ďISHI SAIGO NO ICHINICHI
   
Play title ďishi Saigo no Ichinichi  In Japanese
Genroku Chűshingura  In Japanese
Author Mayama Seika
History

"ďishi Saigo no Ichinichi", the 10th and last play of Mayama Seika's cycle "Genroku Chűshingura", was premiered in February 1934 at the Kabukiza [casting]. It was staged for the first time in ďsaka and in Ky˘to in March 1934, at the Naniwaza from the 3rd to 16th of March [casting] and at the Minamiza from the 17th to the 27th of March [casting].

Structure

"ďishi Saigo no Ichinichi" is made up of two acts, 4 scenes.

Key words Adauchi
Akabane Genz˘
Ak˘
Ak˘ R˘shi
Chikamatsu Kanroku
Genroku
Gishigeki
Horibe Yahei
Isogai Jűr˘zaemon
Kira Yoshihisa
ďishi Kuranosuke
ďishi Sezaemon
Rekishigeki
R˘nin
Seppuku
Shinkabuki
Tominomori Sukeemon
Yada Gor˘emon
Introduction

"ďishi Saigo no Ichinichi" is the final play in the "Genroku Chűshingura" cycle. Previously, Lord Asano of Ak˘ for an attack on Lord Kira K˘zuke-no-Suke - an attack thought to have been deliberately provoked. His loyal retainers have bided their time, but have ultimately taken revenge for their lord's death by killing Lord Kira in an organised vendetta. Subsequently, they have given themselves up to the authorities. They are now in custody, being held under house arrest at four different lords' mansions, and awaiting their sentence. The play dramatises the last day of their lives.

This introduction was written by Marion Hudson (2014).

Summary

Act I, scene 1: One of the R˘nin' Rooms in the Hosokawa Mansion

Seventeen of the loyal retainers are being held at the mansion of Lord Hosokawa, including their leader, ďishi Kuranosuke. Lord Hosokawa is the most sympathetic of the daimyos holding the r˘nin in custody, and in consequence they are being treated extremely well, even receiving medical attention. They are aware that their act has resulted in them achieving celebrity status in the world at large, but Kuranosuke reminds them that legally they have committed a criminal offence, and therefore must remain humble. They fully expect to be sentenced to death, but one of them, a young man called Isogai Jűr˘zaemon, seems to have reservations about dying. Kuranosuke suspects that he is in love.

Lord Hosokawa's fifteen year old son, Naiki, requests permission to visit the r˘nin - a great honour since they are officially criminals. Kuranosuke protests that such a meeting would be inappropriate, but Naiki brushes aside such niceties and enters. He congratulates them on achieving their objective, and brings Kuranosuke news that his son Chikara, who is being held at a different mansion, has recovered from the cold that has been troubling him since the night of the vendetta. He asks for some token by which to remember such loyal retainers, and Kuranosuke advises him never to forget his first impulse, as this is probably free from base considerations such as gain or loss. The youth promises never to forget his meeting with Kuranosuke and the r˘nin.

Act I, scene 2: The Room of Horiuchi Den'emon

This is the central scene of the play, and takes place in the room of Horiuchi Den'emon, an elderly retainer who is one of those in charge of looking after the r˘nin. Kuranosuke is visiting him, and is offered tea. Whilst it is being prepared, Den'emon tells him that public opinion is in their favour, and there is a petition to the Sh˘gun for a pardon for all of the retainers. Indeed, even the Sh˘gun himself is seeking a lenient punishment. Kuranosuke is unmoved - but says he would like the promised tea. It is served by a young page called Shizuma - who is, in reality, a young woman called Omino, as Kuranosuke quickly discovers. She is the daughter of an unfairly dismissed Samurai of the Hosokawa house, and was promised in marriage to Jűr˘zaemon, the lovelorn r˘nin of the first scene. However, on the day of their formal betrothal (just before the vendetta took place) he had disappeared. Omino now wishes to meet her fiancÚ again to discover whether she was merely being used in order to allay suspicions, or if Jűr˘zaemon has genuine feelings for her. Her father, too, is heartbroken by the betrayal.

Kuranosuke refuses to bring her and Jűr˘zaemon together. He realises from questioning her that Jűr˘zaemon did indeed have true feelings for her, but he is afraid that such a meeting will detract from Jűr˘zaemon's spiritual preparation for death, and that he will falter at the last. However, Omino finally convinces him to put aside his scruples, just as the arrival of the Sh˘gun's representatives bearing the r˘nin' sentence is announced. Kuranosuke summons Jűr˘zaemon - who at first denies that he knows Omino at all. He is very anxious to discover what his fate will be, and begins to lose control. Kuranosuke reminds him that he has been keeping a koto plectrum next to his heart - the one Omino used when playing at their engagement party. Omino at once realises that his feelings for her were really genuine, and Jűr˘zaemon asks her to tell her father that he is indeed his son-in-law.

Act I, scene 3: The Audience Room of the Hosokawa Mansion

The loyal retainers assemble to hear their sentence, whilst Lord Hosokawa and his son listen to the proceedings from behind a screen - a high honour for the r˘nin. For disregarding the law of the land and committing such a serious crime they are all sentenced to commit seppuku. Kuranosuke is prompted to express gratitude on behalf of the group for being allowed to die an honourable death. But he is clearly not satisfied. Araki Jűzaemon, the Sh˘gun's representative, then speaks as a private individual, and informs Kuranosuke that the cowardly behaviour of Lord Kira's son on the night of the vendetta has led to the downfall of his house. He has been placed under house arrest, his property confiscated, and the name of his house abolished. Kuranosuke and the others are delighted that justice has been done. Now they can meet their lord in the next world without shame.

Act I, scene 4: Another Part of the Mansion, Later in the Day

In her grief, Omino has stabbed herself in order to remain faithful to Jűr˘zaemon. As the r˘nin file out to their fate, past the room where she is dying, Kuranosuke instructs them to proceed without him. Horiuchi Den'emon tells Omino she has acted too rashly, as Lord Hosokawa, moved by hearing her story, plans to reinstate her father. But Omino says her father will be unable to live when he hears of her death. They have sacrificed themselves for the r˘nin.

Kuranosuke shows Jűr˘zaemon the dying Omino. She tells him to go to his death calmly. He assures her that he will soon be following her, as the seppuku ceremony is starting. Kuranosuke sends Jűr˘zaemon ahead - he himself must wait until last to satisfy himself that all the r˘nin have proceeded correctly. Omino expires, and Kuranosuke's name is called. His first impulse has been accomplished, and he leaves to die as the play ends.

This summary was written by Marion Hudson (2014).

Kawarazaki Kunitar˘ V (bottom/left) and Kawarazaki Ch˘jűr˘ IV (top/right) playing the roles of Omino and ďishi Kuranosuke in the drama "ďishi Saigo no Ichinichi", which was staged in November 1943 at the Shinbashi Enbuj˘

 
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