Kabuki Index

Kabuki Summaries IX
by Hisao Watanabe
Edited by R. Jeffrey Blair

rough machine translation ... [ Eng=>Jpn ]


The following summaries can be found on this page.

  1. Otoko no Hanamichi--A promise between men
  2. Natsu Matsuri Naniwa Kagami--A story of justice and vice in Naniwa

Otoko no Hanamichi

A promise between men

Act I

Sc. 1 In front of Matsu-ya Inn on the Tokaido Road

It is the spring of the fifth year of the Bunka era (1804-1818). An itinerant troupe of kabuki actors headed by Kagaya Utaemon, an actor of the Kyoto-Osaka district, is going to lodge at Matsuya Inn at Kanaya (now in Shimada, Shizuoka Pref.), the 24th station along the Tokaido. In preparation for the troupe's coming, the servants at the inn are working feverishly. The troupe is on its way to Edo (present-day Tokyo).

Sc. 2 In a backroom at the Matsu-ya Inn

Habu Genseki, a doctor, is in one of the rooms at the inn. He is reading a medical book from Holland while drinking Japanese sake and getting a massage. A maid enters the room and asks him if he is willing to share the room with some members of the visiting troupe. Genseki accepts her suggestion. While members of the troupe chat about Utaemon's performance with evident pride, Genseki happens to recall having watched Utaemon on the stage. At that time, Genseki instinctively realized Utaemon was suffering from some eye problem. Then, Genseki muttered to himself that Utaemon must have a sixth sense in order to compensate for his failing eyesight. This offended some of Utaemon's fans who were sitting close enough to hear him, and a dispute erupted. Now, upon meeting members of Utaemon's troupe, he repeats this observation, telling them that although no one seems to realize it, Utaemon is quite probably suffering from a serious eye disease. Again this causes a dispute.

Sc. 3 In another room of Matsu-ya Inn

Kagaya Tozo, Utaemon's manager, is resting. Coming back from a bath, Utaemon reveals himself to be unable to see clearly. He stumbles into the side of a well when he passes by it and is unable to tell whether the lampstand is lit on or not. Upon witnessing Utaemon's behavior, Tozo realizes that the condition of Utaemon's eyes must be worse than he imagined. Tozo criticizes Utaemon, saying that he should have seen a doctor instead of going to Edo. In fact, Utaemon had already consulted several noted eye doctors, but in vain. What made him decide to go to Edo was his desire not to worry his mother about his eye condition and because he felt a duty to perform at Nakamura-za Theater in Edo, for the sake of his many fans in Edo and the theater's owner, who had been kind enough to invite him. Considering it to be urgent for Utaemon to see a doctor, Tozo rushes to a nearby doctor's office.

Left alone, Utaemon decides to commit suicide. He tries to jump into the well but is physically restrained from doing so by Genseki who happened to be passing by. Though he has studied Chinese medical science, like all Japanese doctors of that era, Genseki has also begun to study the new Dutch medical science introduced by Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866). He is now working away like a man possessed in order to master the new system of eye operations used in Western countries. Genseki says, "If I hadn't prevented you from committing suicide, you would have been a goner. Therefore imagine that you have died, so now you have nothing to lose. Just leave everything to me. In order to help you," he continues, "I will also imagine that I myself have died thereby abandoning my pretentions, my pride, and respectability. I will do everything I can for you". Utaemon is moved by his resolution and determines to put himself completely in his hands.

Sc. 4 In Utaemon's room at Matsu-ya Inn

Ten days have passed since the operation. It is the very day when Utaemon is scheduled to remove his eye patch. He opens his eyes cautiously, his heart fluttering with excitement, to discover ... that the operation was a great success! Immediately after hearing the good news, Genseki decides it's time to leave the inn. Utaemon rushes out of his room to see him off.

Sc. 5 In front of Matsu-ya Inn

Utaemon barely catches Genseki as he is about to leave. Utaemon thanks him for his treatment and tries to give him a reward, but Genseki refuses the money saying, "The true reward for me will be to see you on stage again, after you become the best kabuki actor in Edo." Genseki also resolves in his heart to become the most accomplished and respected doctor in Edo. Finally, Genseki says that, he would like to meet Utaemon again, after they both have reached the tops of their professions. Then the two men make a solemn promise to reunite and part from each other. Thus, the two men begin a life-long friendship.

Act II

Sc. 1 In a room on the second floor of Musashi-ya Teahouse

It is Autumn. Four years have passed since Genseki and Utaemon bade farewell to each other. In Edo, people are singing the praises of Utaemon's consummate performance at the Nakamura-za Theater. Tanabe Kaemon, who is in charge of the Edo mansion of Lord Asano of Hiroshima province, hears the rumors going around town and decides to take his wife Tomi and his sister Yukino to enjoy Utaemon's performance. As Tanabe knows that Tomi and Yukino are ardent fans of the kabuki actor, he tries to summon him from his dressing room to the teahouse during an extended intermission. But, Utaemon declines the invitation. Instead he sends his manager. Tozo brings a message from Utaemon. The message says that as an actor who performs on the public stage, he can not show favoritism by accepting any private invitations to wine and dine, even from a daimyo. Tanabe leaves the room in a visibly bad mood, casting a side glance at his wife and sister, who decide to stay and watch the rest of the performance.

Sc. 2 In a detached room of Mampachi restaurant in Sanyabori

At Mampachi restaurant, a group of doctors of Chinese medicine are waiting for Tanabe's arrival. Genseki is among the group. Tanabe intends to have his favorite courtesan examined by Genseki. She is suffering from a serious eye disease. Genseki's worldly-minded colleagues tempt Genseki to make pretexts to prolong her treatment and increase his profit as general practitioners often do. Genseki gets angry at such suggestions and is about to leave when Tanabe enters the room followed by Otoki, the landlady of the teahouse. Genseki changes his mind and stays as the merry-making begins. When the banquet is at its height, Tanabe asks Genseki to do a dance for the entertainment of everyone. Genseki flatly refuses Tanabe's request saying, "I am a physician, not an entertainer." Suddenly an ominous air fills the room. After an exchange of words, Tanabe learns that Genseki and Utaemon are old acquaintances. Furthermore, Genseki carelessly mentions that Utaemon will come to see him anywhere at any cost if he asks. Tanabe as the honored guest of the party, and as a samurai who looks down upon ordinary town people, arrogantly demands that Genseki write a letter to Utaemon, to prove what he has just said. Tanabe further pressures Genseki, saying that if Utaemon does not appear by "nanatsu" (3 am the next day), then Genseki must commit "hara-kiri" (ritual suicide). In the end Genseki, firmly believing Utaemon's promise from a long time ago, cannot help but accept Tanabe's demands.

Sc. 3 On stage at the Nakamura-za theater

In Nakamura-za Theater, Utaemon is dancing on stage in the middle of a performance. According to the script his character receives a letter from a lover, so the prop director uses the opportunity to pass the letter from Genseki to him. Upon reading the letter, Utaemon directs that the curtain be closed. The audience starts to raise a clamor until Utaemon appears before them in tears to explain the problem. Upon hearing him, everyone has great sympathy and they allow him to go save Genseki.

Sc.4 In the room at Mampachi restaurant

The bell for "nanatsu" tolls. Genseki's time is up. The people near him advise him to apologize to Tanabe and beg his forgiveness for being unable to summon Utaemon. Unmoved, however, he merely begins preparations for his act of "hara-kiri." At the very moment he is about to plunge the knife into his abdomin, Utaemon rushes into the room. The two men grasp each other. Genseki is now saved. Everyone in the room is brought to tears. Tanabe acknowledges his defeat. Then, Utaemon begins to dance in place of Genseki.

Natsu Matsuri Naniwa Kagami

A story of justice and vice in Naniwa

Act I
In front of the gate of Sumiyoshi Shrine

Generally fish-sellers in the Edo era (1603-1868) were rather hot-tempered and quarrelsome. Danhichi was one of them. One day, he got into a fight with a servant of the samurai Otori Sagaemon. As a consequence, the two men were arrested and thrown into prison. While they were serving time, the servant died from a wound he got in the fight. On the other hand, Danhichi was released half-way through his sentence thanks to the intervention of the Tamashima family. Tamashima had been the lord of the house where Danhichi's wife Okaji worked.

On the day of Danhichi's release, Okaji, their son, and Tsuribune no Sabu, go to the gate of Sumiyoshi Shrine, where Danhichi is scheduled to be released. Since they arrive a little early, Okaji goes into the shrine with the son to say a prayer of thanksgiving for her husband's early release. Meanwhile, a palanquin stops at the gate. In the palanquin there is a young effeminate man. The bearers, Gon and Hachi, have an evil plan. They start to blackmail the young man, and a dispute erupts. The weak young man is at a loss as to what to do. Meanwhile, Sabu, who is waiting by the gate for Okaji and her son, notices the young man's difficult situation . He cannot bear to just stand by and witness the injustice. So, Sabu saves him by kicking the two bearers out of the way.

While the young man is thanking Sabu for his help, Sabu learns that he is Isonojo-the son of the Tamashima family. He advises Isonojo to go and wait for him at a certain "tang shop," a shop that sells seaweed. Sabu says that he will be of further help to Isonojo when he meets him later. Then Sabu asks Sankichi, a hairdresser, if he can wait a little while in his shop for Danhichi. Before long, Danhichi appears in a prison uniform, looking in rather bad-shape. The police release him and leave. He murmurs to himself, "I must thank Tamashima at any cost." then continues saying, "I shall guard his son Isonojo, in requital of his favor to me." At this point, Sabu arrives and they rejoice together over their reunion. Sabu tells Danhichi of the many things that happened in the outside world during his absence and includes Isonojo's run-in a little earlier. Danhichi enters the hairdresser's shop to have his shaggy growth of hair cut, while Sabu proceeds ahead to the shop where Isonojo is waiting for him.

After a while, Kotoura appears at the gate of the shrine, looking for Isonojo. She is stopped, however, by Otori Sagaemon, who has a one-sided love towards her. Danhichi comes out of the hairdresser's shop, looking neat and tidy just in time to rescue her and tell her where Isonojo is. Then she rushes off to meet him. Danhichi also decides to go see Isonojo. As he is about to leave, however, Gon, Hachi, and Issun Tokubei appear, confront him, and start giving him a hard time for interfering with Otori's attempt to get Kotoura. A fight breaks out. At this point, Okaji emerges from the shrine and sees what is happening. While she is attempting to make peace, she and Tokubei recognize each other in astonishment. It was Okaji that had earlier rescued Tokubei from becoming a beggar. Tokubei bears a great debt to her, so when he realizes that Danhichi is her husband, he immediately apologizes to Okaji and ends the quarrel. Then when he hears that Danhichi and Okaji are in turn indebted to Isonojo's father, he confesses that Isonojo's family are close relatives of his previous lord. Such being the case, Tokubei offers his aid to Isonojo. Finally Danhichi and Tokubei exchange sleeves with each other and make a deep and solemn pledge to be sworn brothers.

Act II
At Sabu's house in Naniwa

While Isonojo was working as a clerk at a shop in Naniwa, he commited a terrible mistake, one that resulted in a man's death. So now, he is hiding from the law at Sabu's house. One day, just before the beginning of a summer festival, Isonojo and Kotoura have a lover's quarrel. Gon and Hachi happen to hear it while eavesdropping and then run off somewhere.

Otsugi, Sabu's wife, appears and smooths out the quarrel. When Sabu comes home he suggests that Otsugi have them stay at the innermost room since Isonojo is now a criminal. Otatsu comes to the house and thanks Sabu for his kindness to Tokubei. She is planning to return to her hometown alone and wait there for her husband. Upon hearing this, Otsugi asks Otatsu if she can take the fugitive Isonojo with her. Sabu opposes his wife's request, however, protesting that he will lose face if Isonojo receives shelter from another person. Otastu thinks his excuse is not enough to oppose an otherwise excellent idea. Therefore Sabu has to explain the true reason for his opposition, which is that Otatsu is so beautiful that it would tempt young Isonojo beyond endurance. There upon Otatsu suddenly takes a red-hot iron out of the brazier, presses it to her cheek, and exclaims, "Now that my face looks like this you have no need to worry." Moved by Otatsu's bold action, Sabu apologizes to her for his evil thoughts and agrees to allow Isonojo to go with her.

Then Gon and Hachi come to the house. They behave violently, demanding Sabu turn over Kotoura. At last, Sabu, who has vowed to God not to fight, can no longer endure it. Breaking his vow and a long-standing taboo, he challenges them to step outside and fight. During the fight, Otatsu leaves for her hometown with Isonojo. Then right after they leave, Giheiji appears saying to Otsugi that his son-in-law asked him to take Kotoura to a safer place. Believing Giheiji's story, Otsugi turns Kotoura over to him. Kotoura departs in a palanquin. After settling things with Gon and Hachi, Sabu comes back inside, followed by Danhichi and Tokubei. Otsugi offers them sake, congratulating Sabu on his victory over the two trouble-makers. Then, Sabu goes to the inner room with Tokubei. Left alone, Danhichi asks Otsugi if Kotoura and Isonojo are safe. Otsugi tells him that Giheiji took Kotoura off somewhere. Hearing this, Danhichi realizes Giheiji's scheme and rushes out after them.

A back street of Nagamachi

When Danhichi catches up with Giheiji and Kotoura he asks Giheiji to turn Kotoura over to him. Giheiji refuses and instead questions Danhichi's character, while bringing up his past wrong-doings. Giheiji lashes out at Danhichi. Danhichi begs Giheiji to send Kotoura back, offering 30 ryo (approximately 3 million yen or $33 thousand) in exchange. With this Giheiji changes his attitude and accepts Danhichi's offer, saying, "Okay, I will give you a special discount as you and I are father and son-in-law, but don't forget that I could get more than 100 ryo if I took Kotoura to Otori." Without responding to the implied threat, Danhichi asks the bearers to take Kotoura back home. When the palanquin has left, Giheiji presses Danhichi for the money. Then Danhichi confesses that he has no money, and Giheiji burns with anger. He strikes Danhichi's face with his clog, abuses him loudly, and then proceeds to beat him up. Danhichi receives the cruel treatment without resistance, but finally he can stand it no longer and tries to slash Giheiji with his sword. Giheiji then dares Danhichi to kill him. In the struggle, Danhichi accidentally stabs him in the ribs. Giheiji cries out, "Murderer!" Finally, Danhichi finishes him off. Then, Danhichi apologizes profusely to his dead father-in-law and melts into a crowd, which is celebrating the summer festival.

Last updated March 2010
Copyright (C) 2010 by Jeff Blair
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