The play Hime komatsu ne no hi no asobi (Outing to pick pine seedlings on the Rat Day of the New Year: 姫小松子日遊) features a theatrical adaptation of the true story. In 1177 Shunkan (俊寛, 1143-79), a Shingon (真言) priest, head of the Hôshô Temple in Kyoto, and ally of the retired Emperor Goshirakawa (後白河 ruled 1155-58) plotted against Taira no Kiyomori (平清盛 1118-81), who ruled from the Shishigatani (鹿が谷) villa. Shunkan and other co-conspirator's were exiled to the island of Kikaigashima (鬼界が島). Soon after, all but Shunkan were pardoned, while the priest was left to die. In the Heike monogatari (Tale of the Heike: 平家物語), c. 1220, a disciple of Shunkan named Ariô (有王) travels to Kikaigashima after hearing that Shunkan would not be pardoned. Finding Shunkan in a ravaged and destitute condition staggering along the beach, Ariô takes Shunkan back to his grass shack where the old priest dies.
There were other bunraku (puppet plays: 文楽) and kabuki adaptations of this tale, with greater complexity and notable differences in the plot. In kabuki's Hime komatsu, for example, Shunkan escapes the island on a secret mission to guard the emperor's concubine Kogô No Tsubone, who is about to give birth to a royal heir. In this version, Ariô appears to have morphed into the character Ariômaru who engages in a skirmish with Kameômaru.
In this scene, Oyasu is a village girl who secretly supports the cause of the Minamoto (Genji) clan, which is plotting against the Taira. Shunkan recruits her to serve as a midwife to the emperor's concubine Kogô No Tsubone. She does not yet know the identity of Shunkan or the concubine, so she offers to swear allegiance and secrecy on the pair of hand-mirrors that Shunkan is holding, much as a warrior would swear fealty on his sword. Shunkan attempts to stop her, fearing she will learn his secret if she is let into the inner circle, but soon, unintentionally, he reveals his tale of banishment. Oyasu stays true to her word and helps to bring about the successful birth of a young prince.
This is a gassaku (collective work: 合作) — paintings, drawings, and prints by two or more artists working on the same theme in a shared pictorial space. As this example demonstrates, artists in Kamigata occasionally designed polyptychs, one artist to a sheet, to create unified compositions. Both Yoshikuni and Shibakuni belonged to the so-called Jukôdô circle of artists, a name based on one of Yoshikuni's earlier names, Jukôdô, taken in 1816 and derived from another of his artist names, Jukô (used in 1813), and his teacher's forename, Kyôgadô (Ashikuni). Shibakuni was active c. 1820-33.
References: IBKYS-I: no. 323