KITSUNEBI
   
Play title Honch˘ Nijűshik˘  In Japanese
Authors Chikamatsu Hanji
Miyoshi Sh˘raku
Takeda Inaba
Takeda Heishichi
Takemoto Saburobei II
History

The play "Honch˘ Nijűshik˘" was originally written for the puppet theater (Bunraku) and staged for the first time in the 1st lunar month of 1766 in ďsaka at the Takemotoza. It was adapted for Kabuki a few months later and was produced by both Nakamura Utaemon I and Mimasu Daigor˘ I in ďsaka at the Naka no Shibai [casting]. The dance "Kitsunebi" was originally Gidayű-based. A Tokiwazu-based version was also created (still in the repertoire). The role of Princess Yaegaki is also often performed in ningy˘buri.

Structure

The dance "Kitsunebi", which is nowadays frequently performed, either with "Jusshuk˘" or as an independent item , is the last scene of act IV of "Honch˘ Nijűshik˘".

Key words Gidayű Ky˘gen
Giri/Ninj˘
Sanhime
Ningy˘buri
Kitsunebi
Summary

Princess Yaegaki is the heroine of the fateful tale "Honch˘ Nijűshik˘". The story revolves around the feuding Takeda and Uesugi families; Princess Yaegaki is a daughter of the Uesugi family, and her lover, Katsuyori, is the son and heir of the rival Takeda family.

During bitter civil wars of the mid-sixteenth century, the Ashikaga Sh˘gun was assassinated. The two families called halt to their feuding so that they could hunt for the murderer. Each family had pledged to kill their family heir if they were unable to find the assassin. The search was unsuccessful. However when the pledges were carried out, a loyal samurai was substituted for Katsuyori, the Takeda heir. Katsuyori entered the Uesugi castle in disguise, intending to recover a magical war helmet that was a Takeda heirloom. Princess Yaegakiĺs father secretly recognized Katsuyori and ordered him on a mission where he could be ambushed (cf "Jusshuk˘").

Princess Yaegaki learned of her loverĺs danger but was prevented from warning him by an icy lake outside her fatherĺs castle that she was afraid to cross. She prayed to the god of the Suwa shrine who sent a white fox to protect her. As shown in the print, the princess carries a magical horned helmet, decorated with flowing white hair, as she follows the magic foxfires across the frozen lake to save her lover from sure death. Her furious dance as the fox spirit possesses her is the climax of both Bunraku and Kabuki performances of the story.

Courtesy of Carolyn Staley Prints (all rights reserved)

The actor Onoe Kikugor˘ V playing the role of Princess Yaegaki in the "Kitsunebi" scene of the drama "Honch˘ Nijűshik˘", which was staged at the Kabukiza in January 1894 (print made by Toyohara Kunichika)

A great print of Yoshitaki:
The actor ďtani Tomomatsu playing the role of Princess Yaegaki in the "Kitsunebi" dance, which was staged in the 3rd lunar month of 1865 in ďsaka at the Chikugo no Shibai (print courtesy of V.)

 
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