Many of kabuki's domestic dramas were adaptations of actual events. In 1702 at the Yotsubashi in Osaka, a dealer in second-hand goods named Hachirôbei
murdered Otsuma, a prostitute in the Tanbaya teahouse. This spawned — as was the custom for sordid or shocking tales that caught the fancy of the
public — songs and dramas about the ill-fated couple. Edo and Osaka each produced its preferred versions of the story, with occasional conflations
of similar real events (unbelievably, one in Edo involved a prostitute named Ginneko Otsuma slain by vendor of dry goods named Hachirôbei!). Many
of the Otsuma Hachirôbei mono portrayed Hachirôbei as especially despicable and included scenes in which Otsuma engages in aisozukashi ("becoming sick of something"), a kabuki convention in which a woman verbally abuses a man without looking directly at
his face as she rejects his advances.
Ashiyuki portrays the moment shortly before Hachirôbei murders Otsuma. Seated on a veranda lit by a floor lamp (andon), she seems content
and unaware of the threat before her, for it will be her final message. Hanging from the eaves is a large lantern (chôchin) commemorating
the fifteenth day of the seventh month, the Buddhist Festival of the Dead. Hachirôbei has been driven mad with jealousy, believing that Otsuma,
with whom he has had a child, has fallen in love with a thief named Yahei. In reality, she has only agreed to marry Yahei in return for money to buy back the contract of a
courtesan in love with Hachrôbei's master, Iori.
Here we see Hachirôbei grasping his sword as he prepares to kill Otsuma. It is only later, when he reads the
letter she is shown writing in Ashiyuki's design, that Hachirôbei learns the truth. His black robe — boldly decorated with a traditional kasuri ("splashed-pattern" or cross-hatching) — is complemented chromatically by the jagged shapes of black mist and the gradated gray-black sky, all of which seem to contribute toward an atmosphere of imminent violence.
References: IBKYS-I, no. 293; KNP-6, p. 232; NKE, pp. 525 and 546;
PPO, no. 60.