These top figures depict a scene from a popular nineteenth-century comical story called Tōkaidōchū Hizakurige (東海道中膝栗毛), known in translation as Shank’s Mare. It is also popularly known as “Yajikita on the Road,” as it depicts two main characters, Yajirobē (彌次郎兵衛) and Kitahachi (喜多八), on a pilgrimage from Edo (modern day Tokyo) to Ise Shrine. The story was written as a comical travel account of the anecdotes and foibles of the pair as they cross the country acting foolishly.
Hiroi Michiaki: This is called “Yajikita”… there’s an interesting story from long ago called “Yajikita on the Road.” It’s about these two people, like a short story now. Mm. And Yaji and Kita are walking along the Tokaido road. There’s all kinds of interesting stories about their journey, and here I’m showing one of them. If you do this, they stagger about and spin. Mm. It’s just like they’re traveling and having fun and like they’re walking about.