Musume Kagekiyo Yashima nikki (Yashima diary of Kagekiyo's daughter: 娘景清八島日記) was one of various popular Kagekiyo mono (plays about Kagekiyo: 景清物). Dramatizations were adapted from the historical Heike general Taira no Kagekiyo (平景清), nicknamed "Akushichibyoe" (bad man of the seventh degree: 悪七兵ヘ景清) for killing his uncle (whom he mistook for his enemy, Minamoto no Yoritomo, 1147-99). Kagekiyo's original name was Fujiwara no Kagekiyo (藤原景清), but he was adopted by the Taira and served them loyally for the remainder of his days. He was a formidable warrior, but was captured at the pivotal naval battle at Dan-no-ura (Dan-no-ura no tatakai: 壇ノ浦の戦い) in 1185 when the Genji clan, led by Yoritomo, defeated the Heike forces. Exiled to a cave on Hyûga Island, Kagekiyo died of starvation in 1196. Despite being featured only briefly in the Heike monogatari (Tale of the Heike: 平家物語), a twelfth-century chronicle compiled from oral tradition in the late fourteenth century, Kagekiyo nevertheless assumed a prominent role in legend as well as in kabuki and puppet dramas.
One of the curiosities of kabuki performance art is puppet mimicry ("doll movements": ningyô-buri 人形振), that is, gestures, acting, or dancing in kabuki that imitates the movements of puppets, with a stage assistant or actor who dresses as a ningyô-tsukai (puppeteer: 人形使い) and, standing behind the main actor while holding him, gestures as if he were operating a puppet. Far more uncommon are performances, such as the one depicted here by Shigeharu, in which a professional puppeteer joins the kabuki actor on stage. By revealing himself in this way, the omozukai ("head manipulator" or chief puppeteer: 主使い) also becomes a denzukai (one who shows himself on stage: 出つかい). When ningyô-buri is being performed, the actor does not speak his own lines. The artistic aim was to achieve ningyô rashisa (looking like a puppet). Certain scenes in a few kabuki plays were selected for this technique and are still performed today.
This design was carved by the legendary block cutter Yama Kasuke.
References: KNP-6, p. 244; IKBYS-II, no. 153; IKB 1-477; NKE, p. 426