Ichikawa Hakuen II (Danjûrô VII) as Hosokawa Katsumoto
Signature: Gyokuryûtei Shigeharu ga
Publisher: Wataki (Wataya Kihei)
Original Japanese Woodblock Print, Size: Oban (37,3 x 25,5 cm)
Hakuen I was the temporary acting name of the Edo superstar Ichikawa Danjurô VII (1791-1859), who performed briefly in Osaka after fires destroyed all three theaters in Edo in 3/1829. 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, Danjurô V, in the premiere of Date kurabe okuni kabuki (The Date rivalry in Okuni kabuki) in 1778. The play, based loosely on historical events, was one of the Date sôdô mono (Date family-troubles plays) featuring various retellings of sagas involving the Date clan of Sendai in Oshu, beginning in the 1660s when the daimyo Tsunamune was forced to retire. Some of the theatrical dramatizations had fantastical subplots, such as the one central to Date kurabe okuni kabuki, when the usurper Nikki Danjô, endowed with magical powers, plots to overthrow the clan leader Ashikaga Yorikane.
Hosokawa Katsumoto appears in a scene in Act III as the second judge presiding over a trial. He is a high-ranking and loyal retainer of the Ashikaga clan who is aware of the plot against his lord. The proceedings are complicated, but essentially, Katsumoto unveils Danjô's treachery through a sequence of clever questions. Unlike the corrupt first judge, Yamana Sôzen, who is on Danjô's payroll and found the evidence against Danjô worthless (he also burns the most damaging piece of evidence), Katsumoto is a justice of imposing integrity. He outwits Danjô's attempts to manipulate the proceedings, quashes Yamana Sôzen's judgment, and ultimately finds the villain guilty.
As indicated at the top right, this design shows Hakuen in a role from a shichi yaku no uchi (set of seven roles). The poem at the far left is signed by Hakuen. The inscription plays with the number seven, including a comparison between the play (kyôgen) and the traditional nanagusa no haru (seven herbs [flowers] of spring). Danjúrô VII acknowledges that his fans (hiiki) prompted him, the seventh in the lineage to use the name Danjūrô, to perform the seven roles in Date kurabe okuni kabuki.