Yukihira sonarematsu (Yukihira and windswept pines along the seashore: 行平磯馴松) was derived from the legend of Matsukaze, a fourteenth-century Nô play. Matsukaze (松風) and Murasame (村雨), sisters making a living as shiokumi (salt gatherers: 潮汲み or 汐汲み) in Suma (須磨), fall in love with the exiled Heian-period courtier and poet Ariwara no Yukihira (在原行平). After Yukihira is allowed to leave the island, Matsukaze (her name means "Wind in the Pines") goes mad with grief and dances while wearing his robe and eboshi ("bird hat," a tall hat made of paper or silk, stiffened with black lacquer and secured by a silk cord, worn by male aristocrats of the imperial court: 烏帽子).
This is the right-hand sheet of a diptych. The left sheet depicts Nakamura Utaemon III as Konobei. The dancer Kofuji performs as a shirabyôshi (literally "white rhythm": 白拍子). The early shirabyôshi were professional dancer-courtesans or itinerant prostitutes of the late Heian period to the sixteenth century who often worked among the upper classes by presenting a dance in a masculine costume of court robes and eboshi.
The headnote (top right) reads: Kondo kojinno tsuizen o / tsutomuru tote okogamashiku mo (Though it is presumptuous of me, I offer this death-anniversary performance as a tribute to my ancester). This refers to Nakamura Matsue I (1742-86), Matsue II's predecessor. Matsue II (1786-1855) would change his geimei (stage name: 芸名) to Tomijûrô II soon after this production.
The poem (top left) reads: Tamukuru ya / sonare no matsu no / aki no koe (In memory of the deceased / the sounds of autumn sough / through pines on the beach). Signed "Tokiwa," Matsue's haimyô (poetry name: 俳名). [Translation courtesy of John Carpenter.] The verse — typically self-effacing for occasions of this kind — suggests that compared with his illustrious namesake, Matsue II is blown about like pines (matsu:松) along the seashore.
Even when considering Hokuei's stellar reputation as a designer of surimono-style prints, this composition stands out as exceptional. The renowned Kasuke cut the blocks.
References: IKB-I, p, 42; 1-484; KNP-6, p. 256