Kabuki Summaries VII
by Hisao Watanabe
Edited by R. Jeffrey Blair
rough machine translation ... [ Eng=>Jpn ]
The following summaries can be found on this page.
It is during the reign of Emperor Kiritsubo. Among the Emperor's numerous mistresses there is a minor court lady called Kiritsubo no Koi. Though she was not from such a high-status family, she was in the Emperor's great favor and gave birth to the Emperor's second son, a gem-like baby. This unearthly beautiful baby soon became the apple of the Emperor's eye. People nicknamed him Hikari no Kimi or "Shining Prince". In those days if a mistress bore the Emperor a son, her father became very powerful politically. So, it was a great achievement not only for the mistress herself but also for her family. Kiritsubo no Koi's father, however, had died young. Without his backing, she became a target for the resentment and envy of other mistresses. Most vehement of all was Kokiden no Taigo, daughter of the Minister of the Right and mother of Emperor Kiritsubo's first son, Crown Prince Suzaku. The persecution against Kiritsubo no Koi was so furious that she was overcome with anxiety and finally passed away when Hikari no Kimi was only three years old. The Emperor thought that if he put Hikari no Kimi forward as a candidate for Crown Prince, the boy would suffer greatly from the severe competition for the post, because he lacked the sponsorship of a powerful family which was so important in the political world. Considering it better for Hikari no Kimi to be discharged from Imperial family membership, the Emperor lowered his status to that of a court subject. Hikari no Kimi was given the family name Genji, but could not pass that name down to future generations.
When Genji is ten years old Kiritsubo orders Fujitsubo to join the Imperial Court as one of his mistresses. She is a former Emperor's fourth daughter and bears a strong resemblance to the late Kiritsubo no Koi who Emperor Kiritsubo cannot get out of his thoughts. Kiritsubo calls Fujitsubo to the court because he wants to dispel his lonesome feelings. Fujitsubo and he come to love each other deeply, and he regains his lost vitality.
Two years later at the age of twelve Genji has his Coming-of-Age-Ceremony. The Minister of the Left takes charge of his instruction and becomes his father-in-law when in the same year Genji gets married to his daughter Aoi no Ue. Being a much more mature sixteen, she refuses to play the part of a nice submissive wife. Genji also finds it difficult to give his love completely in what was a political marriage planned by his father Emperor Kiritsubo and the Minister. Thus their married life gets off to a rocky start. Aoi's brother To no Chujo, however, understands Hikari no Kimi's feelings and becomes one of his closest friends. Sometimes they are close and trusted confidants, at other times rivals and adversaries.
When Genji reaches seventeen he begins to exhibit his excellent talents out shining other nobles not only in his attractive appearance, but also in his abilities in scholarship, singing, dancing, poetry, and other areas. He misses Fujitsubo, who reminds him of his dead mother. What starts out as simple maternal affection for his step mother, however, gradually escalates into passionate love until finally he cannot control himself. At last with the help of Omyobu, he sneaks into Fujitsubo's bedchamber and attains his desire by force. After this love affair Fujitsubo trembles with fear whenever she thinks of the sin which they have committed, but the delicate workings of her female mind are dazzled and overwhelmed by Genji's youth as well as his bold and ardent manner of courting. Although Genji wants to continue to see Fujitsubo, she is the First Lady of the Court, the Emperor's most beloved woman. It is extremely difficult for Genji to arrange meetings. As a result his thwarted love turns to Rokujo no Miyasudokoro, widow of the late crown prince. Since her husband's death she is always surrounded by young court nobles, including Hotaru Hyobu no Kyo, Sotsu no Miya, Fuji no Saisho, Gon no Chunagon, Saemon no Kami. They are all in the prime of their lives. While outwardly competing with each other, testing their talents in singing, verse making, music, and games of physical skill, their true goal is Rokujo no Miyasudokoro herself. Each hopes that he will win the heart of this beautiful, but proud, woman. In this rivalry, too, Hikari no Kimi outdoes the competition and is rewarded with her love. Thus he comes to visit her mansion regularly.
One day on his way to the mansion he discovers on a hedge by a small house a white evening glory at its best. This area, called Gojo, is a residential neighborhood for the lower classes. While admiring the flower, he happens to catch a glance of a misfortunate woman. Her name is Yugao, or Evening Glory. Once again he falls in love. One night in the midst of Genji and Yugao's love talk a loud reverberating peal of spring thunder is heard. During this interlude Yugao is possessed by a spirit and dies. While this is happening Genji has a vision of Rokujo no Miyasudokoro's apparition calling down her curse upon Yugao.
One day Hikari no Kimi manages to have a rendezvous with Fujitsubo, and their passion ignites once again. They have one secret meeting after another, and she becomes pregnant. She hides the fact from Genji and lies to the people close to her about the time of impregnation. This is the greatest infidelity of her lifetime. Ironically when she delivers, the baby boy Prince Reizei bears a striking resemblance to his supposed father (really his grandfather). Meanwhile Genji senses that he himself is the boy's true father, and this is confirmed in a dream. His love for Fujitsubo increases all the more when he realizes and feels sorry for the predicament in which he has placed her. Incidentally his wife, Aoi no Ue also conceives, which improves the relationship between them. On the other hand, when Rokujo no Miyasudakoro, with whom Genji has continued to have relations, finds out about Aoi no Ue's pregnancy, she feels fiercely jealous. Although Aoi no Ue safely delivers a baby boy, Rokujo no Miyasudokoro's burning jealousy turns to a wrathful spirit that possesses and eventually kills Genji's wife.
Kiritsubo steps down from the throne in favor of his first son, Suzaku. Reizei, who is next in line for the throne, thereby becomes Crown Prince. Genji is ordered to be an advisor to the boy. When Kiritsubo passes away both Fujitsubo and Genji lose their greatest supporter at Court and gradually fall into a precarious position. Suddenly on the first anniversary of Kiritsubo's death Fujitsubo retires to a convent to pursue a religious life. She does it for the sake of her son, the Crown Prince, and at the same time in order to put an end to her continued indiscretions with Genji. Slowly Genji is being driven into a tight corner because of his frivolous and unbridled sexual activity.
For a while he bides his time in moderation, but there is no cure for his inborn and insuppressible passion. It is resurrected and directed towards Oborozukiyo. She is the daughter of the rival family, that of the Minister of the Right. In addition, she is the beloved lady of Emperor Suzaku, Genji's half brother. Genji again strays from the path of righteousness and risks his political life and future on this clandestine affair. He cannot conceal it for long and is discovered. Thus he makes up his mind to resign from all posts so that his misbehavior does not prevent the Crown Prince's future accession to the throne. Furthermore, he resolves to leave Kyoto and his dear wife and to live as an exile in the faraway and desolate land of Sumaro. His life has been colored with passion and love, but always at the risk of his political career. The more difficult to obtain a woman was, the more violently his passion burned. In this sense he was a man who lived his life to the full without apology.
Japan is still under the Tokugawa regime. In the evening two travelers cross Nasuno Plain. They are Okuni and Gohei. Okuni is the widow of a samurai family. Her husband, Iori, was killed by Tomonojo who was caught up in a love triangle with Iori and Okuni. He killed Iori in an dastardly way. Gohei was one of the servants of Iori's family. In those days it was usual for families to seek revenge on a person who killed one of their members. So, Okuni left her hometown to in search of retribution against Tomonojo for the death of her husband. Energetic, but unaccustomed to the long journey, she fell ill, causing them to remain for two months in Utsunomiya. Recovering from illness, she resumes with the help of Gohei her quest for revenge. But they have no particular destination in mind. It has been three years since they began their wandering. Normally a high-spirited woman, she now looks like she is beginning to wilt. Considering her lonesome feeling Gohei tries to comfort her, saying that "Your baby must have grown into a nice boy. He is six years old now." Upon hearing that, Okuni's determination gives way all the more to homesickness. She is much obliged to him for his devotion to her cause. She considers herself to be a woman who deserves hardship and bears the right to exact her own revenge, without Gohei's help or interference. Besides he has been a mere employee and for only a few years at that. She feels sorry for having involved him in such a private matter. On the other hand Gohei takes it for granted that he should serve the Iori family however long the revenge will last, since he was their servant.
Today also Okuni and Gohei hear faint sounds of the shakuhachi (a bamboo flute) coming from somewhere. It occurs to them that the sounds must be those of the wandering priest. The sounds have accompanied them everyday regardless of the weather--rain or wind. Once Okuni thought the flutist must be the very man whom she has been hunting for. So, she tried to check out her suspicions by handing him an offering. The face she saw with half an eye, however, was quite different from Tomonojo's. Who, on earth, could be shadowing the couple? They begin to feel a vague apprehension, stealing over them.
As Tomonojo was born and brought up as one of the principal retainers of a feudal lord, his white face and handsome looks give the impression of a person of noble cast. But, in fact, he is cowardly and poor at kendo. Such being the case, Gohei insists that since Tomonojo is aware of his own status as a fugitive he cannot approach them. In spite of Gohei's remarks Okuni says, "Tomonojo is so sneaky that he may be spying on us, hoping to take us by surprise". Having had her husband killed by Tomonojo, she was keen for revenge. When Gohei is about to cure Okuni of a pain caused by her shoes, the wandering priest in question approaches them, and with him come the sounds of a shakuhachi. As he says he is making a pilgrimage alone through various districts with no definite object in view, Gohei offers to let him join them. Then the priest suddenly takes off his hood. A white countenance appears. It is no other than Tomonojo, their sworn enemy.
Okuni and Gohei flank Tomonojo on the right and left. Tomonojo, who is sitting on a pine stump, confesses that he has been clinging to his miserable life without a shred of concern for honor. When, Okuni asks, why he has revealed himself to them, Tomonojo made a disgusting announcement. He says he could not forget Okuni and that he wished to have just a glance at her face before he dies. He discloses his true heart saying he pined for Okuni so eagerly that he attacked, in the dark, Iori, his rival in love and killed him. Being unable to abandon his attachment to Okuni, Tomonojo left his hometown with his face camouflaged to follow her. To their surprise Tomonojo knows every turn in their meandering route. According to his remarks, the shakuhachi music coming from under the window of their inn was his thoughtful present for Okuni when she was ill in bed in Utsunomiya. It was because he had his face disguised that Okuni could not identify him as Tomonojo. Although he is a samurai, his skill at kendo is inferior even to Gohei's. Without an ounce of self-respect he admits that he would have been no match for Iori or Gohei if he engaged in a fair sword fight. In a whiny voice, Tomonjo complains that Okuni had been engaged to him first. But neither she nor her father developed a fondness for him. He was not considered a worthy or reliable samurai. As a result the family broke off the engagement, and everyone agreed with their decision. Not one person showed any sympathy for Tomonojo. It was, he says, too embarrassing. He could not stand the shame of it, so he killed Iori in an underhanded way. It was a crime caused not only by disappointment in love, but also by society's rejection. Thus, he insists, he had no choice, but to resort to his cowardly attack.
Okuni says, "Now I don't take you for a hateful man, as you loved me so much, but you must calmly prepare for death. I will hold a memorial service for you after you die."
Yet Tomonojo continues to entreat Okuni and Gohei to spare his life. He expresses envy of Gohei saying that although Gohei did not have an especially close relationship with the late Iori and had served him for only five or six years, he was still able to set out on a long journey with his beautiful widow, all in the name of loyalty. He goes on to point out that it must have been a pleasant trip with Okuni deep in Gohei's secret heart and that it will be easy for Gohei to defeat a chicken-hearted samurai like himself. When the deed is done, he says, Gohei will be able to return home in triumph with Okuni by his side and, perhaps, inherit both Iori's fortune and his wife, Okuni. Tomonojo casts words full of scorn at the couple, "I know everything, including the relationship between you two, while you were traveling. Yes, Gohei, I realize that you began with the purest of intentions, resolved to repay your obligation to Iori as his servant, but that was only during the first leg of the journey. Your trip must surely have turned from pain to pleasure. There is no difference between the hearts of men who are deeply enamored of a forbidden woman. In this sense you and I are the same. We are both guilty of the same crime. Despite this fact, you walk the road to success, while I go to my ruin."
Ignoring Tomkonojo's pitiful pleas for his life, Gohei cuts him down. Finally in the throes of his death agony Tomonojo reveals secret intimate discussions that he and Okuni had once enjoyed with each other. The mood turns sour, causing Okuni and Gohei to become sullen. They decapitate Tomonojo in order to bring his head back to their hometown, where, they believe, they will be welcomed with honors. When they pray for the repose of Tomonojo's soul. Gohei's says, "There was no other way than this for the sake of duty and for the sake of love".
To both Gohei and the dead Tomonojo Okuni responds, "You probably think me a selfish and dishonest woman. Please find it in your hearts to forgive me!".
Sc. 1 Hase Temple at the height of the cherry blossoms
Senju Hime is attending a memorial service for the head of the Koyama family where she prays at the same time for the repose of her father's soul and for the safety of her fiance, Kotaro, who has been reported missing. She brings with her to the service one hundred ryo and a precious gold incense case which has been named Kocho. Kotaro's father Shida Saemon gave it to their family in commemoration of his son's engagement. Deceived by evil retainers, the Shida family is now in decline.
Within the precinct of the temple, where the service is to be held is Akaboshi Juzaburo, once a page to Saemon, now a masterless samurai. He happens to meet his uncle, who asks him to raise a hundred ryo to pay for medical expenses owed by Saemon's widow. Juzaburo cannot reject his uncle's request. Although he promises to obtain the money, he actually has no intention of doing so.
After the memorial service Senju Hime watches cherry blossoms at her attendants' insistence. Then, to her surprise, Kotaro (Bente Kozo Kikunosuke in disguise) and his female servant, Komahei (a man named Nango Rikimaru in disguise) appear. Senju Hime's chief maid who has a talent for arranging love affairs asks Komahei to act as a go-between for Senju Hime and Kotaro. After seeing the young couple go into a teahouse, the chief maid leads Komahei into another room of the teahouse to talk about love. Senju Hime does not know Kotaro's face, so this presents the two thugs a good opportunity to swindle Kocho the incense case away from her.
Meanwhile Juzaburo tries to steal the one hundred ryo, which was offered by the Koyama Family for the memorial service. Unfortunately his attempt fails. Worse yet his identity is discovered. Just when unscrupulous followers of the Koyamas are about to gang up on him, however, word arrives that Senju Hime and Kotaro are meeting secretly at the teahouse. Hearing this they dash for the teahouse. They are also scheming to rob Kocho the incense case away from Senju Hime. Juzaburo has hed a narrow escape.
It is not Kotaro but Tadanobu Rihei in the disguise of a lordless samurai who throws the evil followers out of the teahouse. Faced down by Rihei, they implore his forgiveness. They give him the hundred ryo which they had confiscated from Juzaburo. Thanks to Rihei's bravery, Senju Hime and Kotaro are saved. Thinking that it is her possession of Kocho the incense case that has put her in danger, Senju Hime asks Kotaro to hold on to it and take her along to wherever he is going. Since Komahei recommends that he take Senju Hime to his residence, Kotaro leaves the teahouse with her.
Then, after the young couple has gone, Komahei talks with Rihei and urges him to hand over the hundred ryo which he just received from the corrupt followers. Casting aside his subtrafuge to assume his true identity as a notorious thug, Rihei dares Komahei to try to take the money away from him. Komahei likewise reveals himself to be a thug named Nango Rikimaru just before their struggle for the money begins.
Sc. 2 Revelation on Mt. Mikoshigatake
While Senju Hime and Kotaro climb up Mt. Mikoshigatake toward his supposed residence, Kotaro treats her kindly, saying that the harsh travel must have tired her out. When she, nevertheless, insists on going to his residence as quickly as possible, however, his attitude changes drastically. He says, "This wayside shrine is that very residence." He then drops all pretenses to announce that he is the thief known as Benten Kozo Kikunosuke, an alias derived from his birth place--Benten Jima. It was because Kikunosuke had the venerable flute called Chidori that Senju Hime believed him to be Kotaro. Chidori the flute was once given to the Shidas as a betrothal gift from the Koyamas. Kikunosuke tells her a pitiful story how he got it. According to his remarks last winter he happened to rescue a pilgrim on his way to Koshu district who was at death's door in a heavy snow. It was Kotaro, legitimate son of the Shidas. At the moment of his death he gave Chidori the flute to Kikunosuke and asked him to bring it back to the Koyamas to exchange it for Kocho the incense case, which was to be enshrined in the Shida family's temple. In fact, Kikunosuke took care of Kotaro under the pretense of kindness and killed him to get money. Thus Chidori the flute came into his possession. Now he intends to exploit Chidori the flute in order to obtain Kocho the incense case as well. Realizing that she has been cheated out of the valuable treasure, Senju Hime suddenly casts herself into a ravine.
A voice is heard, "I want that gold article". It is Nippon Daemon, a master thief to whom all others raise their hats. Kikunosuke, who well knows that he is no match, gives up any idea of fighting and surrenders himself to crime boss. Daemon commands him to join his gang. He shows his generousity by saying that if Kikunosuke obeys him, he won't demand that he turn over Kocho the incense case. Impressed by his magnamity, Kikunosuke immediately complies and seals the compact with an oath signed in his own blood.
Sc. 3 The valley along the River Inase
Senju Hime, who jumped into the ravine, miraculously survives and then Juzaburo happens by. He failed in stealing money and is now going to commit suicide. There is no other way for him since he has disgraced his former lord's family. Juzaburo and Senju Hime console each other over their similar situations of both having disgraced their familes. Finally Senju Hime throws herself back into the ravine again. Following her lead, Juzaburo is about to commit hara-kiri, when Rihei stops him. Rihei's father, Denzo, was once one of Juzaburo's father's attendants. Long ago Denzo ran away with his master's money. So, Rihei gives Juzaburo one hundred ryo which he took from the bad followers a little before. The lot falls on Rihei to atone for the wrong doing his father had done. As Rihei was a kleptomaniac he was ousted from one shop after another wherever he got employment. He has drifted for a long time and finally become Daemon's underling. To hear Rihei's story Juzaburo thinks that it is natural for a samurai to commit robbery for the sake of his former lord. He wants to participate in the ring of Daemon. Thus the five thugs have assembled.
Sc. 1 Hamamatsuya Draper shop
One day Kikunosuke and Rikimaru are plotting to extort money from Hamamatsuya cloth shop. Kikunosuke is disguised as a young lady of high rank, while Rikimaru pretends to be a retainer who is escorting her. The two are warmly received by the manager and servants of the shop. They are shown rolls of silk and brocade suitable for wedding clothes, but Kikunosuke pretends not to be satisfied with them. While turning over a bundle of silks, he secretly slips a piece of material into the bundle. He then retrieves the planted piece of material and clumsily stuffs it into the his bosom. He is seen by one of the shop assistants and, in the ensuing scuffle, is wounded on the forehead by the manager. Rikimaru, as Kikunosuke's escort, mediates between them. Showing a receipt for it from another shop, he proves to the manager that the piece of material doesn't belong to Hamamatsuya. Then Sonosuke, Kobei's son-in-law, returns home and hears the story. Kobei also appears. While they are in trouble Seiji, a neighbor, comes to mediate, but in vain. Rikimaru demands one hundred ryo as compensation for the wound on the lady's brow. After some haggling, Kobei is forced to pay up. The two rascals are about to leave with their booty, when they are stopped by a samurai who happened to have been in the next room. Itto Tamashima is, in fact, an alias used by Daemon, the boss of Kikunosuke's group. He looks hard at the young lady and tells Kobei that he is being taken for a fool. A glimpse of cherry blossoms tattooed on her arm convinces him the woman is really a man in disguise. Kikunosuke appears to be in a desperate situation. This is the great moment of the play. At last Kikunosuke reveals his identity. He announces his real name in the play's most famous speech. Rikimaru also takes off his samurai dress, his disguise. Daemon appearing to be outraged by this plot to cheat such an honest shopkeeper, offers to immediately cut off the crooks' heads. Kobei is astonished at this offer. He feels, however, that it would not be good for the sake of his shop and thus decides to overlook the matter. He even gives Kikunosuke a little money to buy plaster for his bruise. Kikunosuke gathers his woman's clothes, and leaves with Rikimaru. Outside the shop they stop to divide up the money they gained. On their way back home they play a game. Each agrees to take turns carrying the heavy bundle of disguises used for their hoax, changing whenever they meet a baldheaded man. This is the relaxation scene in this drama. After the two thugs left the shop, Daemon is invited to a private inner room for a drink. Kobei still thinks that he is a brave and honest samurai.
Sc. 2 In front of the warehouse of Hamamatsuya
After getting drunk at the inner room of Hamamatsuya, Demon reveals in a vigorous speech who he really is. He draws his sword and demands all the money Kobei has. Sonosuke, however, throws himself between them, begging to die in his father's place. Daemon is deeply impressed by the young man's devotion. He says he has a missing son who would be about Sonosuke's age. In the ensuing conversation quite an unexpected fact comes to light--Sonosuke is his long-lost child. Kobei, too, learns that Kikunosuke is his real son. The mix up of the two babies had taken place at Hase Temple during some confusion a long time ago. Another fact also reveals that Kobei was once one of the vassals of the Koyamas. Before long raiding constables responding to a report descend on the shop. In the pandemonium that ensues Kobei confesses that he no longer feels devoted to this present world and that he only wish to return his obligation to Daemon for taking care of Kikunosuke. He wishes for all members of the ring to go straight, if possible. But it is too late. He offers them the formal clothes for which the ring placed an order with Hamamatsuya the other day.
Sc 3 The bank of River Inase
All members of the ring--Kikunosuke, Rihei, Juzaburo, Rikimaru and Daemon--clad in their formal clothes assemble on the bank of the River Inase with the police following. They are surrounded. Each, in turn, announces his name and career. They overcome the police and scatter.
Sc. 1 Suicide on the gate roof of Gokurakuji Temple
Kikunosuke fights with the police and throws one official after another. He is searching for Kocho the incense case for Kobei as the last filial piety to him, because when Kobei returns Kocho the incense case to the Koyama Family he will be reinstated to his previous position as a fine samurai. By so doing, Kikunosuke hopes to atone for his past crime of kidnapping Senju Hime, the daughter of his real father's former lord. He reaches Gokurakuji Temple and has Kocho the incense case robbed off by the same gang member who informed against him to the police. After a fierce battle he finally commits suicide, standing upright on the roof.
Sc. 2 At the Gokurakuin Temple gate
Daemon is seen in the upper story of the temple gate. He is enjoying watching the police wandering around in search of him. Two of his minions approach. They report that Kikunosuke is dead. No sooner are the words out of their mouthes than they attack Daemon. In fact, they are police officials who had disguised themselves as his minions.
Sc. 3 By the River Nameri
Daemon flings away the two officials. Then he notices that on a small bridge below the gate there is the head of the police, Aoto Fujitsuna, who is known as a man of virtue. He tells Daemon that his men found Kocho the incense case while they were searching for goods in the Rivet Nameri, and that he intends to return it to the original owner, the Shidas. This takes a load off Daemon's mind and he resolves to be arrested by him. But, warmhearted Fujitsuna tells Daemon that he will leave him alone for the time being, until the great memorial service for the late shogun finishes. Daemon, promising to turn himself in to the police on that day, takes off.