The play Otokodate itsutsu karigane (Karigane's five brave and chivalrous men: 男作五雁金) was written for the Takemoto puppet theater by Takeda Izumo I, who also managed the theater and was a co-author in 1748 of the wildly popular play Kanadehon chûshingura (Writing manual for the treasury of the loyal retainers: 假名手本忠臣蔵) or "Forty-seven rônin." Otokodate itsutsu karigane premiered in 9/1742 and quickly became one of the most popular Karigane gonin otoko mono (Karigane's five-men plays: 雁金五人男物) about the so-called otokodate (chivalrous commoners, literally "standing men": 男伊達 or 男作) in both the puppet and kabuki theaters. The real-life Karigane gonin were members of a loosely knit gang of 11 or more outlaws led by Karigane Bunshichi. Guilty of beatings, theft, and murder spanning several years, they were executed on 8/26/1702. Takeda's drama helped to mythologize these criminals and transform them from street thugs into heroes.
In this scene, the Karigane gonin confront Noda Kakuzaemon, a samurai patron of the pleasure quarters, and of young male actor-prostitutes in particular, whom they attack and murder near an Osaka theater in a memorable scene from Takeda's play. The five outlaws wear identical robes, symbolic of their gang unity. Their shakuhachi (wooden flutes: 尺八), potential weapons in themselves, ostensibly demonstrate an artistic sensibility appropriate to their rebellious spirit. As for their long swords — in real life these weapons were stolen from the victims of the outlaws. Moreover, their blue and white underrobes display emblems associated with the outlaws: Karigane Bunshichi's stylized triple-geese hexagon; An no Heibei's ideograph reading an (tranquility); Kaminari Shôkurô's two crossed drum sticks; Gokuin Sen'emon's crossed mallets over a character from his name, reading sen (thousand); and Hotei Ichiemon's fan and sack.
This is a finely printed deluxe edition with excellent preservation of colors. Other examples are in the Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum, Waseda University, Tokyo, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Acc #11.35804a-e).
References: WAS-6, no. 414 (three sheets only); KNP-6, p. 125; IKB-I, no. 2-392