Shibai Kinmō Zui 戯場訓蒙図彙 is usually regarded as having been published in Kyōwa 3 [1803] by Yorozuya Tajiemon of Edo. This copy has the Yorozuya name in the place of honor as block holder on the right of the publisher list. However, the name of  Kazusaya Tadanosuke 上總屋忠助, also from Edo, is explicitly listed as the holder of the blocks. Furthermore, the colophon notes that the production of the blocks began in 1803. But the actual approval for sale (Kyuhan 求板) was 1806.

Our copy in hand has the Bunka 3 文化三 [1806] date, but a title page from Aoki Suzando - an Osaka-based publisher from mid-Meiji who had an office in Tokyo, as well. So a late printing (1890s?) in woodblock, but seemingly from the same blocks as the original edition(s). The impressions are still for the most part sharp and clear.  Waseda has a very worm eaten copy that they have published online, there are copies in both the Toda and Kerlen bibliographies, as well as citations in Hillier’s “Art of the Japanese Book.”

Spots of toning with wear to wrappers. Vol 2 has a white mark on front wrapper and Vol 5 has a hole on front wrapper with dirt staining and chipping of edges. Overall, a very clean copy, very fresh printing and paper,  in what appear to be the original covers with original printed title slips. By no means a common book, and though copies reside in many Japanese institutions, it is very hard to come by in good condition. A late but very interesting edition, done in the original woodblock.




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38429. Kincaid, Zoe. Kabuki. The Popular Stage of Japan. With illustrations. London: Macmillan and Co, 1925.Large 8vo, black cloth, stamped in gilt, t.e.g; xv + 385pp; 49 black and white plates, frontis. in color. The covers are stained, the interior very good - a sound and usable copy. Plate facing page 22 is of renowned actor Onoe Kikugorō 尾上菊五郎, who is featured in the poster in our catalog offering #85304.








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89578. [Ehon] Utagawa Toyokuni I 歌川豊国 1世. (Yōbō Shashin) Haiyū Sankai-Kyō(容貌寫真)俳優三階興. Edo, Nishimiya Shinroku, Yorozuya Tajiemon, Kansei 13 [1801]. 21.6 x 15.2 cm., hanshibon, string-bound, fukuro-toji. With the original blind-stamped covers. The printed title labels are soiled but present on volume one and nearly gone from volume two. It has the title page mounted on the inner front cover of volume one and the colophon at the end of volume two.

The text is by the famous Edo comic author and theatrical devotee, Shikitei Samba 式亭三馬, and the prints by Toyokuni I 歌川豊国1世 (1769 - 1821) in his prime. A collection of images of famous actors of the day on their days off, as it were. One could translate the title as something like, “Actors Without Make-up.”  It is also known as “Amusements of the Actors on the Third Floor (Dressing Room).” The two volumes are complete as issued.

The books, especially volume two, are soiled and the colors are a bit faded throughout with but the printing is good or better of this important and very unusual title. Toda/Ryerson p. 287-8. A copy was the 76th item in the Gerstle, Clark and Yano catalogue, “Kabuki Heroes On The Osaka Stage”, and the 57th item in Isseido's 100th anniversary catalogue, published in 2003.

Very good overall. In a modern, custom clasped chitsu case.



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90295.  [Crepe Paper Book] Von Karl Florenz, translator. Japanische Dramen: Terakoya & Asagao. Leipzig: C.F. Amelangs Verlag (Hasegawa, Yotsuya Hommura, Tokyo, Meiji 33 [1900]). Large format (19.6 X 15.4 cm) crepe paper book (chirimen-bon 縮緬本), illustrated with color woodcuts. Bound Japanese style, fukuro-toji and opens Western style. This is the "Dritte Auflage," or 3rd edition, from Meiji 33 [1900] with the date and publisher’s Yotsuya Honmura address in the Japanese colophon on the final page. Text is in German with illustrations in bright colors.

One of the very special crepe paper books published in Japan in different languages, it was made from mulberry paper and first printed, and then pressed (about 10 times), before it was bound. Incredibly, the writing and illustrations are clear despite this Chirimen-bon “shrinking” process that resulted in a textured feel to the pages that resemble the chirimen 縮緬 or crepe fabric that gives the paper its name.

Terakoya 寺子屋 and Asagao 朝顔 are excerpts from two Kabuki plays popular during the Meiji period. The former is about a Meiji period temple school (Terakoya 寺子屋) and based on the play Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami 菅原伝授手習鑑 (Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy), while the latter is from Shōtsushi Asagao Banashi 生写朝顔話 (The Tale of the Morning Glory). With a synopsis of the plays and introductory notes in German.

Near fine in a clasped wraparound that is decorated on the front and back. One clasp is missing and one is partially detached but otherwise shows but the lightest wear and unusual thus. One of Hasegawa's loveliest productions.





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82866. Tōshūsai Sharaku 東洲斎写楽, artist, Text by Teruji Yoshida, English translation by Jiro Harada, Edited by Toyohisa Adachi. Sharaku: A Complete Collection. 1960. Sharaku I, Sharaku II. Reproduction by The Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints. Special article by Ichitaro Kondo. Tokyo: Meiji-Shobo, 1960. One folio, (of two published) blue cloth-covered chitsu cases, with clasps; with prints and separate text volume in wrappers laid into the case. Vol.1: 77pp.

English text in wrappers + 33 (of 40) loose full-color hand printed ôban size woodblock facsimiles of Sharaku prints. 20 of these are faithful reproductions of his close-up portraits of Kabuki actors with his signature silver mica background that lends a lovely sheen. Although little is known about his life, Tōshūsai Sharaku (東洲斎写楽; active 1794–1795) was known for his prints of Kabuki actors. Great care was lavished on this series. The quality of the Adachi facsimiles is well known - there was a whole team of Adachi cutters and printers working under the supervision of Funabashi Mitsuru. Sharaku himself was a mystery. He appeared on the ukiyo-e scene for just under a year and his identity is unknown. The first volume of the two-volume collection, in fine condition.




--------------------- Noh ------------------------------------------------------------------



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80462. Hanabusa Hideki 花房英樹. Nōga Taishū 能画大集 Image of the Japanese Noh-Plays. Tōkyō. Seikōsha 盛光社. 1964. Large Folio. [13.5" x 17.5"]. Green handmade paper over boards, in a red clamshell box. Bilingual Japanese/English text. Illustrated in color throughout, a series of reproductions of Hanabusa Hideki’s 花房英樹 paintings, conceived as a visual guide to the most important plays in the Noh drama 能 canon.

The book is near fine, slightly bumped on bottom rear corner, the box a bit rubbed at the corners.






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83069. Noh-ka Gabi. Tokyo & Kyoto: Unsodo. n.d. [Showa 9, 1934]. Large brocade covered wooden box of 102 (of 100 - there are 2 extra plates not called for in the contents pages) plates of Noh costumes, patterns, masks, etc. An impressive mixture of printing techniques - color woodcut, offset, color collotype and various hybrids thereof. Sheet size: 29 x 37 cm.

One of the wonderful folios for which Unsodo was famous between the wars. Very good, complete, very unusual, text in Japanese.








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56045. Nogami, Toyoichirō. Japanese Noh Plays: How to See Them. Tokyo: Nōgaku-Shorin, 1954. Later printing. 12mo., 73 pp. 17.5 x 14.7cm book with lovely blue wrappers patterned in gilt with lettering in black with text in English. Preface by the author’s wife. Foreword by the author describes accompanying Bernard Shaw to a Noh performance and the author’s eloquent reaction. The author breaks down the aspects of Noh theatre for the uninitiated, with the vocabulary of the stage, masks and costumes in romaji. Photo illustrations of the action as well as behind the scenes. A diagram of the stage with parts identified and a list of plays by category. As the living tradition of Noh drama remains the same as it was hundreds of years ago, this slim volume is as timeless as the drama itself.

Lightly soiled and edgeworn. Very good.






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90645. Zeami Motokiyo 世阿弥 元清. Birds of Sorrow - A Nō Play  Utō 善知鳥. Translated by Meredith Weatherby and Bruce Rogers. 1947. Obunsha 旺分社. Tokyo. 1 volume 21 x 14.8cm string-bound, Japanese style, fukuro toji opens both Japanese and Western-style with Japanese and English text according to the side opened. Covers and pages were perforated for binding on both sides. 29 pages in English and 64 pages in Japanese. The latter includes the text of the Nō play Utō 善知鳥, Title Page, Table of Contents, prefaces on the text and woodcuts, floor plan of the stage, as well as reproductions of the woodcuts and photographic reproductions of a character on stage and original text. Title page, Table of Contents, prefaces on the text and woodcuts, floor plan of the stage, and the text itself in English.

The Nō play Utō 善知鳥, Birds of Sorrow, is attributed to actor, essayist, and playwright Zeami Motokiyo 世阿弥 元清 (c. 1363 – c. 1443), a prolific Nō writer and historically one of the genre’s greatest proponents. An underlying theme of The Birds of Sorrow is the Zen Buddhist principle of non-violence, as told from the point of view of a recently deceased hunter. This retelling is especially poignant given the time frame of its publication so close to the end of World War II.

Original woodblock prints on wrappers, inside wrappers and title pages by Munakata Shikō 棟方志功 (1903 - 1975), one of the giants of mid-20th century Japanese printmaking and a leader of the Sōsaku Hanga 創作版画 (Creative Print Movement).

(Oscar) Meredith Weatherby (1915 – 1997) was an American publisher and translator who lived in Japan and the US and was known mainly for his translations of works by writer Yukio Mishima into English.

Good condition.



 --------------------- Bunraku ------------------------------------------------------


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48602. Chikamatsu Monzaemon, author. Masterpieces of Chikamatsu, the Japanese Shakespeare. Translated by Asataro Miyamori; revised by Robert Nichols. London & NY, 1926. 8vo, xiv + 359 pp., with 74 illustrations.

Chikamatsu Monzaemon 近松門左衛門 (1653-1724) was a prolific and established playwright, who wrote mainly for Bunraku, traditional puppet theater, and Kabuki. His many plays were serious efforts on themes such as double suicides, tragedies and historical romance, leading him to be known in the West as the “Japanese Shakespeare.”

An interesting series of photo illustrations portraying the famous actors of the day, as well as translations of major plays in the repertory. Blue cloth, faded. Good, plus.






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86113. Tree, Herbert Beerbohm, proprietor and manager. [Program] His Majesty’s Theatre: "The Darling of the Gods" 4to., folded broadside size sheet (4 panels) printed in brown ink. No date, circa 1904.

The play, a five act drama by David Belasco and John Luther Long, was first performed in New York in 1902 at the Belasco Theatre. Tree is not playing the role of Zakkuri as he did in the London premier in 1903, so this is a later program from before the play’s close in July of 1904. The lauded scenery is credited to W. T. Hemsley. Belasco and Long are known for their one act play Madame Butterfly that debuted in 1900 and was later turned into Puccini’s well-known opera. The exotic setting of Japan and the tragic love story set during the era of Samurai appealed to audiences of the time. Kataoka Genjirō 片岡源次郎 (1867―1924), also known as Etō Genjirō 江藤 源次郎, was a painter, illustrator and sculptor who traveled and worked in the US and Japan. Although he is not credited in our program, it is believed that he contributed significantly to the early costume design of the production. See L. Edwards, “A Tale of Three Designers” accessed July 13, 2021

Advertisements on the rear panel, some with illustrations, include several hotels, the "G. B" Diabetes Whisky "for Diabetes, Kidney Complaints, Rheumatism and Gout", The "Angelus" Piano-Player, Kyriazi Freres Egyptian Cigarettes, and Douglas Sladen's book "Queer Things About Japan."

Edges with small closed tears and nicks, front panel toned and foxed, light foxing to rear panel and interior. Otherwise good condition overall.