Konoshita kage hazama gassen (Konoshita and divine intervention: A loophole in battle: 木の下蔭狭問合戦) was one of the Ishikawa Goemon mono (plays about Ishikawa Goemon: 石川 五右衛門物), the legendary fugitive outlaw. The historical Goemon was a masterless samurai (rônin: 浪人) during the reign of the shôgun Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-98). (Mashiba Hisayoshi is a theatrical pseudonym for the historical Hideyoshi.) At age sixteen Goemon murdered three men while attempting to steal from his master. After his escape, he lived as a bandit for the next two decades until, in 1594, he was captured during a failed attempt to kill Hideyoshi. Goemon met a grisly end by being boiled in oil. The theatrical adaptations of this tale often transformed Goemon into a hero ― fearless, elusive, and endowed with magical powers. The first staging of Goemon's exploits occurred in the 1680s.
This memorial print, while portraying Kitsusaburô I (poetry name Rikan I, earlier acting name Kichisaburô II, 嵐吉三郎) in one of his most successful roles, is more about the demise of Kitsusaburô (on 9/27/1821)* and his reconcilation with Nakamura Utaemon III. After more than fifteen years of fierce competition during which Rikan adamantly refused to perform alongside Utaemon III, fans from both camps managed to bring the actors together in the late summer of 1821. Sadly, just when it looked like the two competitors might finally join one another again on stage, Kitsusaburô fell ill in the eighth month and died soon thereafter.
* The 27th day of the 9th lunar month of 1821 was the 22nd of October in the western calendar.
As this is a first-edition printing, the inscribed name of the actor and role followed by kô (deceased or "late": 古) is omitted. For the second edition with the inscriptions at the top left, see TWOP below).
The long incription is a testimonial by Arashi Kitsusaburô I's chief rival, the superstar Shikan I (Nakamura Utaemon III), who reminisces about their reconciliation meeting in the summer of 1821 and their plans to perform together. After the inscription there is a poem, also composed by Shikan. (The reference "passing away by a storm" is a pun on the lineage name Arashi, which means "storm.") The entire text is given below:
過にし年のなつの頃璃覚丈と一度をなしはさま合戦てふ狂言に両人かゝる役を勤めなんと約し置しにはからすも秋の末にいたり常なき嵐にさそわれ亡人の数に入て本意をとけすこれや生涯の残念といと残りおほく思ひつゝくる折からその面影を写し玉へるよしをきゝおよへるまゝかはかり思ひを述なんと詠るたもれうた 芝翫 其ひとのなすてふ真柴のしはしたに浜のまさこの尽ぬおもひて
Last summer Rikan and I met and agreed to perform together in the play Hazama kassen, but unfortunately he passed away by a storm, and our dream was unfulfilled. I shall regret this all my days. I have many fond memories and when I heard about the publication of this memorial print, I offered this poem as a farewell:
Sono hito no / nasu chô mashiba no / shiba shita ni / hama no masago no / tsukinu omoide (That fellow / was a master at playing Mashiba / now only memories of him / beneath the brushwood / as many as sands on the shore). [signed Shikan]
References: IKBYS-I, no. 105; KNZ, no. 117; NKE, p. 352; OK, no. 17; TWOP, no. 200; OSP, no. 37; SDK, no. 47; **C. Andrew Gerstle, from KHO, p. 221, no. 202.