KUROTEGUMI SUKEROKU
   
Play title Kurotegumi Kuruwa no Tatehiki  In Japanese
Shinobu-ga-Oka Koi no Kusemono  In Japanese
Edo Zakura Kiyomizu Seigen  In Japanese
Authors Kawatake Shinshichi II
Shinoda Sasuke
Takeshiba Genz˘
Umezawa S˘roku
Nagawa Harusuke II
History

The play "Edo Zakura Kiyomizu Seigen" was staged in Edo in the 3rd lunar month of 1858 at the Ichimuraza. It was a mix of a seigen-sakurahimemono (ichibanme) and a sukerokumono (nibanme) [casting]. This second part was a parody of the famous drama "Sukeroku" written in a more realistic style especially for the actor Ichikawa Kodanji IV, who played the roles of Seigen and Sukeroku. The actor wanted to perform the role of Sukeroku in the eponymous drama but was prevented to do it because of his short size. The drama include a Kiyomoto-accompanied michiyuki which was entitled "Shinobu-ga-Oka Koi no Kusemono" ("Appearing Concealed in the Guise of Love in Shinobu-ga-Oka"). There is a pun in the title as the place name Shinobu-ga-Oka (a real place in Edo/T˘ky˘ near the Shinobazu pond) can be translated as the Hill of Concealment.

The scenes with the Priest Seigen and Princess Sakura went into oblivion and the scenes with the street-knight Sukeroku and the courtesan Agemaki formed a new play, which was entitled "Kurotegumi Kuruwa no Tatehiki" and was staged for the first time in March 1899 at the Meijiza [casting].

Structure

The current standard version of "Kurotegumi Kuruwa no Tatehiki" is made up of 3 acts (4 scenes).

Key words Asakusa
Bant˘
Daijin
Ennosuke Shijűhassen
Ennosuke Shin'enshutsu Jűshű
Geta
Kakikae Ky˘gen
Kinokuniya Bunzaemon
Kiseru
Kizewamono
Kuruwa
Ky˘kaku
Miuke
Nakanoch˘
Otokodate
R˘nin
Sewamono
Shin'yoshiwara
Shirozake
Sukerokumono
Summary

Act I, Scene 1: Shiratama Gonkur˘
The Courtesan Shiratama and the Head Clerk Gonkur˘

This scene includes the famous Kiyomoto-accompanied michiyuki "Shinobu-ga-Oka Koi no Kusemono".

Shiratama, a courtesan belonging to the Miuraya house in the Shin'yoshiwara pleasures quarter, has fled her kuruwa. Many men have been dispatched to hunt and catch her and bring her back. The gossips say that she has eloped with a man named Ushiwaka Denji.

Gonkur˘, the bant˘ of a money-lender, comes furtively to join Shiratama at the place where she is hiding from her pursuers. Gonkur˘ and Shiratama plan is to get away from Edo and settle somewhere far away, just the two of them. The practical Shiratama tells her lover that they will need a lot of money for that purpose. Gonkur˘ shows her a packet of 50 ry˘ which he has stolen from his employer. He holds it out for Shiratama but it is quickly grabbed by someone from behind. Then the unfortunate bant˘ Gonkur˘ is thrown into a nearby pond. Shiratama smiles at the attacker who is none other than Ushiwaka Denji. She congratulates him on a job well done. They had planned it all out beforehand, and everything has worked out perfectly. Unfortunately for the elopers, the pursuers close in on them. Denji can escape but Shiratama is dragged back to the kuruwa.

Act II, Scene 1: Shin'yoshiwara Nakanoch˘
On the Nakanoch˘ Main Street in Shin'yoshiwara

A group of men, who are fencing disciples of the r˘nin Torii Shinzaemon, stroll by in the pleasures quarter. They are in the mood to make some trouble. They finally spot a potential victim, an old man named Shinbŕ, who sells shirozake. The men order cups of the drink and they keep on ordering until Shinbŕ's keg is empty. But when he tries to collect payment, the ruffians angrily abuse him for daring to speak to them in such a manner. They roughly drag him away to give him a beating. They are stopped by Sukeroku who has witnessed the incident and has come to help the old man. When the ruffians hear that it is none other than the famous otokodate Sukeroku, leader of the powerful Kurotegumi gang (the "black hands" gang in English) that confronts them, they are properly impressed and scurry off after making their apologies to Shinbŕ as demanded by Sukeroku. After they have left, Sukeroku offers some money to the old man to compensate for the loss. They start to talk together and Shinbŕ explains Sukeroku that he was formerly a farmer but he had been forced to sell his daughter Omaki into service as a courtesan in Shin'yoshiwara in order to pay back his debts. His wife's long illness has driven him to borrow money to a loan shark in order to buy some medicine and he had no other option than selling her daughter. Unfortunately, the money he has received for his daughter was stolen on his way home. A thief tried to make away with the money when an elderly samurai had stepped in to help Shinbŕ. But a younger samurai cut down the older samurai from behind and stole the money. Sukeroku is astounded at the tale, because Shinbŕ's daughter is the famous courtesan Agemaki ů who is none other than Sukeroku's lover. Moreover, Sukeroku's own father had been murdered at the same spot, where Shinbŕ was robbed. He suspects that the older man in Shinbŕ's story was his father. The other man must then be his father's murderer, and must be in possession of the precious sword which had been stolen from his father at that time. Sukeroku is aimlessly seeking the man who has stolen the sword. It explains why he purposely picks fights with any possible suspect in order to force the other into drawing his sword so that he could check the blade to see whether it was his father's sword or not.

Kinokuniya Bunzaemon is a respected daijin in the kuruwa, a prosperous merchant who looks favorably on Sukeroku. He is aware that Sukeroku is a man picking up fights for no obvious reason. He comes out of a nearby chaya and spots Sukeroku. This unexpected meeting gives him the opportunity to admonish him, saying that he would be better if he learns how to control himself. Then he takes Sukeroku's sword and seals it so that he won't be able to draw the blade from the scabbard without breaking the seal. This is Bunzaemon's strategy to help curbing Sukeroku's impulsiveness.

Act III, Scene 1: Miuraya K˘shisaki
In front of the Miuraya lattices

Some courtesans are gossiping about Agemaki and her dislike of the fencing master Torii Shinzaemon. Sukeroku soon appears on the stage. He was called to go to the Miuraya and is pulled along by two little kamuro and protesting that he has some business to do elsewhere.

At this point Shinzaemon makes his appearance on stage. He is accompanied by his henchmen. Shinzaemon starts the discussion with his enemy by bringing up the episode in which Sukeroku humiliated his disciples by forcing them to apologize to Shinbŕ. He feels deeply humiliated through the humiliation of his disciples and, therefore, he demands retribution. He wants to give a good beating to Sukeroku. He wants a beating without Sukeroku lifting a hand to protect himself. Shinzaemon thinks this is the only way for the two men to be even. Sukeroku is about to draw his sword but he notices Bunzaemon's seal. He decides to restrain himself.

Shinzaemon seizes this opportunity to humiliate Sukeroku by offering a kiseru with his foot and then holding up to Sukeroku's face his geta suspended on the end of his sword. Sukeroku stay still and wordless. He keeps his temper under control and is lucky enough to inspect the blade on which the geta is suspended. The sword is unmistakably his father's precious one. Shinzaemon has noticed that Sukeroku has recognized the sword. He hurriedly returns the sword to its scabbard while his disciples gather round to defend their master from any attack from Sukeroku.

Agemaki places herself between the two men, saying that she will take the blows herself for the sake of the man she loves. Shinzaemon retorts that he will redeem Agemaki's contract and free her from her house of assignation (miuke). He will make her his own mistress. However, he is informed by the mistress of the Miuraya that Agemaki has already been ransomed by Kinokuniya Bunzaemon. The rich merchant was impressed by Sukeroku's attitude, who has kept by his word and has successfully controlled his temper even under Shinzaemon's insulting provocation. Bunzaemon rewards Sukeroku by offering him Agemaki's freedom.

Act III, Scene 2: Hanagata Rokkakud˘
At the Hexgonal Shrine in Komagata

This scene is set at night-time in near the hexgonal shrine in Komagata, a district in Asakusa. Sukeroku, with the Bunzaemon's seal removed from his sword, is waiting in the dark to ambush Torii Shinzaemon. Presently his enemy leaves the Miuraya from the rear entrance, accompanied by only one henchman. Sukeroku suddenly attacks Shinzaemon, and after a stiff fight he finally avenges his father's death by killing Shinzaemon and regaining possession of the precious family sword. He has successfully vanquished the enemy but he has to run away as he is pursued by a group of torite. Cornered, he jumps into a huge emergency tub of water and submerges himself in an attempt to hide. He tries to escape but is cornered one more time. Agemaki comes to the rescue and she skillfully succeeds in hiding him under her silken outer garment.

This summary would have not been possible without the help of Sekidobashi Sakura!

Trivia

The roles of Gonkur˘ and Sukeroku can be played by the same actor using the hayagawari techniques. Ichikawa Sadanji I was the first actor to perform both roles in 1899. Ichimura Uzaemon XV was the first actor to play both Ushiwaka Denji and Gonkur˘. Ichikawa Ennosuke III revised the drama and performed three roles: Gonkur˘, Denji and Sukeroku. He also used honmizu on stage in the final scene when Sukeroku jumps into a huge emergency tub of water.

The actors Sawamura Gennosuke IV, Ichikawa Sadanji I and Ichikawa Gonjűr˘ playing the roles of the courtesan Miuraya Agemaki, Kurotegumi no Sukeroku and Torii Shinzaemon in the drama "Kurotegumi Kuruwa no Tatehiki", which was staged in March 1899 at the Meijiza (print made by Toyohara Kunichika)

Prints & Illustrations

 
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