The plot of Satomoyô kabuki no inazuma (Lightning pattern and kabuki in the redlight district: 花街模様劇稲妻) is not yet known to us, but it appears to be one of various Fuwa Nagoya mono (plays about Fuwa and Nagoya: 不和破名古屋) for the puppet and kabuki theaters. The best known adaptation for kabuki, Ukiyozuka hiyoku no inazuma (A floating world design: Comparison of matching lightning bolts: 浮世柄比翼稲妻), written in 1823 by Tsuruya Nanboku IV for Ichikawa Danjûrô VII in Edo, features a conspiracy by Fuwa to usurp control of the Sasaki clan domain by supporting an illegitimate son of the clan's recently deceased lord. In this retelling, Nagoya Sanzaemon was a loyal Sakai retainer who is murdered by Fuwa. The role of Fuwa Banzaemon (不破伴左衛門), who was frequently featured in kabuki plays, was based on an actual sixteenth-century samurai. He was purportedly a rival in love with another real-life samurai named Nagoya Sansaburô.
Furthermore, Sato moyô kabuki no inazuma includes the roles of Fuwa Banzaemon, Nagoya Sanza, Katsuragi [Kazuragi], and Okuni. Thus it may be counted among various kabuki dramatizations regarding the love between the courtesan Katsuragi and the playboy Nagoya Sanza (see other prints related to this tale at ASY31, HKE36 and HSD40). The roles were based on the real-life Izumo no Okuni (出雲の阿国 c. 1572 - ?), said to be the founder of kabuki at the start of the seventeenth century. Sanza's rival for Katsuragi's affections was Fuwa no Banzaemon.
In real life, Sansaburô's father was Nagoya Takahisa, governor of Inaba province, and his mother Yôun'in, a niece of Oda Nobunaga (1534-82; warlord who initiated the unification of Japan under the Shogunate in the late sixteenth century). Supposedly, Sansaburô was a lover of Izumo no Okuni, but there is no evidence that they actually knew one another. Nevertheless, he was portrayed as her departed lover in plays, and Okuni used him, or rather his "ghost," as a regular character in skits performed by her theatrical troupe. Sansaburô was killed in a brawl in 1603, the year usually given for the official birth of Okuni's kabuki, which at first offered performances of dance and song rather than plot-driven dramas.
This diptych appears to be a scene from Act 8, Inazuma sôshi (Storybook of lightning: 稲妻双紙).
Our impression is more dramatic in its printing—with strong wood grain in the sky, additional bokashi ("shading off": 暈) in the foreground, and a darker sky—than the example in the collection of Waseda University (Tsubouchi Memorial Museum) cited below. Our impression also has the artist's seal on each sheet, which in Hirosada oeuvre sometimes signals an earlier printing. Note, as well, the later, less exciting printing of the diptych in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Acc #11.35611a-b).
References: WAS-VI, no. 6-216; KNP-6, p. 532; IKB-I, p. 105, 2-507; NKE, p. 106