The traditional two programs for the New Year Grand Kabuki at the Kabukiza,
which celebrate the first month of the 3-generation K˘raiya shűmei (K˘raiya Sandai Shűmei) of Matsumoto Haku˘ II, Matsumoto K˘shir˘ X and Ichikawa Somegor˘ VIII.
Izari no Adauchi: this is an act of a jidaimono (history play)
set in the 16th century. After losing his elder brother in a surprise attack, Iinuma Katsugor˘ (Nakamura Kankur˘) marries
Tsukumo Shinzaemon's daughter, Hatsuhana (Nakamura Shichinosuke). While in pursuit of his brother's foe, Takiguchi K˘zuke (Kataoka Ainosuke),
Katsugor˘ becomes crippled by a disease. Hatsuhana must pull him along in a cart all the way to Hakone where
their enemy now resides. K˘zuke is in love with Hatsuhana, but she does not return his affections.
K˘zuke abducts her, but she manages to escape, and goes to Shiraito Waterfall. There, standing under the
freezing cascade, she prays to the deity of Hakone Shrine for Katsugor˘'s recovery. Miraculously,
his legs are cured. However, just at that moment, his footman Fudesuke (Kataoka Ainosuke) comes carrying Hatsuhana's
head and says that she was killed by K˘zuke! The woman who returned earlier was, in fact,
Hatsuhana's spirit. Now that he has recovered from the disease, Katsugor˘ makes up his mind to find K˘zuke
and to avenge the deaths of his brother and his wife. Featuring also Kataoka Hidetar˘ in the role of Hatsuhana's mother Sawarabi.
Shichi Fukujin: This is a dance suitable for the New Year. The Seven Gods of Good Fortune (shichi fukujin),
namely Ebisu (Nakamura Matagor˘), Benzaiten (Nakamura Senjaku), Jur˘jin (Band˘ Yajűr˘), Fukurokuju (Ichikawa Monnosuke), Hotei (Ichikawa Komaz˘), Bishamon (Nakamura Shikan) and Daikokuten (Nakamura Ganjir˘), are said to bring fortune and luck to people.
They appear on a treasure ship and dance celebrating the New Year.
Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami:
(Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy)
Sugawara no Michizane (known in this play as Kan Sh˘j˘) was a high-ranking imperial court
minister who was a brilliant calligrapher and scholar. But political rivalries forced him to
be exiled to distant Kyűshű, where he died. After Michizane's death, a series of disasters
in the imperial capital were attributed to his angry spirit and he was appeased by being
made a god known as Tenjin, and he is now revered as the god of learning. His story was
dramatized as an epic puppet drama in 1746 and the play remains a favorite in both Kabuki
and the Bunraku puppet theatre.
(The Tug-of-War Over the Carriage)
There are three brothers serving three masters. Ume˘maru serves Kan Sh˘j˘.
Sakuramaru serves imperial prince Tokiyo. Kan Sh˘j˘ has been sent into exile and Tokiyo
is in disgrace. Ume˘maru (Nakamura Kankur˘) and Sakuramaru (Nakamura Shichinosuke) lament the disaster that has overtaken their masters.
But they hear that the carriage of Fujiwara no Shihei (Band˘ Yajűr˘) is coming. Shihei is the villain
that has sent Kan Sh˘j˘ into exile. But when the two brothers confront the carriage,
they are stopped by their brother Matsu˘maru (Matsumoto K˘shir˘), who serves Shihei.
Nonetheless, they attack the carriage and are driven back by the magical powers of Shihei.
The three brothers agree to meet again at the seventieth birthday of their father, Shiratayű.
(The Village School)
Genz˘ (Nakamura Baigyoku) and his wife Tonami (Nakamura Jakuemon) run a small school and are protecting Kan Sh˘j˘'s son
and heir, saying that he is their son. However, word has gotten out Kan Sh˘j˘'s son is
there and Genz˘ has been ordered to behead him. Moreover, Matsu˘maru (Matsumoto Haku˘) is to come to inspect
the head. Their only alternative is to kill one of the other students as a substitute,
but all of the students are farmer's children who could never pass for the son of a
court aristocrat. However, a new boy arrives that day and Genz˘ makes the terrible decision
to kill him in the place of his lord. As it turns out, Matsu˘maru has sent his own son to
be sacrificed, because of his family's long loyalty to Kan Sh˘j˘. But he must face the most
terrible situation for a father, inspecting the head of his own son and lying when he
says that it is the genuine head of the son of Kan Sh˘j˘.
Finally Matsu˘maru reveals his true feelings to Genz˘ and he and his wife Chiyo (Nakamura Kaishun) mourn their
dead son. Featuring also Living National Treasure Sakata T˘jűr˘, Living National Treasure Nakamura T˘z˘ and Ichikawa Sadanji as Sonoo-no-Mae, the farmer Gosaku and Shund˘ Genba.
"Futatsu Ch˘ch˘" means "two butterflies" and also comes from the fact that
two sum˘ wrestlers who play important
roles in the full length play have names beginning with "ch˘":
Ch˘kichi and Ch˘gor˘. In order to help his master Yamazakiya Yogor˘ (Kataoka Ainosuke) buy out the contract of the
beautiful Azuma (Nakamura Shichinosuke), the senior wrestler Nuregami Ch˘gor˘ throws a match,
letting the younger wrestler Hanaregoma Ch˘kichi win, hoping to get his help.
But Ch˘kichi loses his temper and the two end up competing in a test of pride.
Starring popular actor Nakamura Shikan as Ch˘gor˘ and Kataoka Ainosuke as Ch˘kichi.
K˘j˘: the close relationship between the actors and the audience
is shown by these stage announcements, lavish ceremonies to commemorate various
important events. In this case, all the stars of the cast assemble to celebrate the shűmei of
Matsumoto Haku˘ II, Matsumoto K˘shir˘ X and Ichikawa Somegor˘ VIII.
Kanjinch˘: probably the most popular Kabuki play today,
it includes dance, comedy and the heart-warming pathos of a band of heroes
during their last days. Disguised as a band of traveling priests the
fugitive general Yoshitsune and his small band of retainers are stopped at a
road barrier. They escape only through the quick thinking of the head retainer,
a warrior priest named Musashib˘ Benkei, who improvises the text of an elaborate imperial
decree. Having escaped danger Benkei and the others describe their days of
glory and hardships on the road to escape in a moving dance.
This program stars Matsumoto K˘shir˘ in the role of Benkei,
with Ichikawa Somegor˘ and Living National Treasure Nakamura Kichiemon as Yoshitsune and the barrier keeper Togashi.
Featuring also Nakamura Shikan, Nakamura Ganjir˘, Kataoka Ainosuke and Nakamura Karoku in the roles of Yoshitsune's retainers.
Aioi Jishi: shishi (mythical lion-like spirits) are
usually thought of as vigorous masculine creatures, but when shishi dances were first adapted for Kabuki
from the classical N˘ theatre, they were danced by actors portraying an elegant, feminine atmosphere.
This dance is one of the earliest in the genre and stars onnagata female role specialists.
Featuring Nakamura Senjaku and Kataoka Takatar˘.
(The Three Dolls)
The characters in this graceful dance are not actually dolls, but are
three characters that are often depicted with dolls, a courtesan (Nakamura Jakuemon),
a handsome youth (Nakamura Ganjir˘) and a samurai footman (Nakamura Matagor˘).
Sources: Earphone Guide Website or Sh˘chiku Kabuki Official Website