This play premiered in 1806 in Osaka as a jôruri (puppet play), with the first kabuki adaptation following
in 1811. Lady Tamamo no Mae is a nine-tailed fox who kills a young woman named Hatsuhana whom the Emperor Toba has
summoned to court, then assumes her identity and gains employment as a lady-in-waiting. She soon becomes the Emperor’s
She later joins Prince Usugumo (the emperor's elder brother) in a plot to dethrone Toba and agrees to use her supernatural
powers to aid him. When the Emperor becomes ill, the chief astrologer of the court, Abe no Seimei [Yasunari], discovers —
thanks to a gust of wind blowing out all the candles and lamps in the palace — that in the absence of illumination Lady
Tamamo emits light from her body. He is convinced that she is a fox-witch whose pernicious magical powers have afflicted
the emperor. He sets a trap by inviting her to a prayer service to save the emperor, where he unsheathes a magical sword,
threatening to slay her. Forced to admit her true identity, she assumes her fox form — a spectacular, nine-tailed,
white fox — and flies away, with Yasunari in pursuit. During her escape Tamamo no Mae takes on various forms, including a country
girl, a masseur, a god of thunder, a man, a street girl, a courtesan, and once again Lady Tamamo.
This dramatic design depicts Tamamo no Mae when confronted by Yasunari as powerful beams of light emanate from her body. She
holds a folding fan (ôgi) whose open blades seem to echo the effect of the fantastical illumination. Yasunari wears
a hat patterned with a constellation, a sign of his profession as an astrologer. He has pursued Tamamo no Mae and now grips
an arrow that he intends to set in his long bow and shoot at the wicked fox.
The series title appears in the red cartouche at the top left and reads Shiki no uchi (A set of four seasons). The print
title is given in the metallic roundel at the top left, with the character for Aki (Autumn).
This is a superior example of Sadahiro's design. The seal straddling
the far left margin and image border is hand-stamped, possibly reading Ôtsubo (a book seller's?) —
see detail at right.
References: NKE, p. 640