Hiragana seisuiki (Simple chronicle of the rise and fall of the Heike and Genji: ひらかな盛衰記) was adapted from the medieval Genpei seisuiki (History of the Rise and Fall of the Genji and Heike: 源平盛衰記), a tale of the Genpei kassen (Genpei wars: 源平合戦) of 1180-1185 between the Heike (Taira) and Genji (Minamoto) clans. In the main plot thread, Kajiwara Heiji Kagetaka (梶原平次景高) is the wicked, ne'er-do-well younger brother of Kagiwara Genta Kagesue (梶原源太景季, died 1200) who plots to overthrow his sibling and take control of the Kajiwara fortune. The maidservant Chidori, who is in love with Genta, is also the object of Heiji's desire. During the battle at the Ujigawa, Genta allows a fellow warrior the honor of being the first to cross the river, thereby paying a debt of gratitude for that warrior's saving the life of Genta's father, Kajiwara Kagetoki (梶原景時, c. 1162-1200). Seizing the opportunity, Heiji unjustly brands his brother a coward for not grabbing the honor for the Kajiwara clan. The brothers fight and Heiji is forced to run away. Nevertheless, the accusation is too serious to ignore and Genta is disinherited by his mother. All the while Chidori sides with Genta, and the two, now in disgrace, leave together, vowing to restore Genta's honor. Chidori becomes the prostitute Umegae to support Genta in his quest to regain his inheritance. He ultimately succeeds after proving his bravery in battle, and Heiji is slain.
In another well-known subplot, the warrior Higuchi no Jirô Kanemitsu, in disguise as the boatman Matsuemon, seeks revenge against the Genji general Minamoto no Yoshitsune who has slain Higuchi's lord, the Heike general Kiso Yoshinaka. Matsuemon's wife, Oyoshi, cares for a young boy she believes to be their son Tsuchimatsu, who is actually Yoshinaka's son, Komawaka (the children were mixed up in an earlier melee during an attempt to assassinate Komawaka, when Tsuchimatsu was killed in his place). Oyoshi's father, Gonshirô, has instructed Matsuemon in the secret art of rowing called sakaro (backwards rowing), used to position ships to great advantage during battle. Yoshitsune's allies, the Kajiwara, offer Matsuemon command of Yoshitsune's ship in exchange for teaching them sakaro, which he sees as a perfect opportunity for revenge. The Kajiwara, however, know of his intentions and send warriors to take Matsuemon prisoner. Although Matsuemon (i.e., now revealed as Higuchi no Jirô) fights off the first wave of attackers in spectacular fashion, he is eventually forced to surrender.
This is a scene from Act V, when Higuchi no Jirô is about to confront the Kajiwara troops. He has climbed the Matsu no sakaro ("backwards-rowing pine") to observe the Kajiwara marching toward him. Ominous clouds move across the sky.
This is one of Hirosada's memorable diptychs, and much in demand by collectors. Our impression is very well preserved, with the two chûban sheets remaining uncut — note the two signatures. The centerfold is likely due to the diptych's inclusion in a chûban-size album at some point in its history.
References: WAS-VI, no. 6-383; TWOP, p. 218, no. 111; IKB-I, p. 105, no. 2-511