The three protagonists in this humorous tale are Kasuya (Mikinosho Kasuya Ason Nagamochi), who likes to drink, Iimuro (Iimuro Risshi Kohan), a chubby priest who is a teetotaler and who favors a simple meal with a bowl of rice, and Chuzaemon (Chuzaemon Daiyu Nakahara Nakanari), who likes to both eat and drink in moderation. Each speaks of the merit of his particular habit. Kasuya expounds on the benefits of sake, drawing on examples from Chinese and Japanese classics. The defense of sake is illustrated by a dramatic scene of a drunken party with partially disrobed dancers making merry to music while sake is poured from large barrels in the storeroom nearby. Drunks are escorted to the garden where they can vomit out of sight of their companions. The teetotaler stresses the virtues of rice. In the rice-eating scene, presided over by the monk Iimuro, foods are prepared in an amazing variety of shapes and colors and in copious amounts. Rice cakes are molded by the industrious kitchen-staff and there is an abundance of large bowls of fluffy white rice. The third man, Chuzaemon, as a proponent of the sensible middle path, ends by extolling the virtues of moderation. The final scene shows a well-equipped kitchen where cooks are at work preparing fish, geese and soup. These detailed views of food are quite fascinating.
Mid-seventeenth-century illustrated handscroll versions of this story are found in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin and in the Spencer Collection, New York Public Library. The former is illustrated in Yoshiko Ushioda, Tales of Japan: Three Centuries of Japanese Painting from the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, exh. cat. (Alexandria, Va.: Art Services International, 1992), no. 25. The Spencer version bears the signature and seal of Kano Tanshin (1653-1718), son of Kano Tanyu. He was the second generation of the Kajibashi branch of the Kano family in Edo. The color and pattern of garments varies from set to set but the compositions are essentially identical. The scroll offered here is earlier than the Spencer version and the drawing and figure style more lively and expressive.
Another Shuhanron ekotoba handscroll with text and four illustrations was sold in these Rooms, 1 November, 1996, lot 355.