OKUNI TO GOHEI
   
Play title Okuni to Gohei  In Japanese
Author Tanizaki Jun'ichir˘
History

"Okuni to Gohei" was premiered at the Imperial Theater in July 1922 [casting].

Structure

"Okuni to Gohei" is made up of 1 act.

Key words Shinkabuki
Shakuhachi
Summary

Japan is still under the Tokugawa regime. In the evening two travelers cross Nasuno Plain. They are Okuni and Gohei. Okuni is the widow of a samurai family. Her husband, Iori, was killed by Tomonoj˘ who was caught up in a love triangle with Iori and Okuni. He killed Iori in an dastardly way. Gohei was one of the servants of Iori's family. In those days it was usual for families to seek revenge on a person who killed one of their members. So, Okuni left her hometown to in search of retribution against Tomonoj˘ for the death of her husband. Energetic, but unaccustomed to the long journey, she fell ill, causing them to remain for two months in Utsunomiya. Recovering from illness, she resumes with the help of Gohei her quest for revenge. But they have no particular destination in mind. It has been three years since they began their wandering. Normally a high-spirited woman, she now looks like she is beginning to wilt. Considering her lonesome feeling Gohei tries to comfort her, saying that "Your baby must have grown into a nice boy. He is six years old now." Upon hearing that, Okuni's determination gives way all the more to homesickness. She is much obliged to him for his devotion to her cause. She considers herself to be a woman who deserves hardship and bears the right to exact her own revenge, without Gohei's help or interference. Besides he has been a mere employee and for only a few years at that. She feels sorry for having involved him in such a private matter. On the other hand Gohei takes it for granted that he should serve the Iori family however long the revenge will last, since he was their servant.

Today also Okuni and Gohei hear faint sounds of the shakuhachi coming from somewhere. It occurs to them that the sounds must be those of the wandering priest. The sounds have accompanied them everyday regardless of the weather--rain or wind. Once Okuni thought the flutist must be the very man whom she has been hunting for. So, she tried to check out her suspicions by handing him an offering. The face she saw with half an eye, however, was quite different from Tomonoj˘'s. Who, on earth, could be shadowing the couple? They begin to feel a vague apprehension, stealing over them.

As Tomonoj˘ was born and brought up as one of the principal retainers of a feudal lord, his white face and handsome looks give the impression of a person of noble cast. But, in fact, he is cowardly and poor at Kend˘. Such being the case, Gohei insists that since Tomonoj˘ is aware of his own status as a fugitive he cannot approach them. In spite of Gohei's remarks Okuni says, "Tomonoj˘ is so sneaky that he may be spying on us, hoping to take us by surprise". Having had her husband killed by Tomonoj˘, she was keen for revenge. When Gohei is about to cure Okuni of a pain caused by her shoes, the wandering priest in question approaches them, and with him come the sounds of a shakuhachi. As he says he is making a pilgrimage alone through various districts with no definite object in view, Gohei offers to let him join them. Then the priest suddenly takes off his hood. A white countenance appears. It is no other than Tomonoj˘, their sworn enemy.

Okuni and Gohei flank Tomonoj˘ on the right and left. Tomonoj˘, who is sitting on a pine stump, confesses that he has been clinging to his miserable life without a shred of concern for honor. When, Okuni asks, why he has revealed himself to them, Tomonoj˘ made a disgusting announcement. He says he could not forget Okuni and that he wished to have just a glance at her face before he dies. He discloses his true heart saying he pined for Okuni so eagerly that he attacked, in the dark, Iori, his rival in love and killed him. Being unable to abandon his attachment to Okuni, Tomonoj˘ left his hometown with his face camouflaged to follow her. To their surprise Tomonoj˘ knows every turn in their meandering route. According to his remarks, the shakuhachi music coming from under the window of their inn was his thoughtful present for Okuni when she was ill in bed in Utsunomiya. It was because he had his face disguised that Okuni could not identify him as Tomonoj˘. Although he is a samurai, his skill at Kend˘ is inferior even to Gohei's. Without an ounce of self-respect he admits that he would have been no match for Iori or Gohei if he engaged in a fair sword fight. In a whiny voice, Tomonjo complains that Okuni had been engaged to him first. But neither she nor her father developed a fondness for him. He was not considered a worthy or reliable samurai. As a result the family broke off the engagement, and everyone agreed with their decision. Not one person showed any sympathy for Tomonoj˘. It was, he says, too embarrassing. He could not stand the shame of it, so he killed Iori in an underhanded way. It was a crime caused not only by disappointment in love, but also by society's rejection. Thus, he insists, he had no choice, but to resort to his cowardly attack.

Okuni says, "Now I don't take you for a hateful man, as you loved me so much, but you must calmly prepare for death. I will hold a memorial service for you after you die."

Yet Tomonoj˘ continues to entreat Okuni and Gohei to spare his life. He expresses envy of Gohei saying that although Gohei did not have an especially close relationship with the late Iori and had served him for only five or six years, he was still able to set out on a long journey with his beautiful widow, all in the name of loyalty. He goes on to point out that it must have been a pleasant trip with Okuni deep in Gohei's secret heart and that it will be easy for Gohei to defeat a chicken-hearted samurai like himself. When the deed is done, he says, Gohei will be able to return home in triumph with Okuni by his side and, perhaps, inherit both Iori's fortune and his wife, Okuni. Tomonoj˘ casts words full of scorn at the couple, "I know everything, including the relationship between you two, while you were traveling. Yes, Gohei, I realize that you began with the purest of intentions, resolved to repay your obligation to Iori as his servant, but that was only during the first leg of the journey. Your trip must surely have turned from pain to pleasure. There is no difference between the hearts of men who are deeply enamored of a forbidden woman. In this sense you and I are the same. We are both guilty of the same crime. Despite this fact, you walk the road to success, while I go to my ruin."

Ignoring Tomonoj˘'s pitiful pleas for his life, Gohei cuts him down. Finally in the throes of his death agony Tomonoj˘ reveals secret intimate discussions that he and Okuni had once enjoyed with each other. The mood turns sour, causing Okuni and Gohei to become sullen. They decapitate Tomonoj˘ in order to bring his head back to their hometown, where, they believe, they will be welcomed with honors. When they pray for the repose of Tomonoj˘'s soul. Gohei's says, "There was no other way than this for the sake of duty and for the sake of love".

To both Gohei and the dead Tomonoj˘ Okuni responds, "You probably think me a selfish and dishonest woman. Please find it in your hearts to forgive me!".

This summary has been written by Watanabe Hisao and edited by Jeff Blair [website]

 
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