NEZUMI KOZď
   
Play titles Nezumi Komon Haru no Shingata  In Japanese
Nezumi Komon Azuma no Shingata  In Japanese
Nezumi Komon Harugi no Shingata  In Japanese
Nezumi Komon Harugi no Hinagata  In Japanese
Pattern for a Spring Outfit with a Fine Design of Mouse
Common titles Nezumi Koz˘  In Japanese
Nezumi Komon  In Japanese
Authors Kawatake Shinshichi II
Shinoda Sasuke
Takeshiba Genz˘ I
History

Kawatake Shinshichi II's drama "Nezumi Komon Haru no Shingata", commonly called "Nezumi Koz˘", was premiered in the 1st lunar month of 1857 at the Ichimuraza [casting]. It was based on a famous k˘dan created by Matsubayashi Hakuen II and about the Edo thief Nakamura Jirokichi, who was nickmaned the mouse kid (Nezumi Koz˘). This Robin Hood thief and the story of his life were very popular and he became the hero of many novels, dramas or movies.

"Nezumi Koz˘" was very popular and staged many times on Kabuki stages during the Meiji and Taish˘ eras. Since the end of World War II, we've found only 1 record of performances in ˘shibai of the classic version of this drama and 1 performance for a heavily-revised and modernized version (noda-ban). Here are the data for performances in T˘ky˘ during the last 4 imperial eras:

Period Performances
Meiji

29 performances in T˘ky˘:

  • 3 performances in ˘shibai with Onoe Kikugor˘ V in the role of Nezumi Koz˘: 2nd lunar month of 1869 at the Nakamuraza, January 1891 at the Kabukiza and January 1901 at the Kabukiza.
  • 26 performances in koshibai.
  • Taish˘

    17 performances in T˘ky˘:

  • 2 performances in ˘shibai with Onoe Kikugor˘ VI in the role of Nezumi Koz˘: February 1916 and February 1925 at the Ichimuraza.
  • 15 performances in koshibai.
  • Sh˘wa

    3 performances in T˘ky˘ in koshibai, 2 during the 1930s and 1 in 1959.
     

    Heisei

    1 performance in T˘ky˘:

  • Revival in March 1993 at the National Theatre with Onoe Kikugor˘ VII in the role of Nezumi Koz˘.
  • Structure

    The original drama was in 5 acts.

    Key words Asakusa
    Asakusa Okura
    Bokusha
    Fukagawa
    Kago
    Kagokaki
    Kamuro
    Katanaya
    Kuruwa
    Machi Bugy˘
    Miuri
    Nakamura Jirokichi
    Nezumi Koz˘
    ďkawa
    Sewamono
    Shijimi
    Shijimi-uri
    Shinjű
    Shiranami
    Shiranamimono
    Shirasu
    Suimon
    Sumidagawa
    Tomioka Hachimangű
    T˘zoku
    Tsujiban
    Yashiki
    Summary

    Act I, scene 1: Tomioka Hachiman
    At the Tomioka Hachiman Shrine

    The scene is set at the Tomioka Hachiman Shrine in Fukagawa. A group of samurai are attending their lord on a hunting expedition. Hiraoka Gonnai, one of the samurai, is in love with the courtesan Omoto, but she is in love with a young man named Shinsuke who works in a katanaya. Gonnai has a plan to discredit Shinsuke and to get the money to ransom Omoto. Shinsuke appears with a valuable sword that Gonnai has said his lord wishes to buy. Gonnai hands over a purse containing the equivalent of one hundred ry˘ and Shinsuke gives him the sword on appraisal. Alone, Omoto and Shinsuke meet and she tells him that Gonnai plans to make her his wife and asks for Shinsuke to save her. Just then, an old woman [1] comes and says that Shinsuke stole a hundred ry˘ from her. A passing official [2] confirms her story since she precisely describes the contents of the purse that Shinsuke is carrying and gives her the money saying that Shinsuke is lucky that his life was spared. Gonnai returns, says that his master does not want the sword and asks for the money back. Since Shinsuke cannot return the money, Gonnai keeps the sword, leaving Shinsuke to take the blame for the loss of both the money and the valuable sword.

    Act II, scene 1: Inage Yashiki Heisoto Tsujiban
    A Watchhouse on the Outer Wall of the Inage Mansion

    Omitsu is the daughter of Sugita Shuzen, the head of the guards of the Inage mansion, a samurai of some importance. But she is in love with a poor young boy named Yonosuke, the son of Yosobŕ, the watchman outside the samurai mansion. The watchman depends on the kindness of the head of guards of the mansion for his position, and he and his son make straw sandals on the side, barely making a living. Omitsu arrives with her nurse, anxious to spend time with Yonosuke. Yonosuke is famous for the care and concern he shows for his father, and has received some money and clothing for Yosobŕ from a kind patron. Yonosuke does not realize that she is in love with him but his father sees how the young girl feels about him and insists that Yonosuke see Omitsu back safely to the mansion.

    Some palanquin bearers (kagokaki) are involved in an argument with a samurai servant who says that they ran into him. They take him away for a drink to placate him leaving their customer to wait in the palanquin. Shinsuke and Omoto come to commit suicide since he can find no way to repay the hundred ry˘. They each try to persuade the other not to die, but finally, in a reaffirmation of their feelings for each other, decide to die together (shinjű). The man in the palanquin [3] decides to help them and asks them to wait.

    Act II, scene 2: Inage Yashiki Genkan
    The Entrance to the Inage Mansion

    All are on their guard because of rumors of a thief that only breaks into the mansions of samurai, and Sugita Shuzen (Omitsu's father) instructs them all to be careful. Unfortunately, a priest whose duty is to serve tea is too sleepy to keep guard and thinks that it is his master who beats him. In fact, it is Nezumi Koz˘ who has reversed his jacket and is now in the costume of a thief.

    Act II, scene 3: Inage Yashiki Moto no Tsujiban
    Back at the Watchhouse of the Inage Mansion

    Nezumi Koz˘ gives the young couple the money. The old watchman has overheard and is moved, but asks the thief to kill him since he has failed in his duty, and betrayed the kindness of Sugita Shuzen. Nezumi Koz˘ refuses to kill him and the old man reveals that Yonosuke has an older brother that he abandoned as a baby because a soothsayer said that the child would become a thief, now the boy would be about the same age as this thief. Nezumi Koz˘ realizes that the man is actually his father and the two have a tearful meeting even though he does not reveal his identity.

    Act III, scene 1: Daikokuya Matsuyama Heya
    Matsuyama's Chamber at the Daikokuya House of Assignation

    Act III, scene 2: Daikokuya Matsuyama Heya
    At the Parlor of the Daikokuya

    Act III, scene 3: Daikokuya Heisoto
    The Outer Wall of the Daikokuya

    Act III, scene 4: Okura Shita
    Below the Rice Storehouse

    At the Daikokuya, a house of assignation in the countryside, Nezumi Koz˘'s lover Matsuyama is serving as a courtesan. She had sold herself (miuri) as a courtesan to buy him medicine when he was sick on a journey. This is the first time that the two have been reunited. But Nezumi Koz˘ has been recognized by a couple of men, who eventually extort some money from him. Unfortunately, this is all the money that he had to escape. Matsuyama says that she will come up with the money and decides to steal it from her patron. Nezumi Koz˘ sees her steal and, for the first time, reveals his identity as a thief. He also reveals his Robin Hood philosophy. He may be a thief, but will never bring harm to people, which is why he only steals from wealthy daimy˘. Matsuyama reveals that she always knew Nezumi Koz˘'s true identity and says that she came from a good family but always preferred the low life to the one she was born to. Matsuyama is caught stealing and likely to be executed with Nezumi Koz˘ soon to follow. Suddenly the scene changes to a pleasure boat on the ď River below the Asakusa Okura warehouse in Asakusa. It has all been Nezumi Koz˘'s dream, but perhaps a prophetic one.

    Act IV, scene 1: Inaba K˘z˘ Uchi
    At Inaba K˘z˘'s House

    Nezumi Koz˘ lives right outside Edo disguised as a bokusha named Inaba K˘z˘. Okuma, the old woman who swindled the money in the first act is Koz˘'s mother, the woman that raised him after the baby was found and brought him up to be a thief.

    Omitsu has gone in search of Yonosuke. Okuma encountered her on the road and pretends to give her kind advice. In fact, she is planning to sell the girl to a brothel and hides her in the closet while she goes to settle the deal. Koz˘ returns with the young shijimi-uri Sankichi, who works hard to support himself and his ailing mother. He has an older sister, Omoto, who was sold into prostitution by their dead father, a drunkard and a gambler. Sankichi has come to the house of the bokusha to find the whereabouts of a special thief, who gave Omoto and Shinsuke a hundred ry˘ to save their lives. Unfortunately for the couple, the coins were stamped with the seal of the Inage mansion. Shinsuke and Omoto were arrested under suspicion of theft and so far nobody has believed their story about a kind thief. Inaba K˘z˘ reassures the boy and says that this thief will appear in a few days.

    A samurai appears. He is Honj˘ Soheiji, a retainer of Sugita Shuzen. After the theft in the mansion, the head of guards has had to prove his devotion to his duty and has been ruthless in his investigation of the crime. Yosobŕ, the watchman, has been arrested on suspicion of being an accomplice of the thief while his son Yonosuke tried to save his father by stealing the money but was caught and arrested as well. The samurai is in search of his master's daughter Omitsu who has run away somewhere. Inaba K˘z˘ reassures him and sends the samurai away. Inaba K˘z˘ discovers Omitsu's hair ornament on the floor. He has his servant take her to the samurai so that she can return home as quickly as possible. Alone, Inaba K˘z˘ realizes that his act of kindness has brought nothing but disaster and plans to turn himself in to the authorities immediately. At this point the courtesan Matsuyama and her kamuro Midori appear. She has escaped the pleasure quarters (kuruwa) in search of her lover Nezumi Koz˘ and is very ill, one of her symptoms being severe night blindness. She begs for help in finding the bokusha because she is sure that he is her lover. Inaba K˘z˘ does not want to identify himself since he intends to turn himself in. He disguises his voice and says that the bokusha left on a long journey and gives them some money. Thinking that they are now alone, Matsuyama is heartbroken. She thanks the child for taking such good care of her and reveals that she is actually her child by Nezumi Koz˘, a fact that she kept secret because of the rules of the kuruwa. But she recognizes Nezumi Koz˘'s voice and hides. Okuma appears demanding to know why he let Omitsu escape. Her accusations get crueler and crueler and as he restrains her, he inadvertently stabs her. Suddenly it is dawn and in the morning light Matsuyama sees that it is indeed her lover and they have a tearful reunion before he rushes to the authorities to rescue the people he has gotten into trouble.

    Act V, scene 1: Bugy˘jo Shirasu
    At the Court of Justice

    The final act is set at the court of Justice (shirasu). The case of Nezumi Koz˘ is being investigated by a pair of officials, Ishigaki Bansaku and Hayase Yajűr˘. Hayase Yajűr˘ is merciful and interested in justice but Ishigaki Bansaku, the brother of Hiraoka Gonnai, is only interested in helping his brother who was in love with Omoto. Nezumi Koz˘ appears and confesses to all his crimes, allowing all the suspects to be released. He finally tells Yosobŕ that he is his long-lost son. Ishigaki Bansaku confronts Nezumi Koz˘ and contemptuously kicks him in the face. Nezumi Koz˘ is furious. He will cooperate with justice but not with unjust officials and he suddenly fights his way out of the court room.

    Act V, scene 2: Bugy˘jo Urate Suimon
    At the Sluice Gate in the Backyard of the Court

    Nezumi Koz˘ escapes and there is a fight in the snow. He says that he could not accept being kicked in the face by Ishigaki Bansaku. He will disappear for sure, but he promises that he will commit no more crimes from now on. His one wish is to die at the just hands of Hayase Yajűr˘. At the very end, Hayase Yajűr˘ appears but quickly extinguishes his lantern to let Nezumi Koz˘ escape.

    Trivia

    This drama was written by Kawatake Mokuami, commonly called Shiranami Sakusha (the Bandit Playwright), based on a story written by Matsubayashi Hakuen II, commonly called Dorobo Hakuen (Hakuen the Thief), and it was performed by Ichikawa Kodanji IV, commonly called Shiranami Yakusha (the Bandit Actor). Three talents who knew how to make amazing shiranamimono.

    In August 2003, a noda-ban version of "Nezumi Koz˘" was staged at the Kabukiza with Nakamura Kankur˘ V in the role of Nezumi Koz˘. It goes without saying that it was remotely related to Kawatake Mokuami's masterpiece.

    Notes

    [1] We will all later learn that this old woman is Koz˘'s mother Okuma in disguise.

    [2] It goes without saying that this official is also an imposter on Gonnai's payroll.

    [3] This man is none other than the famous Edo thief Nezumi Koz˘ in disguise.

    Ichikawa Kodanji IV playing the role of Inaba K˘z˘ in the drama "Nezumi Komon Haru no Shingata", which was staged in the 1st lunar month of 1857 at the Ichimuraza (print made by Utagawa Toyokuni III)

    Prints & Illustrations

     
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