The play was based on the historical Miyamoto Musashi (1583-1647), whose name meant "Storehouse of military knowledge." He was a legendary swordsman and the son of the celebrated fencing master Yoshioka Tarozaemon, a retainer of the Ashikaga shôgun Yoshiteru. Musashi was a bold and reputedly reckless adventurer, although he survived armed combat more than 60 times and died a natural death. Katakiuchi nitô no eiyûki was one of the many popular tales of vengeance and retribution. In one such incident, Musashi avenged the murder of his father by despatching his killer with a wooden sword, a lethal weapon in the hands of a master swordsman. Musashi's exploits took him into the mountains during winter, when he is often depicted, as in Ashiyuki's design, carrying or wearing a straw hat and padded jacket.
The Kabuki nenpyô (see KNP reference below) mentions that in one scene, Rikan exited the main stage by walking down the hanamichi, and when half-way down he gestured as if descending into a valley. That is the same scene shown here in Ashiyuki's design. This is also the moment shortly before Musashi encounters Kasahara Rôô, the legendary fencing master, from whom he will learn advanced fighting techniques.
The poems are signed by Rikkaen and Rikan, respectively, reading:
Na no hana ni / hikkurumetaru / sekai kana (The whole world is covered / by the yellow flowers / of the rapeseed).
Yuku michi o / saguri ashi nari / oborotsuki (Walking along the path, / I feel my way with my feet, / night of the veiled moon).
References: IKBYS-I, no. 301; KNP-6, p. 251; IKB-I, no. 3-61; SCH, no. 146; PPO, no. 69