Play title Hirakana Seisuiki  In Japanese
Authors Matsuda Bunk˘d˘
Miyoshi Sh˘raku
Takeda Izumo I
Takeda Koizumo I
Asada Kakei

The play "Hirakana Seisuiki" was originally written for the puppet theater (Bunraku) and staged for the first time in the 4th lunar month of 1739 in ďsaka at the Takemotoza. It was adapted for Kabuki the following month and staged for the first time in the 5th lunar month of 1739 in Ky˘to at the Minamigawa no Shibai, produced by Mizuki Tatsunosuke II for the nadai Hoteiya Umenoj˘ [casting]. Then, the play "Hirakana Seisuiki" was performed for the first time in ďsaka in the 9th lunar month of 1740: it was produced at the Kado no Shibai by Nakamura Jűz˘ I and the only know actor in the casting was Nakamura Tomijűr˘ I in the role of Chidori. This play was staged for the first time in Edo in the 7th lunar month of 1753, at the Ichimuraza [casting].


The play "Hirakana Seisuiki" is made up of 5 acts. "Sakaro" ends the third act.

Key words Genpei Kassen
Gidayű Ky˘gen
Hatakeyama Shigetada
Minamoto Yoshitsune

Fukushima Sent˘ Matsuemon Uchi
(at the Boatman Matsuemon's House in Fukushima)

The hero of this drama is Matsuemon, a master boatman, who is in reality the warrior Higuchi no Jir˘ Kanemitsu, a faithful retainer of the late general Minamoto Yoshinaka, nicknamed Kiso Yoshinaka, who was defeated in battle by Minamoto Yoshitsune, the leading warlord of the Genji clan. Matsuemon got married with Oyoshi, the daughter of the old boatman Gonshir˘. She lost her first husband three years ago and recently remarried. She has a young son, but the child in not actually her own. One night while Oyoshi and Gonshir˘ were on a pilgrimage and staying at an inn, they were forced to flee from some warriors and accidentally took the wrong child with them. They have hoped and prayed that their own son has been as well looked after as this young boy they have cared for. The family is currently rejoicing at the news that Matsuemon has been chosen by Kajiwara Heiz˘ Kagetoki, another great general of the Genji forces, to teach the art of sakaro to some of his boatmen. If Matsuemon works well, he may be appointed as the chief boatman for Yoshitsune.

Unexpectedly, a young woman in travelling dress named Ofude arrives to claim the boy who was taken by mistake from the inn. At first, the family is excited at the prospect of being reunited with their real son, but slowly it becomes clear that something is wrong, and they learn he was killed the night of the attack on the inn. They learn that the boy in their care is none other than Komawakamaru, the son of Kiso Yoshinaka. They then refuse to release him. Gonshir˘ tells in anger that this boy, the enemy of his grandson Tsuchimatsu, should be killed to avenge his death. Matsuemon suddenly appears on stage, holding the boy in his arms. He reveals his real identity to his wife and his father-in-law. He is the protector of Komawakamaru and bids Gonshir˘ to honor Tsuchimatsu, who has sacrificed his own life to protect the son of Kiso Yoshinaka.

Hamabe Monomi Matsu
(the shore "watchtower" pine tree)

Three boatmen arrive at Gonshir˘'s house to start their rowing lesson with Matsuemon. Once on his boat, they attack him. Kajiwara Heiz˘ Kagetoki ordered them to capture Matsuemon because he knows his real identity. Matsuemon easily overcomes the three soldiers, striking them with his big oar. He goes to a shore big pine tree and climbs it, using it as a watchtower. He realizes that the surroundings are full of Genji soldiers. Oyoshi rushed to her husband, bringing a sword and informing him that Gonshir˘ has secretly left the house. Matsuemon is convinced that in father-in-law sold him to Kajiwara Heiz˘ Kagetoki.

The Genji soldiers and their leader Hatakeyama Shigetada arrive at the pine tree, led by Gonshir˘, who holds Komawakamaru on his back. The old boatman did not betray his son-in-law. He went to meet Kajiwara Heiz˘ Kagetoki in order to save the life of Komawakamaru. He sold Matsuemon to gain Kajiwara's confidence and make him think that the boy is Tsuchimatsu, not the son of Matsuemon but the son of Oyoshi's first husband. Understanding Gonshir˘'s great act, Matsuemon accepts to surrender and be roped by the Genji soldiers. Hatakeyama Shigetada knows the truth about the boy but he won't tell anything to Kajiwara. The boy is returned to his rightful home to spare him from being killed as Matsuemon's son in accordance with the code of the time.

This summary was made by Sh˘riya Aragor˘ using a text written by Jean Wilson (1999)

The actors Suketakaya Takasuke II and Nakamura Utaemon III playing the roles of Gonshir˘ and Higuchi no Jir˘ Kanemitsu in the drama "Hirakana Seisuiki", which was staged in the 9th lunar month of 1812 at the Nakamuraza (print made by Utagawa Toyokuni I)

Prints & Illustrations

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