|Play title||Aoto Z˘shi Hana no Nishikie|
|Others titles||Benten Musume Meo no Shiranami
The drama "Aoto Z˘shi Hana no Nishikie" was premiered at the Ichimuraza in the 3rd lunar month of 1862 [casting]. Kawatake Mokuami revisited the classic thema of "Gonin Otoko", a group of five dandy-thieves. The playwright replaced the original ďsaka thieves Karigane Bunshichi, An no Heibei, Gokuin Sen'emon, Kaminari Sh˘kur˘ and Hotei Ichiemon by 5 Kamakura thieves named Nippon Daemon (modelled on the real thief Nippon Saemon, who was caught in the 2nd lunar month of 1747 and executed in March), Benten Koz˘ Kikunosuke, Nang˘ Rikimaru, Tadanobu Rikei and Akaboshi Jűzabur˘.
"Benten Musume Meo no Shiranami" is the title used for the staging of "Hamamatsuya" and "Inasegawa Seizoroi", the 3rd and 4th acts of "Aoto Z˘shi Hana no Nishikie".
Benten Koz˘ Kikunosuke, a handsome young man, was the son of a wealthy merchant but ran away at an early age to enjoy the wild life of an outlaw. Now, many years later, Benten and another gang member named Nang˘ Rikimaru, are plotting to extort money from the owner of Hamamatsuya cloth shop. Benten 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 Benten 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 front of his kimono. He is seen by one of the shop assistants and in the ensuing scuffle is wounded on the forehead by the manager. Rikimaru, as Benten's escort, mediates between them. Showing a receipt for it from another shop, he proves to the manager that the piece of material does not come from Hamamatsuya. First, S˘nosuke, the son-in-law of the shop's owner arrives and hears the story. Then K˘bei, the owner, appears. Finally, a neighbor named Seji comes to mediate, but in vain. Rikimaru demands 100 ry˘ as compensation for the wound on the lady's brow. After some haggling K˘bei 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 Nippon Daemon, the boss of Benten's group. He looks hard at the young lady and tells K˘bei that he is being taken for a fool. Having caught sight of a pattern of cherry blossoms tattooed on her arm convinces him the woman is really a man in disguise. Benten appears to be in a desperate situation. This is the great moment of the play. At last Benten reveals his identity. He announces his real name in the play's most famous speech. Rikimaru takes off his samurai dress, and Benten also removes his disguise.
Daemon, appearing to be outraged by this plot to cheat such an honest shopkeeper, offers to immediately cut off the crooks' heads. K˘bei 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 Benten a little money to buy plaster for his bruise. Benten gathers his women's clothes, and leaves with Rikimaru. Outside the shop they stop to divide up the small amount of money. On the way home, they play a game: each agrees to take turns carrying the heavy bundle of disguises that they used for their hoax, changing whenever they meet a bald-headed man.
In front of the warehouse of the Hamamatsuya ("Kuramae")
This scene occurs after Benten and Rikimaru have left the cloth shop and Daemon, as a samurai, remains in the store. Thinking he is a brave and honest samurai, the store's owner feels very indebted to him. K˘bei lowers his guard and invites Daemon to a private inner room for a drink. After getting drunk, Daemon reveals in a vigorous speech who he really is. He draws his sword and demands all K˘bei's money. S˘nosuke, 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 S˘nosuke's age. In the ensuing conversation he realizes that S˘nosuke is, in fact, his long-lost child. K˘bei, too, learns that Benten is his real son. The essential theme of the drama is to demonstrate the law of cause and effect which is an element of the concept of karma.
The next scene takes place on the banks of Inase River with the police following close behind. The five members of the band of theives appear in turn: Benten, Tadanobu Rikei, Akaboshi Jűzabur˘, Nang˘ Rikimaru, and their leader--Nippon Daemon. They decide to disperse for a while until things cool down. Too late; the police catch up to them. Each, in turn, announces his name and attributes. Then they overcome the police and scatter.
This summary has been written by Watanabe Hisao and edited by Jeff Blair [website]
The role of Benten Koz˘ Kikunosuke is closely associated to the Onoe Kikugor˘ line of actors. It was performed for the first time by Ichimura Uzaemon XIII (the future Onoe Kikugor˘ V). Then his son Onoe Kikugor˘ VI inherited the mantle and transmitted it to Onoe Baik˘ VII, who, in turn, has taught Onoe Kikugor˘ VII the role. The heir of the Onoe clan, Onoe Kikugor˘ VII's son Onoe Kikunosuke V played the role of Benten Koz˘ for the first time in May 1996 at the Kabukiza.
The actors Nakamura Shikan IV, Ichimura Uzaemon XIII and Ichikawa Danz˘ VI playing the roles of Nang˘ Rikimaru, Benten Koz˘ and Hamamatsuya K˘bei in the "Hamamatsuya" scene of the drama "Aoto Z˘shi Hana no Nishikie", which was staged in the 3rd lunar month of 1862 at the Ichimuraza (print made by Utagawa Toyokuni III)
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