Ichikawa Hakuen II (市川白猿) was the temporary acting name of the Edo superstar Ichikawa Danjûrô VII (市川 團十郎 1791-1859; also known as Ichikawa Ebizô V), who performed briefly (5/1829 to 3/1830) in Osaka after fires destroyed all three Edo theaters (Nakamura-za, Ichimura-za and Kawarazaki-za) in 3/1829. Hakuen also performed in Sakai and Kyoto in the tenth and eleventh months of 1829, respectively, and toured Ise, Nagoya and Tateyama in spring and summer 1830 before returning to Edo in 8/1830. His appearance in Osaka caused quite a sensation, and fans filled the theaters to watch him perform. The name Hakuen was first used on the kabuki stage by his grandfather, Danjûrô V, in the premiere of Date kurabe Okuni kabuki (The Date rivalry as Okuni kabuki: 伊達競阿國劇場) in 1778.
There were two plays on the 8/1829 program at the Naka no Shibai. The better known drama was the aforementioned Date kurabe Okuni kabuki, for which Hakuen performed an impressive seven roles: Arajishi Otokonosuke, Dôsetsu, Nikki Danjo, Hosokawa Katsumoto, Kinugawa Tanizô, Yashio, and Yorikane. The play was one of the Date sôdô mono (Date family-troubles plays) featuring various retellings of sagas involving the Date (伊達 ) clan of Sendai in Ôshû, beginning in the 1660s when the daimyô Tsunamune was forced to retire. Some of the theatrical dramatizations had fantastical subplots, such as the one central to Date kurabe Okuni kabuki involving the usurper Nikki Danjô, endowed with magical powers, who plots to overthrow the clan leader Ashikaga Yorikane.
The second play was Tatehiki kotoba no ha Nakawadô, in which Hakuen performed the role of Banzuin Chôbei, oppositie Ichikawa Danzô V (市川團蔵 1788-1845) playing Gonpachi.
Banzuin Chôbei (幡随長兵衛) was a legendary otokodate (lit., standing man, i.e., chivalrous commoner: 男伊達 or 男作 ca. 1622-1657), said to have been killed, in real life, by Mizuno Jûrozaemon, a leader of hatamoto-yakko (bannermen footsoldiers: 旗本奴). Banzuin became the subject of puppet and kabuki plays called Banzuin Chôbei mono (plays about Banzuin Chôbei: 番随長兵衛物).
Tatehiki kotoba no hanakawado was one of a series of popular Chôbei-Gonpachi mono (Plays about Chôbei and Gonpachi) related as well to various Gonpachi Komurasaki mono ("Gonpachi and Komurasaki plays"). These dramatizations were based on real-life events involving the samurai Shirai Gonpachi (白井権八), guilty of murder and robbery, who was executed in 1679, and the otokodate (a chivalrous commoner, lit. "upstanding man": 男伊達 or 男作) Banzuin Chôbei. Both were quintessential street heroes who came to the aid of downtrodden commoners and defied those with power and influence. Theatrical and literary fictions often paired Chôbei with Gonpachi, who by legend were reputedly homosexual lovers, despite their historical counterparts living in different eras.
One episode has been long known to readers of English, as recounted in Tales of Old Japan by Lord Redesdale (Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford. London: Macmillan & Co., 1871, reprint of second edition 1908, p. 36). The sixteen-year-old Gonpachi, while traveling to Edo, is set upon by six highwaymen intent on stealing his valuable sword. He slays two of them, but struggles to resist the remaining villains until an older wardsman and head of a band of otokodate in Edo named Banzuin Chôbei happens upon the scene, taking up Gonpachi's cause and forcing the robbers to flee. The two admire each other's bravery and become fast friends. Gonpachi stays for several months in Chôbei's home, but now being idle, he falls into dissolute ways in the Yoshiwara pleasure quarter, where he meets Komurasaki.
The preceding episode links up with several kabuki adaptations, such as Hiyokumon sato no nishiki-e (Brocade picture of lovers' crests in the pleasure quarter: 双紋郭錦絵). Gonpachi is famous for his good looks, bravery, and swordsmanship. When he kills a fellow samurai, he flees to Edo, where at an inn he is warned by a 15-year-old beauty named Mikawa that the owner is a gang leader plotting to murder him for his sword. Gonpachi swiftly kills all ten of the gang. Months later, he visits the Yoshiwara pleasure quarter and finds Mikawa, now a courtesan named Komurasaki at the Miuraya brothel. She tells Gonpachi that she was forced to sell herself to earn money for her destitute parents. Without the funds to ransom her, Gonpachi turns to a life of debauchery, supporting himself by robbery and murder. When he is finally captured and executed, the devoted Komurasaki takes her life at his grave.
Hakuen holds a collapsible paper chôchin (lantern: 提灯) with a candle burning brightly against a black night sky. His brown and white striped robe is patterned with the mimasu (three rice measures or triple rice-measuring boxes: 三舛), the crest of the Ichikawa lineage of actors.
For other designs from this same program by Shigenao, a student of Shigeharu, see SNA01, SNA02, SNA03 (for the play Date kurabe Okuni kabuki).
The Shigeharu sheet is large with intact margins on 3 sides. It is decidedly rare — we know of no other impressions.
References: KNP-6, p. 215