The kabuki play Onna hachinoki (Women's version of the potted tress: 女鉢の木) is one of various hachinoki mono (plays about the potted trees: 鉢の物) or adaptations of the Nô play Hachinoki (The potted trees: 鉢木). Bunraku (puppet theater: 文楽) offered productions as early as 1670, culminating in Chikamatsu Monzaemon's Saimyôji dono hyakunin jôrô of 1703, which introduced the roles of Tokiyori and Genzaemon's wife, who appeared in a big-hit Osaka bunraku production called Hôjô jiraki in 1726. The final act, Onna hachinoki, became a kabuki play at the Naka no Shibai, Osaka in 1727, with many revivals thereafter. Other kabuki dramatizations include Kaikei natsu no hachinoki (Potted trees and a man in summer: 男夏鉢の木) and Yayoi ni hiraku ando no funahashi (三月開 嬉心船橋).
The lord of Kamakura, Hôjô Tokiyori, while traveling in disguise as a priest, seeks shelter from deep snow and freezing temperatures at the house of Tsuneyo, the former lord of Sano, who is impoverished following the confiscation of his lands by duplicitous kinsmen. Tsuneyo sends the priest away, claiming he has no room, and suggests that the priest look for lodging in the next village. Tsuneyo calls the priest back, however, when his wife admonishes him, saying their wretched state is the consequence of their past sins and that more unkindness will bring ruin in their next life. When the night cold keeps him awake, Tsuneyo, much saddened, cuts his cherished bonsai ("tray planting" or potted trees: 盆栽) of plum, cherry, and pine, setting them on fire to keep the priest warm. When Tokiyori asks why Tsuneyo does not stake his claim before the lord of Kamakura, Tsuneyo replies that he has heard his lord is away on a pilgrimage. He adds that he would gladly don his broken armor, take up his rusty spear, and mount his weakened horse to defend his lord from harm. In a later scene, Tokiyori sends orders for all the lords of the eastern provinces to gather at Kamakura. He then asks to see the most ill-equipped lord, whereupon Tsuneyo, poorly attired, walks toward Tokiyori, thinking he is about to be executed. As the splendidly dressed lords look upon Tsuneyo with derision, Tokiyori reveals that he was the priest whom Tsuneyo had sheltered, and that for keeping his word to fight for his lord, returns to Tsuneyo his lands in Sano, along with three more estates, to compensate for the three bonsai Tsuneyo had sacrificed.
In the kabuki adaptation, the mistreated lord is named Sano Genzaemon, and the priest/lord Saimyôji Nyûdô. Genzaemon is robbed of his lands by a wicked uncle. Other story lines are woven into the plot, but essentially Genzaemon looks to regain possession of his ancestral lands and win a Kamakura guarantee for his legitimate right to ownership.
The married couple are shown against a heavy snowfall, evoking the freezing night when Tokiyori seeks shelter with Sano Genzaemon. The printing of these sheets is of the first order, with extensive gold-color brass on the armor worn by Genzaemon. The complete diptych is rarely available for acquisition.
* Uchida Torazô was a block carver (hori Uchitora, 彫内寅) who also published prints, a dual role taken on by some enterprising artisans in Kamigata publishing. See EOM below for further discussion of Uchida, including illustrations of his seals appearing on the prints of the Osaka artist Enjaku.
References: Ritsumeikan University, right sheet only (arcBK01-0038_29); KNP-7, p. 21; NKE, p. 140; EOM, p. 12