Play title Soga Moy˘ Tateshi no Goshozome  In Japanese
Author Kawatake Shinshichi II

The drama "Soga Moy˘ Tateshi no Goshozome" was premiered in October 1887 at the Ichimuraza [casting].


The drama "Soga Moy˘ Tateshi no Goshozome" was originally made up of 6 acts, divided into 12 scenes. The current version, which is made up of 3 acts (7 scenes), is divided into two different stories which are loosely related: "Hototogisu Goroshi" (the Murder of Hototogisu) and "Gosho no Goroz˘". The former is occasionnally revived as part of a t˘shi ky˘gen production of "Soga Moy˘ Tateshi no Goshozome". The latter story is extremely popular and frequently staged.

Key words Jidai-sewamono

Hototogisu Goroshi
The Murder of Hototogisu

Act I, Scene 1: Falling in love by the Natori River

The Natori riverbank is a dangerous place, as evil palanquin bearers have taken to robbing travellers there. One evening a beautiful female pilgrim passes by and is set upon by the robbers, who try to force her into a palanquin in order to extract a fare. As she resolutely refuses, they attack her to get her money by force instead. At this moment, Lord Asama Tomoenoj˘ and his retinue arrive on the scene and come to her assistance, driving the palanquin bearers away. Tomoenoj˘ is Lord of Mutsu, and is on a hunting expedition. He asks the female pilgrim her name, but she says she hasn't one. She is on her way to a relative for help, as her step-mother, who hates her, has thrown her out of her home. Tomoenoj˘ suggests that she accompany him to his mansion instead, and she accepts his offer. He says that his hunting trip has resulted in the capture of a beautiful bird, "Hototogisu", which means "little cuckoo".

[In scenes no longer performed, Tomoenoj˘'s retainer, Hoshikage Doemon, who dabbles in the black arts, schemes to seize power from his master, and another of his retainers, Suzaki Kakuya, falls in love with a lady-in-waiting of the household called Tsuji. They have an affair, something which was strictly forbidden at the time, and punishable by death. Doemon, who is also in love with Tsuji, jealously denounces their affair to the authorities, but Tomoenoj˘'s mother helps the couple, and their punishment is commuted to expulsion from Mutsu. Doemon, whose other sins have found him out, is also dismissed.]

Act I, Scene 2: Before the Ch˘fukuji Temple

Tomoenoj˘'s mother has died, and a Buddhist memorial service is being performed at Ch˘fukuji Temple to mark the third anniversary of her death. The service is attended by Tomoenoj˘'s wife, Nadeshiko, and her mother, Yuri-no-Kata, although Tomoenoj˘ himself is not there, being at present in Edo. Kakuya and Tsuji, now married, have secretly returned to honour their late mistress's memory. They are pursued by Kinbŕ, a moneylender from whom Kakuya has been forced to borrow. Kinbŕ is demanding repayment, and as Kakuya has no money, he gives Kinbŕ his swords instead. Tsuji is astonished at this, since the sword was regarded as the soul of a Samurai. However, Kakuya announces that he is not a Samurai any more, and therefore no longer needs a sword. He and Tsuji will lead a civilian life in future. Tsuji is gratified by this, and the couple set off for Edo, where they hope to make a new life for themselves. Doemon, who is still in love with Tsuji, secretly follows them.

The Asama family doctor, Dongen, comes to receive a payment from Sashima Yakur˘, who serves Yuri-no-Kata. This is for a poison that Yuri-no-Kata ordered him to make - and which she has given to Hototogisu, who is now Tomoenoj˘'s concubine, and whom Yuri-no-Kata hates, not least because she is the rival of her daughter Nadeshiko, Tomoenoj˘'s lawful wife. Yuri-no-Kata enters from the temple, and commands Yakur˘ to pay Dongen. Dongen takes the money, and then public spiritedly tries to sell an antidote to Yuri-no-Kata as well, which she refuses. As he leaves, Yuri-no-Kata stabs him in the back with Yakur˘'s sword, killing him. She remarks that Dongen will not be able to say anything about the poison now, and that it will not be long before Hototogisu is dead as well.

Act I, Scene 3: Murder in the Asama household

Hototogisu has a detached room in Tomoenoj˘'s mansion. She is now ill in bed as a result of the poison Yuri-no-Kata has given her, and her face has become disfigured. She prays to Buddha and, as if in response to her prayer, the ghost of Dongen appears. The ghost tells her of the plot to kill her, and has brought along Yuri-no-Kata's letter, ordering him to make the poison, as evidence - together with the antidote that Yuri-no-Kata refused. The ghost vanishes, and Hototogisu, although unnerved, takes the antidote. At once, she becomes well again, and her beauty returns.

Two of Nadeshiko's ladies-in-waiting sneak in, and attack Hototogisu. They are followed by Yuri-no-Kata who, in a scene of what has been termed Kabuki's "beautiful cruelty", inflicts prolonged torture on the already injured girl, kicking, hitting and slashing her until she finally dies. Yuri-no-Kata orders the ladies-in-waiting to sink the body in the garden pond, and pronounces that it was wrong that Hototogisu was born so beautiful.

[In further scenes no longer performed, Tomoenoj˘ is shown becoming infatuated with an Edo courtesan named ďshű, who much resembles his late mistress, and who is in reality her sister, a fact which has been revealed to Tomoenoj˘ by the spirit of the dead Hototogisu.]

Gosho no Goroz˘
Goroz˘ of Gosho

Act II, Scene 1: Nakanoch˘ - the main street of the Yoshiwara pleasure quarter in Edo

Several years have passed. Suzaki Kakuya is now known as Goroz˘, and has become an otokodate. Owing to their financial difficulties, Tsuji has agreed to sell herself into prostitution, and has become a courtesan known by the name of Satsuki. Hoshikage Doemon, who is now a r˘nin, and who is also in Edo, has become a fencing instructor.

It is Spring in the Yoshiwara, and Goroz˘ and Doemon, both accompanied by their followers, meet for the first time in years. Their respective henchmen, however, have recently had a brawl, in which Doemon's gang came off the worst. This only increases Doemon's resentment of Goroz˘, and his desire for revenge. Their gangs are anxious to be at each other's throats again, and have to be repeatedly restrained by their masters. Doemon infuriates Goroz˘ by spitefully threatening to buy Satsuki's services - every night! Goroz˘ points out this is not possible for, as a married courtesan, Satsuki can refuse any potential clients she chooses. Doemon will have to make do with the maid! Doemon remarks that he might buy out Satsuki's contract, and then she will belong to him. Goroz˘ retaliates that since she is married already, even this could never make her truly his own. Tempers flare, and the two are about to draw their swords when Yagor˘, the proprietor of the Kabutoya house of pleasure, interposes and prevents them from fighting in front of his establishment, ultimately enforcing a fragile truce.

Act II, Scene 2: An inner room at the Kabutoya

Tomoenoj˘ has bankrupted himself through his nightly visits to ďshű. Despite having been dismissed from his service, Goroz˘ is still loyal to his former master, and has pledged to pay his debt of 200 ry˘ to the Hanagataya house of pleasure. The debt is due this very night, but Goroz˘ has not managed to raise the money to pay it off.

The scene opens with Satsuki reading a letter from her husband in which he begs her to help him find the sum, for if he cannot repay it, the disgrace to both himself and to the Asama House will be such that he will have to commit suicide in atonement. Satsuki is at a loss as to what to do. As a married courtesan, she has no regular admirer from whom she could borrow the money. Doemon, there in yet another attempt to buy her favours, has been eavesdropping, and enters, magnanimously offering to lend her the sum. Satsuki is initially overjoyed, but soon discovers there is a catch. In order to have the money, she must write a letter of divorce to Goroz˘. Satsuki is devastated, for she still loves Goroz˘, and has always loathed Doemon. However, accepting is a way of repaying her debt of gratitude to the Asama House, and of saving her beloved husband's life. She has little choice but to agree to Doemon's demands, and puts a brave face on it by pretending that she no longer loves Goroz˘, since his financial state has forced her into prostitution, and he even finds it necessary to keep on extending her contract.

Doemon's henchmen burst in to congratulate their master, and a party is soon in full swing. When Satsuki has written the letter of divorce, Doemon wants one of his lackeys to deliver it to Goroz˘. Understandably, none of them is keen to do the job. However, at this moment, Goroz˘ enters - pursued by Yosuke, from the Hanagataya house, demanding repayment of the debt. This falls out better than Doemon could have devised, and the unfortunate Satsuki is forced to break off with Goroz˘ in a heart-rending scene in front of the assembled company, and with no opportunity to reveal to her husband the truth of the situation. Goroz˘ - wounded, maddened and publicly shamed - resolutely refuses to accept the money - much to the anguish of Yosuke. He denounces Satsuki, and makes to strike her with his shakuhachi when ďshű rushes in and interposes herself. She has presumably heard what has been going on, and feels partly responsible for the situation. She tries to calm down the incensed Goroz˘, and since she is Tomoenoj˘'s beloved, Goroz˘, out of respect for her and her lord, goes no further, but leaves, bitterly swearing vengeance.

Doemon, who wishes to show off his prize to the world, commands Satsuki to accompany him to the Hanagataya. Satsuki, disgusted by him as well as shattered, feigns illness, but ďshű once again steps in, and volunteers to take Satsuki's place. If she wears Satsuki's outer robe, and has her crested lantern carried before her, in the dark everyone will assume that it is Satsuki herself who is accompanying him. Doemon reluctantly agrees, though commanding that Satsuki follows as soon as possible. Before she leaves, ďshű is slipped a letter by Satsuki, who asks her to deliver it to Goroz˘ to explain recent events. Satsuki is left alone, a broken woman, still clutching the packet of money which has cost her so dear.

Act II, Scene 3: Dead of night in the pleasure quarter

In the dark, Goroz˘ lies in wait, and when Doemon, ďshű and their retinue appear, he attacks. Some of the party flee, and he easily drives off those who don't, until he and ďshű are left alone. Taking her to be Satsuki, he repeatedly stabs her, in another scene of "beautiful cruelty", until she dies at his feet.

There is more than one ending to this scene. When the Gosho no Goroz˘ section of the play is performed alone, it is usual for Goroz˘ to bend over ďshű's body and realise his terrible mistake. Having killed his lord's beloved, he vows to take his own life - but to kill Doemon first. Doemon reappears, and the two fight, the curtain being drawn in the middle of this, although it is conventionally assumed that Doemon is killed (and just occasionally this is actually shown to happen).

However, when a fuller version of the play is performed, with a further Act to follow, Goroz˘, after killing ďshű, cuts off her head (still without realising her true identity), and then proceeds to fight Doemon. However, in the middle of their fight, Doemon uses his magical powers to vanish. The curtain is drawn on a bewildered Goroz˘, and then Doemon reappears on the suppon lift. The moon comes out from behind the clouds, and Doemon gazes at it and laughs coldly, before casually exiting along the hanamichi.

Act III, Scene 1: Double suicide at Goroz˘'s home

Next morning, Goroz˘ is awoken by two visitors, who give him a letter from ďshű, and tell him that she was murdered the previous night. Goroz˘ says he thought that Satsuki was the victim. The visitors grow suspicious. They see a blood stain on the floor (upon which Goroz˘ hastily spills tea), and recall that a witness saw Goroz˘ near the scene of the crime last night. They leave rapidly.

Goroz˘, realising that he will soon be arrested for murder, locks the door and takes out the severed head of his victim, only to find that it is indeed that of ďshű. He then reads the letter his visitors have brought. It is, of course, the one that Satsuki asked ďshű to deliver to Goroz˘, and it explains the whole unhappy situation, and expresses Satsuki's intention to die. Then Satsuki herself arrives - she has run away, and somehow escaped from the Yoshiwara quarter. She knocks frantically at the door, whilst inside Goroz˘ commits seppuku to atone for his actions. Satsuki stabs her breast, and, injured as she is, manages to break open the door.

The couple are taken aback that they are both about to die. It makes Satsuki worry about her letter of divorce, but Goroz˘, regarding it as now being null and void, tears it up so that they may be reunited in the afterlife as man and wife. As they die, the couple play a duet on shakuhachi and kokyű, for ďshű's departed soul.

This summary was written by Sekidobashi Sakura (June 2002), Sh˘riya Aragor˘ (December 2006) and revised by Marion Hudson (January 2010).

The actors Ichimura Kakitsu IV (bottom/left) and Ichikawa Kodanji IV (top/right) playing the roles of Hototogisu and Yuri-no-Kata in the drama "Soga Moy˘ Tateshi no Goshozome", which was staged in february 1864 at the Ichimuraza (print made by Toyohara Kunichika)

Onoe Kikugor˘ V portraying Goroz˘, with Nakamura Shikan IV in the role of Hoshikage Doemon (small portrait), in a print made by Toyohara Kunichika in 1893

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