|Play title||Aoto Z˘shi Hana no Nishikie|
|Authors||Kawatake Shinshichi II|
The drama "Aoto Z˘shi Hana no Nishikie" was premiered at the Ichimuraza in the 3rd lunar month of 1862 [casting]. Kawatake Shinshichi II 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˘.
The drama "Aoto Z˘shi Hana no Nishikie" is made up of 5 acts and 9 scenes:
The whole play is sometimes staged but the most famous scenes, "Hamamatsuya" and "Inasegawa Seizoroi", are regularly performed independently, under the title "Benten Musume Meo no Shiranami". It is also quite common to stage acts III (with or without the "Kuramae" scene), IV and V.
Princess Senju 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, Kotar˘, who has been reported missing. She brings with her to the service one hundred ry˘ and a precious gold incense case which has been named Koch˘. Kotar˘'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 Jűzabur˘, once a page to Saemon, now a masterless samurai. He happens to meet his uncle, who asks him to raise a hundred ry˘ to pay for medical expenses owed by Saemon's widow. Jűzabur˘ 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 Princess Senju watches cherry blossoms at her attendants' insistence. Then, to her surprise, Kotar˘ (Benten Koz˘ Kikunosuke in disguise) and his female servant, Komahei (a man named Nang˘ Rikimaru in disguise) appear. Princess Senju's chief maid who has a talent for arranging love affairs asks Komahei to act as a go-between for Princess Senju and Kotar˘. After seeing the young couple go into a teahouse, the chief maid leads Komahei into another room of the teahouse to talk about love. Princess Senju does not know Kotar˘'s face, so this presents the two thugs a good opportunity to swindle Koch˘ the incense case away from her.
Meanwhile Jűzabur˘ tries to steal the one hundred ry˘, 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 Princess Senju and Kotar˘ are meeting secretly at the teahouse. Hearing this they dash for the teahouse. They are also scheming to rob Koch˘ the incense case away from Princess Senju. Jűzabur˘ has hed a narrow escape.
It is not Kotar˘ 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 ry˘ which they had confiscated from Jűzabur˘. Thanks to Rihei's bravery, Princess Senju and Kotar˘ are saved. Thinking that it is her possession of Koch˘ the incense case that has put her in danger, Princess Senju asks Kotar˘ to hold on to it and take her along to wherever he is going. Since Komahei recommends that he take Princess Senju to his residence, Kotar˘ leaves the teahouse with her.
Then, after the young couple has gone, Komahei talks with Rihei and urges him to hand over the hundred ry˘ 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 Nang˘ Rikimaru just before their struggle for the money begins.
While Princess Senju and Kotar˘ climb up Mt. Mikoshi-ga-Take toward his supposed residence, Kotar˘ 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 Koz˘ Kikunosuke, an alias derived from his birth place-- Benten Jima. It was because Kikunosuke had the venerable flute called Chidori that Princess Senju believed him to be Kotar˘. 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 Kotar˘, 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 Koch˘ the incense case, which was to be enshrined in the Shida family's temple. In fact, Kikunosuke took care of Kotar˘ 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 Koch˘ the incense case as well. Realizing that she has been cheated out of the valuable treasure, Princess Senju 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 Koch˘ the incense case. Impressed by his magnamity, Kikunosuke immediately complies and seals the compact with an oath signed in his own blood.
Princess Senju, who jumped into the ravine, miraculously survives and then Jűzabur˘ 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. Jűzabur˘ and Princess Senju console each other over their similar situations of both having disgraced their familes. Finally Princess Senju throws herself back into the ravine again. Following her lead, Jűzabur˘ is about to commit hara-kiri, when Rihei stops him. Rihei's father, Denz˘, was once one of Jűzabur˘'s father's attendants. Long ago Denz˘ ran away with his master's money. So, Rihei gives Jűzabur˘ one hundred ry˘ 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 Jűzabur˘ 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.
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, K˘bei's son-in-law, returns home and hears the story. K˘bei also appears. While they are in trouble Seiji, a neighbor, comes to mediate, but in vain. Rikimaru demands one hundred 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. Tamashima Itt˘ is, in fact, an alias used by Daemon, the boss of Kikunosuke's group. He looks hard at the young lady and tells K˘bei 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. 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 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. K˘bei still thinks that he is a brave and honest samurai.
After getting drunk at the inner room of Hamamatsuya, Daemon reveals in a vigorous speech who he really is. He draws his sword and demands all the money K˘bei 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. K˘bei, 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 K˘bei 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 K˘bei 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.
All members of the ring--Kikunosuke, Rihei, Jűzabur˘, 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.
Kikunosuke fights with the police and throws one official after another. He is searching for Koch˘ the incense case for K˘bei as the last filial piety to him, because when K˘bei returns Koch˘ 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 Princess Senju, the daughter of his real father's former lord. He reaches Gokurakuji Temple and has Koch˘ 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.
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.
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 Koch˘ the incense case while they were searching for goods in the River 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.
This summary has been written by Watanabe Hisao and edited by Jeff Blair [website]
The actors Ichimura Uzaemon XIII (top/left), Nakamura Shikan IV (bottom/left), Seki Sanjűr˘ III (center), Iwai Kumesabur˘ III (top/right) and Kawarazaki Gonjűr˘ I (bottom/right) playing the roles of Benten Koz˘ Kikunosuke, Nang˘ Rikimaru, Nippon Daemon, Akaboshi Jűzabur˘ and Tadanobu Rihei in an illustrated playbill for the drama "Aoto Z˘shi Hana no Nishikie", which was staged in the 3rd lunar month of 1862 at the Ichimuraza
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