The dramatization Sekitori senryô nobori (The Rise of the 1,000 Ryô Wrestler: 関取千両幟) was written in nine acts by Chikamatsu Hanji and others for the ningyô jôruri (puppet theater: 人形淨瑠璃), premiering in 8/1767 at the Takemoto Theater, Osaka. The first kabuki performance in Osaka may have been in 8/1775 at the Kado Theater. The main plot involves two patrons of rival wrestlers who attempt to raise money to ransom a beautiful courtesan, Nishikigi of the Osaka-ya, so they wager on a match between their wrestlers. Tetsugadake Dazaemon (鉄ヶ嶽陀左衛門), fearing he will lose, asks Iwagawa Jirôkichi (岩川次郎吉) to throw the match in exchange for his help in raising the money for Iwagawa's patron. As this would guarantee the rescue of Nishikigi, Iwagawa agrees. His wife [nyôbô] Otowa (女房 おとは) learns of the plot, however, and cannot accept that her husband would ruin his reputation for his patron. She therefore raises the money in secret by the only means available — selling herself to a brothel. As the wrestling match is about to begin, Iwagawa is told that an anonymous source has provided the money. He is therefore free to compete unfettered, defeat his opponent, and capture his ranking. After his victory, he is shocked to learn that the donor was his wife Otowa.
One of Arashi Rikan II's signature roles was Iwagawa Jirôkichi, which he performed to great acclaim at least as early as 7/1823 at the Shijô Kitakawa, Kyoto, when he was acting under the name Arashi Kitsusaburô II (嵐橘三郎) and again in 9/1827 at the Naka Theater in Osaka.
Iwagawa stands outside a sumô arena, glancing at someone or something beyond the pictorial frame. The banners in the foreground and distance were hoisted by fans of the wrestler; they read Iwagawa jô (岩川丈) and Hiiki (ヒイキ), that is, sumô fans of Iwagawa.
The preservation of colors in this impression is excellent.
References: WAS-4, no. 514 (inv 016-0643); National Museums of Scotland (A.1887.745.35.7)