A novel titled Katakiuchi kidan Jiraiya monogatari (報仇 奇談自来也説話), 1806-07, was written by by Kanwatei Onitake (感和亭鬼武 1760-1818), a disciple of the celebrated writer Santô Kyôden (山東京伝 1761-1816). It is the earliest known version of a Jiraiya story and the first yomihon or literary reading book ("book for reading": 読本 or 讀本) to be adapted for the kabuki stage. It was also the prototype for gôkan ("combined volumes": 合巻), popular illustrated novels issued in multi-volume sets. The yomihon focused on two revenge incidents presented with an overlay of didacticism or morality lessons. The kabuki play Yaemusubi Jiraiya monogatari (The story of Jiraiya at the weir: 柵自来也談) adopted the story as soon as the novel was completed, premiering in 9/1807 at the Kado Theater, Osaka. It is one of several Jiraiya mono (Jiraiya plays) recounting the exploits of the righteous bandit Jiraiya (自来也) and his gang of outlaws who, Robin Hood-like, robbed the wealthy and gave back to the poor. In one episode, Jiraiya rescues Tomokichi, a baby whose father, mother, and grandfather were murdered by the villain of the tale. Much later, Jiraiya aids Tomokichi in taking his revenge when the young man beheads his nemesis.
Jiraiya (自来也 or 児雷也, lit., "Young Thunder") was also the hero of the four-act jidaimono (history play: 時代物) called Jiraiya gôketsu monogatari (The tale of gallant Jiraiya: 児雷也豪傑物語), dramatized by Kawatake Mokuami (河竹黙阿弥 1816-93), which premiered in 7/1852 at the Kawarazaki-za, Edo. It was derived from volumes 1-10 in a popular series of kusazôshi (lit., "grass books" or light illustrated literature: 草双紙) with images by Utagawa Kunisada I and six of his followers. Written by Mizugaki Egao (1789-1846), Keisai Eisen (1790-1848), Ryûkatei Tanekazu (1807-1858) and Ryûsuitei Tanekiyo (1821-1907), the saga was published from 1839 to 1868 (43 volumes). The plot involves complicated intrigues to take over all of Japan by Tsukikage Gunryô Miyukinosuke, the lord of Echigo province and a regent to the shôgun, urged on by Orochimaru (大蛇丸), a swordsman and master of serpent magic. Tsukikage makes Orochimaru the sole heir to his Echigo domain. He next attempts to kill Jiraiya, heir to the Ogata family and Tsunate-hime (綱手姫), a Matsuura princess, after stealing from and murdering members of their families, but they are saved by a hermit named Senso Dôjin, who trains them in the secret arts of toad power (Jiraiya) and slug power (Tsunate). Ultimately, after many hardships and recovery of a precious sword called "Namikirimaru," Orochimaru is defeated and exorcised of his serpent power, whereupon the two families are reinstated by the shogun.
Our present play, Keisei Jiraiya monogatari (Story of the courtesan and Jiraiya: けいせい児雷也譚語), is yet another of the Jiraiya mono adapted for the Osaka stage.
There is also a 1921 silent-film adaptation: Goketsu Jiraiya (Jiraiya the Brave).
In Yoshiyuki's print, Tamizô II wears a fanciful costume with a huge eagle perched on his back. Presumably, while exercising his powers of toad magic, he has conjured up the eagle.
This impression is superbly printed with karazuri (embossing: 空摺), for which a thicker-than-usual paper was needed, plus black-on-black printing and faux mica generously applied.
An impression from the same edition as ours is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
References: NKE, pp. 234-35; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (accession no. 11.36239a-c)