This play was a big hit (ôatari) and proved to be a popular subject for a number of artists. Hokushû produced the design above
(plus at least two more compositions), while others depicting scenes from this production included his pupils Shunchô and Shunsho (later Shun'yô),
as well as the artist Yoshikuni and his pupils Mitsukuni and Hikokuni. Ôishizuri sakura tanzaku (大西摺桜花短冊) may be translated
as "Oishi's stone rubbing, a poem card, and cherry blossoms." Although the plot remains unknown, some role names (such as the virtuous wives
Oishi and Osono, or Okaru's brother, Teraoka Heiemon) inscribed on prints produced by these artists suggest that the plot was adapted from the most famous
of all revenge plays, Kanadehon chûshingura (Copybook of the Treasury of Loyal Retainers).
Breaking with convention, Hokushû designed each sheet with a different bold background pattern. The far left grid represents a repeat pattern of
the three-rice measures (mimasu) for the crest of the Ichikawa acting family. The middle and left sheets also have an encircled character at the
bottom edge for middle (chû) and left (sa), respectively, denoting the position of the sheets in
The poems (kyôka) all claim that not only was the production a success, but each actor was heralded for his performance.
The first verse (on the right sheet) is signed "Shiyû" and reads, Oiri o / totta to tachimi/ shikan yori / hoka e hiiki wa /
metta ni yaran zo ("A smashing success! / Only standing room, / nobody but Shikan, / never support / another!").*
Shikan was Utaemon's poetry name (haimyô). The character for "Yo" is written on Yogorô's blue robe.
The middle verse, written by the artist Umekuni, reads, Ryôha no / tachi-e no ume ni / uguisu no / sono sankô o / hikanu no wa nashi
("On either side / a plum branch, / in the middle a song thrush, / who would not be / charmed?").* Sankô
was the haimyô of the onnagata Nakamura Tomijûrô II.
The left poem, signed Tantorô, reads, Hyôban o / totta to date no / tatemono wa / ge ni senryô no / shinshô zo yoshi
("Great reviews! / this dandy star, / truly he is / Shinshô worth / a thousand coins").* The coins refer
to the high salary paid only to superstar actors such as Shinshô (the haimyô for Ebijûrô).
Note: Another (partly faded) impression of this design is featured in the 2005-06 exhibition and catalogue "Kabuki
Heroes on the Osaka Stage, 1780-1830" at the British Museum, Osaka Museum of History, and Waseda University Theatre Museum.
References: IKBYS-I, no. 122; IKB-I, no. 2-379;
KNP-6, p. 87; KHO, no. 225* [English translation of all 3 poems]