|Play title||Ehon Gapp˘-ga-Tsuji
An Illustrated Picture Book of the Crossroads of Gapp˘
|Authors||Tsuruya Nanboku IV
Sakurada Jisuke II
Fukumori Kyűsuke I
"Ehon Gapp˘-ga-Tsuji" was premiered at the Ichimuraza in the 5th lunar month of 1810 [casting]. "Ehon Gapp˘-ga-Tsuji" was a dramatization of a popular novel of the time about a revenge at a place called Gapp˘-ga-Tsuji (the Crossroads of Gapp˘). Tsuruya Nanboku IV used his intimate knowledge of the top stars of the time and the talented up and coming stars to create this play, full of exciting action and sardonic humor. The heart of the play was Matsumoto K˘shir˘ V, the most famous actor of villain roles, lean, with a craggy, sinister face, in a double role, Saeda Daigakunosuke, a samurai who is trying to take over the Taga clan, has stolen the clan treasures and killed everyone who has gotten in his way and Tateba no Taheiji, a villain from the bottom of society who plots together with Daigakunosuke. Instead of a revenge play as the triumph of good over evil, this play shows the exuberant rampage of the villains until finally, they are defeated at a terrible cost to the heroes.
The original version of "Ehon Gapp˘-ga-Tsuji" was in 7 acts (12 scenes). The April 2012 version was made up of 4 acts divided into 12 scenes.
In the province of ďmi, Saeda Daigakunosuke, who belongs to a family branch of the Taga clan, is plotting to usurp the power of his elder brother Taga Toshiyuki, lord of the Taga clan. To that end, he plans to steal two precious heirlooms of the Taga family, an incense burner (k˘ro), which was named Reiki (literally the Holy Turtle), and a scroll made by their ancestor, the celebrated calligrapher Sugawara no Michizane. The evil Daigakunosuke has no scruples about killing Satomatsu, an innocent peasant's child, over a trifle during a falcon hunting party. When Takahashi Sezaemon, a loyal family retainer remonstrates with him, beating him with the sacred scroll, Daigakunosuke feigns contrition but kills Sezaemon as well as soon as he gets the chance and steals the scroll.
Takahashi Yajűr˘, brother of the murdered Sezaemon, believes Daigakunosuke to be the killer, but lacks proof. During fencing practice, Yajűr˘ is defeated and humiliated. The clan lord, Toshiyuki decrees that Yajűr˘'s wife Satsuki shall become his own concubine. Her brother Kambei exploits this opportunity to become chief retainer. Shortly afterwards, the incense burner is discovered missing and Kambei is held responsible and urged to commit suicide. It transpires, however, that Kambei was an accomplice of Daigakunosuke. Toshiyuki knew this, so Yajűr˘'s humiliation and that of his wife was mere play-acting in order to obtain a confession from Kambei. Yajűr˘ and his wife depart on a pilgrimage, the better to strike at their enemy, Daigakunosuke.
The riverside at Shij˘ is an open-air market and popular with beggars and vagrants. Denz˘, bant˘ of a d˘guya store comes to buy poison from the snake-tamer (hebi-zukai) Unzari Omatsu, which literally means disgusting Omatsu. He plans to kill his master's adopted son Yohei, the younger brother of Yajűr˘ and the murdered Sezaemon, steal the incense burner and marry his wife Okame. Tateba no Taheiji appears. He was originally a retainer of Daigakunosuke but now runs a roadside stall in the mountains. A worthless and evil man, he is still secretly employed by Daigakunosuke. When he hears of Denz˘'s plan he decides to join in.
Omatsu enters the store, which is located in Imadegawa, hoping to ingratiate herself by pretending to be Yohei's lover but she convinces nobody. Taheiji then comes to the shop feigning innocence. Meanwhile, Yohei is concerned with annulling his relationship as adopted son of the family so that he will be free to revenge his real brother. His adopted mother, Oriyo, makes it easier for him by formally disowning him and giving him the family incense burner. To finalize this, they drink a ceremonial cup of sake. Taheiji puts poison into one of the cups hoping that Yohei will drink from it, but it is Oriyo who dies. He steals some money and goes with Omatsu to the well behind the My˘kakuji temple to wash their blood-stained hands. Taheiji strangles Omatsu with the rope.
Yohei and Okame have been taken ill on their way through the mountains. They arrive at the Kuragari Pass in Washű, where Taheiji's solitary house, which is used as a tea-stall (a tateba in Japanese, which explains the full name of Taheiji), is located. Taheiji's wife Omichi feels sorry for them and brings them to the tea-stall. Taheiji, however, wants to force Okame to become Daigakunosuke's concubine. Yohei offers no resistance as it will provide this wife with a good opportunity to kill Daigakunosuke. Taheiji then tries to kill Yohei, but Omichi helps him to escape. Taheiji goes berserk and cuts down his wife and also disposes of Magoshichi and Oyone when he realizes they are related to the Takahashi family.
Daigakunosuke is pleased with the progress of his plot to usurp his brother's power. As he is processing near the banks of the river, Taheiji presents himself. Daigakunosuke rewards him for his loyal service. Meanwhile Takahashi Yajűr˘ has been living at the crossroads Gapp˘-ga-Tsuji and has adopted the monk name Gapp˘ H˘in. He has been looking after the wounded Yohei, unaware as yet that they are brothers. When Yohei is alone, his wife's ghost appears announcing that she was killed by Daigakunosuke. At that moment, Daigakunosuke, himself, appears, stabs Yohei and escapes. Gapp˘ having realized, at last, that he and Yohei are brothers pursues Daigakunosuke and strikes at him in his palanquin but it is Taheiji who is inside. Daigakunosuke suddenly appears from the Enma Dai˘ Temple at Gapp˘-ga-Tsuji and the two men fight, Gapp˘ eventually killing him and so concluding successfully the vendetta.
The final scene of the drama "Ehon Gapp˘-ga-Tsuji", which was staged in the 6th lunar month of 1843 at the Nakamuraza, starring Arashi Kichisabur˘ III and Sawamura Tossh˘ I in the roles of Saeda Daigakunosuke and Gapp˘, in reality Takahashi Yajűr˘
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