Ya: The Call of the Drum

Utagawa Kunisada, Ya, The Iroha Alphabet, mid-nineteenth century, with subject Ichikawa Danjuro VIII getting his hair combed, kabuki play

Kunisada went above and beyond the call of the drum when he designed this print. It’s one of those times that I heard the syllable in my head when I saw the print. Now I must find out more. I’ve seen it before, but I was waiting to find this one with nearly pristine color and no trimmed edges.

Now the fun begins as I research the play, the date, etc. It must have been a popular print (the Utagawa School rules with most surviving Japanese prints). My Lithuanian grandmother studied English speaking and writing until the day she died. She’d write a letter to a friend, and mail it to me in Iowa. Then I’d correct it and mail it back to her in South Dakota. Grandmother then recopied the letter and mailed it to her friends. That is respect for education and how generations spin in a wheel of worlds.

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