Illustration of the Prosperity of the Great Theaters (Ōshibai Han'ei no Zu)
Painted by Utagawa Toyokuni III 1859 (Ansei 6) Tokyo Shiryō Collection 575-C5

This picture depicts "'kurumabiki (cart pulling)", a scene from Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami, a highly popular piece among the many kabuki kyōgen plays such as "Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura" and "Kanadehon Chūshingura". In this work we can see the liveliness of the audience enjoying the play.

As one of the famous kabuki kyōgen plays, "Sugawara Denju Tenaraikagami" is a story based on the actual historical events of Sugawara no Michizane (Right Minister, also known as Kan Shōjō) who, due to a plot concocted by rival Fujiwara no Tokihira (Left Minister), was exiled to Dazaifu in Kyūshū. The play tells the story of the faithfulness of three brothers Umeō, Matsuō and Sakuramaru, to the Sugawara family. The "kurumabiki (cart driver)" scene is one of the famous aragoto (rough scenes) from the play.
The actors depicted in this work are believed to be the actual portraits of the actors who played roles of Shihei, Matsuō, Umeō and Sakuramaru, namely Ichikawa Kodanji IV, Nakamura Fukusuke I, Kawarasaki Gonjūrō I, and Bandō Hikosaburō I respectively. However, since the actual record of this performance of "kurumabiki" with this cast could not be found within historical records around 1859 (Ansei 6) when the seal that allowed this piece to be published was renewed, it is believed that this scene does not depict an actual performance, but is a mitate-e (analogue print).