This design celebrates the premiere of the play Keisei somewake tazuna (A courtesan's reins dyed in different colors), written by Nagawa Harusuke
and the superstar actor Nakamura Utaemon III (under his pen name Kanazawa Ryûgyoko), was adapted, as were quite a number of other plays, from Koi
nyôbô somewake tazuna (Love and a wife's reins dyed in different colors; 1751). The earlier play was itself a revision of Chikamatsu
Monzaemon's Tanba yosaku matsuyo no komuro bushi. It has been reported that the accomplished dramatist Harusuke became so enraged at what he believed to be a poorly
constructed play that he attacked his co-writer Utaemon with a knife.
The story involves a shop owner and his older brother who stop conspirators from stealing the treasures of the Yurugi daimyô family, and
features Sankichi, a tobacco cutter (tobakokiri), who emerges as the hero of the drama. The menacing serpent has been conjured up by the villain
This is one of Hokushû's most dramatic compositions. The serpent, a marvel of fantasy, takes center stage and dwarfs Sankichi, who
is just emerging from behind the tall grass.
Note: Another impression of this design is featured in the 2005-06 exhibition and catalogue Kabuki Heroes on the
Osaka Stage, 1780-1830 at the British Museum, Osaka Museum of History, and Waseda University Theatre Museum.
References: IKBYS-I, no. 114; KHO, no.222; KNP-6, p. 85