• Artist’s names: Sadamasu (貞升) and, from 5/1848, Kunimasu (國升) (occasionally 國益).
  • Active 3/1830-11/1854.
  • Recorded on prints dated early 1834 and 3/1834 as a pupil of Totō Kunisada, and on prints dated c.1845, 12/1852 and 9/1853 as a pupil of Toyokuni (Toyokuni III, i.e. Kunisada). He commenced his study with Kunisada between 8/1828 and 3/1830 (see below).
  • Recorded name change from Sadamasu to Kunimasu on prints dated 1/1848 (?), 5/1848, c. 6/1848, 8/1848, and on a print dated 8/1852 published in Edo.
  • Surname: Utagawa (歌川).
  • (pseudonyms): Gochōsai (?) (五蝶斎), Gochōtei (五蝶亭), Gofukutei (五蝠亭), Ichiensai (一園斎), Ichijuen (一樹園), Ichijusai (?) (一樹斎), and Ichijutei (一樹亭).
  • Seals: Bat-shaped seal, Ju (longevity; placed within the shape of a bat), Hatakumi (?), Sada, Sadamasu, Toshidama (double seal), Tō…. (unidentified), Utagawa, Utagawa Kunimasu, Wasa, and two unidentified seals.
  • Personal name: Kaneya (Kanaya) Wasaburō (金屋  和三郎).
  • Address: Nōninbashi Matsuyamachi, Senba, Osaka (農人橋 松屋町 船場 大阪).

Concerning the question marks it can be said that a print dated 1/1848 with Sadamasu’s name change to Kunimasu is not found among the catalogued prints of the artist, neither are the prints with the pseudonyms Ichijusai and Gochōsai.3 The seal Hatakumi (?) also appears on prints designed by other artists and might not be a personal seal of Sadamasu but the seal of for instance a publisher or collector.

To the address in the Senba district, where Sadamasu lived during at least several years of his active period as a print designer, the following can be added. In those days the Senba district was commercially the heart of the city. Matsuyamachi (Matsuya Street) ran northwards from Tennoji Park in the south of the city centre, all the way up to the Tenjin Bridge over the Yodo River. Parallel to Matsuya Street and situated somewhat west of it, was Higashi Yokobori, one of the many canals in Osaka. Among its bridges was Nōninbashi (Farmers’ Bridge). By it Kita Kyūtarō Street ran across the canal in an eastward direction from the centre. The bridge received its name in the early days when farmers used it on their daily trip to their work on the rice fields east of the city. Also the bridge directly led to the entrance of the famous Osaka Castle, built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598) in the late sixteenth century. Sadamasu’s house was east of the bridge and southwest of the castle, that is, in the neighbourhood of the present crossing of Matsuyamachi Avenue and Chūō Highroad.


1. See for more details Keyes, R., and Mizushima, K., The Theatrical World of Osaka Prints, p. 316, XIII.

2. Schwaab, D.J., Osaka Prints, p. 10; Roberts, L.P., A Dictionary of Japanese Artists, p. 96.

3. See e.g. Suzuki J., ed., Genshoku ukiyo-e daihyakka jiten, vol. 2, p. 45, and Keyes, R. and Mizushima, K., op. cit., p. 269.

The early years of Sadamasu's career

Three years after the death of Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825) of Edo, the leading artist of the Utagawa school, the artists of the school took the initiative to erect a memorial stone for their teacher. The stone was erected at the Myōken Temple in the Yanagishima district of Honjo in Edo, 8/1828.1 On the stone the names of twenty-eight pupils of Utagawa Toyokuni I are listed first, after which twelve of these are mentioned again, but now with pupils of their own. Among the eleven pupils of Utagawa Kunisada are the names of three artists originating from Osaka: Sadafusa, Sadanobu and Sadahiro. To the name of Sadahiro, who is mentioned last of Kunisada’s pupils, Naniwa (of Osaka) is explicitly added, obviously indicating that Sadahiro only recently had become a member of the Utagawa school.

From the signature on two prints published 1834 in Osaka, and the signature on three prints published c.1845, 1852 and 1853 in Edo, we know that Sadamasu regarded himself as a student ofKunisada. Since the name of Sadamasu is not among the ones listed on the memorial stone, it is quite obvious that he came to Edo some time later than 8/1828.

On Sadamasu’s earliest print known so far, a banzuke (theatre playbill) dated 3/1830, his signature reads eshi (artist) Utagawa Sadamasu sha (or ga?) [print 1]. The use of the surname Utagawa makes clear that he had become a pupil of Kunisada before the third month of 1830. Unfortunately I have only recorded a poor-quality image of the playbill concerned, while the present whereabouts of the original print are not known to me. The print is designed in Edo style and shows the crest of the Iwai actors’ family in the centre at top. At the time of its publication all actors of the Iwai line were active in Edo, so, when combining the available details, we may start from the idea that the playbill most likely was published in Edo. At any rate, we now know that Sadamasu commenced his study with Kunisada in Edo some time between 8/1828 and 3/1830. During his stay in Edo he received both the names Utagawa and Sadamasu from his teacher. An artist’s name of Sadamasu, if he had any, predating his study with Kunisada, is not recorded.