The play Katakiuchi nitô no eiyûki (A tale of revenge and great courage on two islands: 復讐二島英勇記) was based on the historical Miyamoto Musashi (c. 1584-1645; 宮 武蔵), whose name meant "Storehouse of military knowledge." He was a legendary swordsman and the son of the celebrated fencing master Yoshioka Tarozaemon, a retainer of the Ashikaga shôgun Yoshiteru. Musashi was a bold and reputedly reckless adventurer, although he survived armed combat more than 60 times and died a natural death. Katakiuchi nitô no eiyûki was one of many popular tales of vengeance and retribution, an example of the theatrical genre of "revenge plays" called katakiuchi mono (敵討物) or adauchi mono (仇打ち物). In one such incident, Musashi avenged the murder of his father by dispatching his killer with a wooden sword, a lethal weapon in the hands of a master swordsman.
Today, in the West, Musashi is widely known as the author of Gorin no sho (The Book of Five Rings: 五輪書), a book on military tactics, strategy, and philosophy. After its first English translation in 1974, the treatise captured the popular imagination and was seriously studied by business executives in the West to understand Japanese management techniques and strategies.
Rikan II stands while holding a branch of flowering cherry blossoms. His kataginu (肩衣 sleeveless jacket with exaggerated stiff-shoulders) is patterned with two tachibana (橘 Mandarin-orange crests used by the Arashi Rikan line of actors).
This design appears to be rare. All we could find in the usual sources was an impression in the MFA Boston (see below), which has very good color but a prominent horizontal centerfold. Our print is fine, with fresh colors and a full-size sheet.
References: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (acc #11.35329)