Meiboku sendaihagi (Sandalwood and bush clover of Sendai: 伽羅先代萩) dramatized the intriques over succession within the Date clan of Sendai during the third quarter of the seventeenth century. It was performed in an alternate sekai ("world" or theatrical setting: 世界), set back in time during the Ônin War (Ônin no Ran, 1467-1477: 応仁の乱) under the Ashikaga shogunate of the fifteenth century (Ashikaga thus becomes a theatrical substitute for the Date clan name). It is a classic play, so popular that during the Edo period it had at least one performance nearly every year after its premiere in 1777. The fictionalized central story involved Lord Ashikaga Yorikane's forays into the pleasure quarter and his murder of the courtesan Takao (高尾). This episode is an amplification of an actual incident in which the twenty-one-year-old clan leader Date Tsunamune became the lover of the Yoshiwara courtesan Takao, causing a scandal that led to his downfall. Another story line involves Nikki Danjô (Yorikane's evil nephew), the orchestrator of a conspiracy to overthrow Yorikane. The intrigue fails, however, and Nikki is slain.
The actors strike a dramatic mie (pose: 見得) set along the sort of pictorial diagonal often encountered in ukiyo-e print design. In this energetic tachimawari (lit., "standing and going around," i.e., choreographed fight scene: 立回り), there is an effective use of swinging tassles, flailing arms, and jutting sword hilts, all set against the strong diagonals of the wooden balcony.
This design features a marvelous kimono pattern with a dragon gripping the pearl of immortality and a Hokusai-like cresting wave (click on larger image above to see detail).
References: IKB-I, p. 98, no. 2-433; KNP-VI, pp. 281;WAS I-4, no. 508