Ashiya Dôman Ôuchi kagami (An imperial mirror of Ashiya Dôman: 芦屋道満大内鑑) was written by Takeda Izumo II for the Takemoto Bunraku (puppet theater: 文楽) in 1734. (Kabuki introduced its first staging in Kyoto the following year.) Takeda's dramatization was related to the fictional genre known as irui konin banashi (stories of marriage between humans and animals: 異類婚姻話), reflecting the wide-spread belief in kitsune-tsuki (fox possession: 狐憑き or 狐付き).
The main tale features Kuzunoha, a white fox saved by a twelfth-century nobleman named Abe no Yasuna. The grateful creature took the form of a beautiful maiden (in some versions a princess) and look-alike sister of Yasuna's former lover. Kuzunoha gives birth to their son, Dôji, destined to become the famous astrologer Abe no Seimei. In the end, Kuzunoha is compelled to reclaim her fox nature, and so, with much regret, she abandons her husband and son after writing a famous farewell poem. The two most admired episodes are the kudoki (lamentation: 口説) scene in which the fox prepares to abandon her child and writes the poem, and the kowakare (child-separation: 小 分 か れ) scene when she looks upon Dôji for the last time.
Yokanpei was a servant of Abe no Yasuna. In one scene, Kuzunoha conjures a fox-döppleganger in human form for Yokanpei.
This rare design is known to us in only four impressions, including the present example.
References: IKB-I, p. 41, no. no. 1-471; KNP-VI, p. 233; NKE, pp. 26-27