The picture above is the first detail in our series taken from the stunning supernatural Sugoroku board showing at the Toshidama Gallery. It is a sort of compendium of ghosts, magicians, magic creatures and so on. This is the ‘last square’ – the top left corner and it shows the ghost of the wicked priest Seigen attempting to make off with Princess Sakura.
The story derives from the kabuki drama Saruka hime which premiered in Edo in 1817. Seventeen years before the play opens, when teh character Seigen is the abbot of Hasedera Temple in Kamakura, he falls in love with a young novice, Shiragikumaru. The priest and his protege make a suicide pact flinging themselves off a cliff but although the boy drowns, Seigen survives.
When Princess Sakura comes to the temple to enroll as a novice nun, Seigen recognizes her immediately as the female reincarnation of Shiragikumaru and falls in love with him/her all over again. Seigen is unaware that a year beforehand, Sakurahime was raped by a bandit named Gonsuke (who has a temple bell tattooed on his arm), who broke into her father’s house and killed her father and younger brother. Eventually she has a child by him in secret. Sakura encounters Gonsuke once again at the temple and, recognizing him because of his tattoo, falls strangely, madly in love.
By the second half of the drama, Sakurahime (Princes Sakura) has been expelled after being caught with Gonsuke, while Seigen’s attachment to her is so intense that — even after he has been killed by a jealous monk — his ghost roams around, bearing her illegitimate child with him.
Sakurahime becomes an exile, falling into decline and finally ending up being sold into prostitution by her lover, Gonsuke. Only at the end, reminded by Seigen’s ghost that Gonsuke is in fact the man who ruined her entire family, is she able to exact her revenge.