Young Women Playing Kitsune-ken (Fox Game)
Suzuki Harunobu (Japanese, 1725–1770)
Edo period (1615–1868)
Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper
11 1/4 x 8 5/8 in. (28.6 x 21.9 cm)
medium-size print (chu-ban)
Henry L. Phillips Collection, Bequest of Henry L. Phillips, 1939
Not on view
The spaciousness of the interior in this print extends to the exterior space of the veranda and the blossoming cherry trees beyond the railing, creating a pleasant atmosphere. The joyous mood is echoed by two figures in the foreground playing the fox game (kitsune-ken). Another young woman, with a three-stringed samisen in her left hand, watches their game. On the floor between the contestants are a kettle and a stand holding a sake cup.
The basic idea of kitsune-ken is that three hand gestures symbolize a village chief, a gun, and a fox. Each has a different potential: the chief is superior to the gun since he employs it, the gun to the fox because it can kill the fox, and the fox to the chief because it can bewitch him. The use of the hands (ken means "fist") leads to a number of combinations. In this print, the player on the right who makes a gesture of shooting a rifle defeats her opponent at the left, whose limp-wristed gesture signifies a fox. The game continues until one player wins three times in succession.
The loser in this print will have to drink a cup of sake.
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