Kichi Hôgen sanryaku no maki (Kiichi Hôgen's three-volume book of tactics: 鬼一法眼三略巻) premiered as a ningyô jôruri (puppet play: 人形淨瑠璃) in 1731; kabuki followed in 1732. It recounts the earlier life of Minamoto no Yoshitsune, 1159-1189: 源義経) from his boyhood to the celebrated confrontation with Musashi-bô Benkei (武蔵坊 弁けい) the warrior monk (a yamabushi, literally, mountain sleeper: 山伏). The play, derived in part from the Muromachi-period chronicle Gikeiki or Yoshitsune ki (Chronicles of Yoshitsune: 義経記), presents the young hero in disguise as Torazô, who is traveling with his retainer Kisanta, disguised as Chienai. They are on a mission to steal a book of military tactics compiled by the noted strategist Yoshioka Kiichi Hôgen allied with the enemy Heike (Taira) clan. When Hôgen's daughter Minazuru-hime falls in love with Yoshitsune, her compassionate father, whose political sympathies actually lie with the Genji (Minamoto), gives the book of tactics to Yoshitsune and then takes his own life to atone for being disloyal to the Heike.
The artist signing here as Shigeharu (active c. 1849-51) is not the same as the master artist Ryûsai Shigeharu (1802-51; active c. 1821-49).
The title of the play is inscribed in the red and white scroll cartouches on each sheet. Yoshitsune, dressed in a purple robe, is identified in the present triptych by his earlier name, Ushiwakamaru.
The painted stage background for Act III, Scene 2 shows a splendid array of colorful flowers, which takes place in the chrysanthemum garden at Kiichi Hôgen's mansion in Imadegawa (Imadegawa Kiichi Hôgen yakata kikubatake: 今出川鬼一法眼館菊畑). By this time Hôgen is already aware of the true identities of the disguised Ushiwakamaru (as Tôrazô) and Kisanta (as Chienai), and that his daughter has fallen in love with Ushiwakamaru.
References: IKBYS-III, 583; KNP-6, p. 554; IKB-I, no. 2-513