Play title Hirakana Seisuiki  In Japanese
Authors Matsuda Bunk˘d˘
Miyoshi Sh˘raku
Takeda Izumo I
Takeda Koizumo I
Asada Kakei

The play "Hirakana Seisuiki" was originally written for the puppet theater (Bunraku) and staged for the first time in the 4th lunar month of 1739 in ďsaka at the Takemotoza. It was adapted for Kabuki the following month and staged for the first time in the 5th lunar month of 1739 in Ky˘to at the Minamigawa no Shibai, produced by Mizuki Tatsunosuke II for the nadai Hoteiya Umenoj˘ [casting]. Then, the play "Hirakana Seisuiki" was staged for the first time in ďsaka in the 9th lunar month of 1740, produced at the Kado no Shibai by Nakamura Jűz˘ I and the only know actor in the casting was Nakamura Tomijűr˘ I in the role of Chidori. This play was staged for the first time in Edo in the 7th lunar month of 1753, at the Ichimuraza [casting].


The play "Hirakana Seisuiki" is made up of 5 acts. "Genta Kand˘" gathers the second and third scenes of the second act.

Key words Gidayű Ky˘gen
Genpei Kassen
Kajiwara Kagesue
Kajiwara Kagetaka
Kajiwara Kagetoki
Sasaki Takatsuna

The scene is the palace of Kajiwara Heiz˘ Kagetoki, a general of the Genji clan. Kagetoki and his son, Genta, have been away from home battling Kiso Yoshinaka and the Heike clan. Today is Genta's birthday. His suit of armor and helmet which were presented when he was born from his godfather, Yoritomo, are on display in the alcove. His brother, Heiji, is using illness as an excuse to stay home, instead of fighting at his father's side. He and two confidants, Chinsai and Gunnai, are waiting for a chance to replace Genta and thereby make Heiji heir of the Kajiwara family. Heiji would also like to take his brother's place in the affections of Chidori, one of the family's maids-in-waiting.

The opportunity comes when Gunnai brings some news from the battlefield, which he leaks for a reward from Heiji. At the Battle of Uji River, in which Kiso Yoshinaka has been defeated, Genta vowed to be the first to cross the flooded river and attack the enemy. He become the laughing stock of the entire army, however, when another warrior managed to beat him across. Thus publicly humiliated, his father has ordered him to go home with the intention of ordering him to commit ritual suicide, seppuku. Gunnai adds that this will put Heiji in line for his father's title and immediately begins calling him a new lord.

Just then Genta arrives at the palace, where he meets his mother Enju. They rejoice over the reunion, but Enju wonders why Genta has come home while war with the Heike clan is continuing. He tells her that his father has ordered him to go home, but he doesn't know why. Producing the unopened letter from her husband that Gunnai has just delivered, she reads it at once. The letter says that Genta has disgraced the family's name and orders him to commit seppuku.

At this point Heiji enters the room and asks his brother for news of the battle. Genta hesitates to describe the fighting, but replies that he thinks he has proved himself brave in battle. When his brother continues to press for details, he gives a dramatic narration and claims to have been the first to cross the Uji River. In fact it is a lie. Heiji contends that Genta was overtaken by another warrior and should already have killed himself to atone for his shame. When Heiji draws his sword to decapitate him, Genta drives him off. He then asks Chidori to leave him and his mother alone to talk.

Now he begins to explain the true facts of the incident. Some time ago his father accidentally angered general Yoritomo and would have committed suicide, had a warrior named Sasaki Takatsuna not interceded for him. Though not present at the time, Genta wished to do something to show his gratitude. No opportunity presented itself until the Battle of Uji River. When he started across the river only Takatsuna dared to follow. This was his chance to pay Takatsuna back for the favor he had done for Kagetoki. So he deliberately allowed Takatsuna to cross the river ahead of him. To try to explain his action would further embarass his father and diminish Takatsuna's glory. Stating that he is now prepared to sacrifice his life, he implores his mother never to reveal these facts to anyone, even after his death.

His mother begs him not to die. Yet he is unmoved, poiting out that he has no alternative. Next she appeals to him to serve Yoritomo. He replies that he'll serve him in the next life. But, she retorts they are mother and child in this present world only. The child who wishes to die before his mother is cruel. And the father who tries to kill his own son is crueller still. With these words she tears up her husband's letter.

Gunnai rushes into the room yelling that, as a matter of loyalty to their master, Enju must force Genta to die. But she will not permit it. She declares that seppuku, which is thought to be an honorable punishment for a samurai, is too good for anyone who has disgraced himself as Genta has. Instead, she has decided to deprive him of his swords and disinherit him, a far more shameful punishment. She makes him change into servants' clothes, then joins Heiji and his friends in mocking him.

Not knowing Enju's true feelings, Chidori brands her an inhuman mother. With a glance towards Heiji, Enju answers that she hopes this will serve as a warning to Genta's brother, and if Genta wishes to be reinstated he should prove himself a worthy fighter. In tears, Genta bows before his mother and determines to win his spurs in the continuing battle with the Heike clan.

Heiji seizes Chidori, demanding that now she must give up Genta and becomes his concubine. When she angrily refuses, he turns to his mother and charges that she and Genta are lovers and have thereby disgraced the family's name. In feigned anger, Enju drives Chidori into another room. Raging with jealousy, Heiji draws his sword and lunges at his brother, only to have the weapon knocked from his hand by Genta and be reprimanded for his unworthy behavior. As Genta is about to leave, the doors opens and Enju enters. Pointing to the armor in the alcove, she remarks that, although she can not give arms to a disinherited son, that armor, being a birthday present to him from Yoritomo, is his to do with as he likes. No one can prevent him from taking it with him. When he goes to retrieve the armor, he finds Chidori hiding behing the chest. His mother, out of kindness she explains, has banished her from the household, so that now they may go together to Shikoku to rejoin the Genji forces.

This summary has been written by Watanabe Hisao and edited by Jeff Blair [website]

The actors Mimasu Gennosuke I and Nakamura Shikan II playing the roles of Kajiwara Genta Kagesue and Kajiwara Heiji Kagetaka in the drama "Hirakana Seisuiki", which was staged in the 5th lunar month of 1833 at the Nakamuraza (print made by Utagawa Kunisada I)

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