Hakuen II was the temporary acting name of the Edo superstar Ichikawa Danjûrô VII (1791-1859), who performed briefly in Osaka after fires destroyed all three theaters in Edo in 3/1829. His appearance in Osaka caused quite a sensation, and fans filled the theaters to watch him perform. The name Hakuen was first used on the kabuki stage by his grandfather, Danjûrô V, in the premiere of Date kurabe okuni kabuki (The Date rivalry in Okuni kabuki: 伊達競阿國劇場) in 1778. The play, based loosely on historical events, was one of the Date sôdô mono ("Date family-troubles plays") featuring various retellings of sagas involving the Date clan of Sendai in Ôshû, beginning in the 1660s when the daimyô Tsunamune was forced to retire. Some of the theatrical dramatizations had fantastical subplots, such as the one central to Date kurabe okuni kabuki, when the usurper Nikki Danjô, endowed with magical powers, plots to overthrow the clan leader Ashikaga Yorikane.
Hosokawa Katsumoto (細川勝元) appears in a scene in Act III as the second judge presiding over a trial. He is a high-ranking and loyal retainer of the Ashikaga clan who is aware of the plot against his lord. The proceedings are complicated, but essentially, Katsumoto unveils Danjô's treachery through a sequence of clever questions. Unlike the corrupt first judge, Yamana Sôzen, who is on Danjô's payroll and found the evidence against Danjô worthless (he also burns the most damaging piece of evidence), Katsumoto is a justice of imposing integrity. He outwits Danjô's attempts to manipulate the proceedings, quashes Yamana Sôzen's judgment, and ultimately finds the villain guilty.
There was an historical Hosokawa Katsumoto (1430-1473), one of the shogun's kanrei (political deputy: 管領) whose rivalry over the succession to the eighth shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate with his father-in-law, Yamana Sôzen (山名 宗全, 1404-1473) contributed to the start of the Ônin War (Ônin no Ran, 1467-1477: 応仁の乱). The run-up to the conflict began in 1464, when Ashikaga Yoshimasa made it known that he was ready to retire. Hosokawa supported the shogun's brother, Ashikaga Yoshimi (1435-1490) as successor, while Yamana promoted Ashikaga Yoshihisa (1465-1489), the shogun's infant son. After skirmishes and political intriguees, Yoshimasa named Yoshihisa as his heir.
As indicated at the top right, this design shows Hakuen in a role from a shichi yaku no uchi (set of seven roles: 七役之内).
The poem at the far left is signed by Hakuen (白猿). The Japanese transliteration for the inscription and poem are as follows, from the catalog of the Waseda University Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum (WAS reference below): 狂言も先代萩とて比も七草の花やか成る七役を七代目のやつがれに勤よと御贔屓様の御すゝめに 〆升ふ三七廿いち川や 胸三升の下手ははづさず. The inscription plays with the number seven, including a comparison between the play (kyôgen: 狂言) and the traditional nanagusa no haru (seven herbs [flowers] of spring: 七草の花).* Danjûrô VII acknowledges that his fans (hiiki: 贔屓) prompted him, the seventh in the lineage to use the name Danjûrô, to perform the seven roles in Date kurabe okuni kabuki.
* Note: The seven herb/flowers are chopped and cooked on the seventh day of the first month as a charm against disease. The nanagusa are hagi (lespedeza), obana or suzuki (Eulalia), kuzu (Pueraria), nadeshiko (wild carnation), ominaeshi (patrinia), fuji-bakama (Eupatorium), and asagao (morning glory; convolvulus family).
Provenance: Okada (a celebrated private Japanese collection not seen in public for more than 70 years until its recent dispersal — a blockbuster event in the world of kamigata-e; see KAM).
References: WAS IV-4, no. 399