GO TAIHEIKI SHIRAISHI BANASHI
   
Play title Go Taiheiki Shiraishi Banashi  In Japanese
Authors Utei Emba
Kij˘ Tar˘
Y˘ Y˘dai
History

The drama "Go Taiheiki Shiraishi Banashi" was written for the puppet theater and performed for the first time in the 1st lunar month of 1780 in Edo at the Gekiza. It was adapted for Kabuki a few month later, in the 4th lunar month of 1780 at the Moritaza [casting]. The characters' costumes and manners in this play are those of the Edo period but the name of the leader of the rebellion was Kusunoki Masashige, a warrior of the Kamakura era. The Keian Uprising was replaced by the Genk˘ War and, in order to avoid the Shogunate censorship, the identity of some historical characters were disguised (more or less lightly):
Real names Roles
Yui Sh˘setsu Uji J˘etsu
Marubashi Chűya Marigase Shűya

Structure

"Go Taiheiki Shiraishi Banashi" was originally made up of 11 acts. Its jidaimono part (from act 1 to act 3, from act 9 to act 11) deals with events and warriors related to Kusunoki Masashige and his death during the Genk˘ War. The sewamono part (from act 4 to act 8) is about the murder of a farmer in ďshű and the revenge taken by his two daughters.

Key words Adauchi
Adauchimono
Ageya
Akudaikan
Asakusa
Asakusa Kannon
Azemichi
Band˘ Sanjűsankasho
Daikan
Genk˘ no Hen
Genk˘ no Ran
Inaka Musume
Jidai-sewamono
Kaminarimon
Keian Jiken
Keisei
Kerai
Kusunoki Masashige
Marubashi Chűya
Omamori
ďshű
R˘nin
Sewamono
Shin-Yoshiwara
Shinz˘
Sh˘ya
Yui Sh˘setsu
Summary

Act II: My˘jin Mori
At the My˘jin Forest
This scene is no more part of the current Kabuki repertoire [1].

The scene is set in ďshű in a forest at night near a shrine dedicated to a local deity. Uji Hy˘bunosuke J˘etsu, a r˘nin, sees Kanai [2] Tanigor˘, a r˘nin from the K˘chi province, bury a severed head. They introduce themselves to each other and start talking. When Tanigor˘ speaks ill of Kusunoki Masashige, J˘etsu's former master, J˘etsu gets angry. In their subsequent fighting with drawn swords, J˘etsu desperately protects a branch of a mandarine orange from being cut by Tanigor˘'s sword. As the mandarine orange is the symbol of the family of Kusunoki Masashige, Tanigor˘ is impressed with J˘etsu's loyalty and offers to make peace with him.

Act IV: Taue
Rice Planting
This scene is no more part of the current Kabuki repertoire [1].

Taking advantage of a trouble in the household of Ishid˘, Shiga Daishichi, the local magistrate of the village of Sakai at the service of the Ishid˘ clan, has stolen a treasured mirror. He buries it in a footpath between rice fields (azemichi) for temporary concealment.

The farmer Yomosaku happens to discover the mirror while transplanting rice seedlings. Daishichi and his kerai Tansuke, who have been keeping watch from afar, notices Yomosaku's unexpected discovery and hurriedly come to recover the mirror. As Yomosaku refuses to hand it over to them, they kill him and take back the stolen mirror.

After the two villains have left, Yomosaku's daughter Onobu comes to see him and finds to her surprise that her father is dead. Hearing her cry, villagers including the sh˘ya Shichirobei come around her. Daishichi also arrives, pretending ignorance of what has happened here. Shichirobei suspects the evil Daishichi to be the murderer but Daishichi flatly denies the charge. Kanpei, another retainer at the service of Daishichi, comes to report his master that r˘nin has just murdered Daishichi's younger brother and buried his head in a forest in the neighborhood. Taking undue advantage of this information, Daishichi claims that this r˘nin must have killed Yomosaku also.

Act V: Sakai-mura
At the Village of Sakai
This scene is no more part of the current Kabuki repertoire [1].

In the house of Yomosaku his wife Osayo is ill in bed. Kanai Tanigor˘, who is given temporary lodging in the house, tells her that he was engaged as a child to a girl who he believes to be living in this village. Finding to his surprise that Osayo is the very mother of that girl, he asks Osayo about this girl's whereabouts. She is the elder of Osayo's two daughters (the younger being Onobu). She is now in Edo, where she works in the pleasure quarter of Shin-Yoshiwara as a high-ranking courtesan.

She had to sell herself eight years ago to free her father from imprisonment resulting from his failure to pay his tax. Without telling the truth, however, Osayo says to Tanigor˘ that her elder daughter is now at the service of an important samurai household in Edo.

After Tanigor˘ has gone out to buy some sake, villagers bring the body of Yomosaku to his house, followed by the sorrowful Onobu and Shichirobei. Daishichi and his retainers Kanpei and Tansuke also arrive. When Tanigor˘ comes back villagers attack him as Daishichi told them that Tanigor˘ is Yomosaku's murderer. Tanigor˘ denies the charge, but admits that he has indeed killed Daishichi's brother. On hearing this, Daishichi, Kanpei and Tansuke attack him but are easily overwhelmed by the r˘nin. Tanigor˘ kills Kanpei and Tansuke after he forced them to confess that Yomosaku was murdered by Daishichi.

J˘etsu, the r˘nin whom Tanigor˘ met in the forest, also comes to the house and promises to collaborate with Tanigor˘ to help the two sisters avenge their father's death.

Act VI: Kaminarimon
At the Kaminari Gate

Wishing to inform her sister of their father's violent death, Shinobu [3] started the Band˘ Kannon pilgrimage in order to travel up to Edo. The inaka musume from ďshű has safely arrived in Edo at the Asakusa Kannon but she does not know her sister's exact address. The only information she has is that her sister is a famous courtesan of the Shin-Yoshiwara pleasure district.

In front of a tea stall beside the famous Kaminari Gate of Asakusa Kannon, Shinobu asks a man whether he knows the name of a famous courtesan of Shin-Yoshiwara. As ill luck would have it, the man happens to be a moneylender named Kankur˘. Kankur˘ becomes on the spot Shinobu's self-styled guardian and Edo guide. In fact, he quickly sells her for 50 ry˘ to Daikokuya S˘roku, the proprietor of a famous house assignation in Shin-Yoshiwara.

Kankur˘ soon parts with his ill-gotten money. However, Mamez˘ Doj˘, another Asakusa hoodlum, approaches Kankur˘ in disguise of a guardian deity of the dead. He takes the 50 ry˘ away from him by threatening to take him immediately to the other world if he does not offer the money to him.

Act VII: Ageya
In the House of assignation
--> A dedicated summary: "Ageya"

Shinobu's elder sister is now a famous keisei named Miyagino. She works at the Daikokuya, an ageya owned by S˘roku to whom she sold herself eight years ago. Two shinz˘, Miyazato and Miyashiba, tell Miyagino that a new maid named Shinobu has just been engaged by S˘roku. The new maid is straight from the countryside and has said she has come to Edo to seek her elder sister. Miyagino is interested and sends the two to bring the girl to her.

When she arrives, Shinobu is very shy and awkward. As the two courtesans make fun of her, Miyagino sends them away and begins to question the girl closely. Shinobu's replies confirm Miyagino's suspicion and Miyagino reveals that the sought-after sister is herself, proving it by showing an identical omamori charm bag to the one in Shinobu's possession. Their joy at reunion, however, is cut short by the news which Shinobu brings. Their father, having opposed the malicious local magistrate Shiga Daishichi, was killed. Their sick mother shortly afterward died of grief. Miyagino, finding all her hopes of return to her family shattered by this news, pledges her support in seeking revenge and killing the akudaikan Shiga Daishichi.

By her side is a book containing the story of the Soga brothers and she tells her sister they must be as faithful to their mission as the famous pair. When the two sisters try to steal away from the ageya, S˘roku, their master, appears. He has overheard the whole story. Miyagino tries to attack him but S˘roku easily disarms her and then, taking up the book she had shown to Shinobu, he recites the part in which the two brothers seek help from their god-father. He tells the two girls that they have to train themselves in swordsmanship and advises Miyagino to find the young man she spoke of as her betrothed, now the r˘nin Kanai Tanigor˘, and ask for his support to fulfill their revenge (adauchi). Miyagino thanks S˘roku for his kindness.

Notes

[1] Scenes with Uji J˘etsu or Kanai Tanigor˘ were occasionally staged before WWII. After WWII and up to nowadays, only Act VII (and quite rarely Act VI as an opening scene) is staged. Act II, IV or V might be revived in the future to come at the National Theatre.

[2] Kanai or Kanae depending on the version.

[3] Onobu has changed her name to Shinobu.

The actors Arashi Rikan III (left) and Ichikawa Ebiz˘ V (right) playing the roles of Kanai Tanigor˘ and Uji Hy˘bunosuke J˘etsu in the drama "Go Taiheiki Shiraishi Banashi" in a mitate-e print made in 1861 by Utagawa Kunikazu

 
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