SHISEN RYď
   
Play titles Shisen Ry˘ Koban no Ume-no-Ha  In Japanese
Taiko no Oto Daimoku Odori  In Japanese
The 4,000 Gold Coins of the Plum Blossom Crest [1]
Common title Shisen Ry˘  In Japanese
Author Kawatake Mokuami
History

Kawatake Mokuami's drama "Shisen Ry˘ Koban no Ume-no-Ha" was premiered in November 1885 at the Chitoseza [more details]. The first day of staging was the 22nd of November 1885. The last act was a short Kiyomoto-based dance entitled "Taiko no Oto Daimoku Odori".

Structure

The original drama was in 6 acts.

Key words Bakumatsu
Bakuto
Denmach˘ R˘yashiki
Edo-j˘
Horibata
Kaga
Kago
Kagokaki
Kami-Makich˘
Kanzake
Kanzakeya
Kiyomoto
K˘in
K˘jű
Kumagaya-juku
Kuruwa
Mushuku
Nakasend˘ Nishi ďr˘
R˘nanushi
R˘nin
R˘nin
R˘yashiki
Sewamono
Shiranami
Shiranamimono
Shűjin
Tedai
Udonya
Ushigome
Wakadanna
Yashű
Yotsuya
Yotsuya Mitsuke
Summary

Act I, scene 1: Yotsuya Gomon Soto Horibata
By the Outer Moat at the Yotsuya Gate

Two penniless thieves notice the stall of a kanzakeya at Yotsuya Mitsuke, close to Edo Castle. Yashű no Tomiz˘, the owner of the stall, recognizes them as old cronies and gives them kanzake free of charge to revive them. When the two men have gone, the r˘nin Fujioka T˘jűr˘ alights from a litter (kago) and dismisses the kagokaki. Tomiz˘ has been watching with interest and he recognizes T˘jűr˘ as the son of his former benefactor. The two men express surprise at this chance meeting. T˘jűr˘ claims that he is waiting to meet someone and asks Tomiz˘ if he has seen a young man pass by. Tomiz˘ realizes that T˘jűr˘ has some scheme and invites him to sit down and take him into his confidence.

It turns out that T˘jűr˘ is now bankrupt due to his involvement with a courtesan in a kuruwa in the nearby district of Shinjuku. The girl named Tatsumiya Otatsu however, has told him that the son of a certain sake merchant will be passing this way tonight carrying 100 ry˘. T˘jűr˘ is intending to ambush the youth and kill him, if necessary, to steal the 100 ry˘.

Tomiz˘ advises T˘jűr˘ to abandon this plan as it involves a senseless murder. So long as there is no necessary killing involved, Tomiz˘ offers to become T˘jűr˘'s partner in crime. As he does so, Tomiz˘ reveals a tattoo on his right arm indicating that he too is of the criminal fraternity. Declaring that 100 ry˘ is too paltry a sum to be worth the trouble, Tomiz˘ then reveals a plan he has to steal a much larger amount from the vaults of the Edo Castle. T˘jűr˘ is incredulous, but is persuaded by Tomiz˘ that it is possible.

At that moment the cry of "Stop the thief" is heard and the wakadanna Itamiya Tokutar˘, whom T˘jűr˘ intended to kill and rob, rushes on in pursuit of a man named Terashima no Ch˘tar˘ [2], who has stolen his money. There is a fight in the dark and Tokutar˘ gets his money back by chance.

Act I, scene 2: Ushigome Tera Monzen Fujioka Uchi
At Fujioka's Home in front of a Temple Gate in Ushigome

Having stolen the money, 4000 ry˘, from Edo Castle, the two thieves return with their loot to Fujioka T˘jűr˘'s house in Ushigome and congratulate themselves on their success. T˘jűr˘ is eager to divide the money between them, but Tomiz˘ recommends that, in order not to attract attention, they hide the money for a while and resume their normal way of life, one as a kanzakeya, the other as an impoverished r˘nin. Tomiz˘'s reasoned approach to the matter raises T˘jűr˘'s suspicions.

T˘jűr˘ draws his sword to kill Tomiz˘. But Tomiz˘ is able to reassure him of his good intentions and together they bury the money.

Act II, scene 1: Kami-Makich˘ Kashitsukejo
At the Money Lender Shop in Kami-Makich˘

Fujioka T˘jűr˘ has become a money lender, with his shop established in the district of Kami-Makich˘, and his business prospers until one day when he abruptly divorces his wife and announces that he is closing his business. Two of his employees discuss this new development before T˘jűr˘, himself, appears. It transpires that he distrusts Tomiz˘ who has recently visited him to inform him that their involvement in the robbery at Edo Castle is now known to the police and they may shortly be arrested. Tomiz˘ has taken with him 300 ry˘ before leaving for the Kaga Province in the northwest. Fearing for his safety, T˘jűr˘ has therefore decided to close down his business and disappear.

The tedai Senji returns from an errand. Senji asks a favor of T˘jűr˘ saying that he has become involved with a woman and needs money to clear his debts. He asks for the enormous amount of 500 ry˘ and it transpires that he knows the truth about T˘jűr˘'s crime. T˘jűr˘ gives him the money to keep him quiet but Senji has already been to the authorities. The torite arrive and T˘jűr˘ is arrested.

Act III, scene 1: Nakasend˘ Kumagaya Dote
On an Embankment in Kumagaya on the Nakasend˘ Highway

Tomiz˘ has managed to reach Kanazawa in the Kaga Province but he has been arrested there. He is in the process of being brought back to Edo imprisoned in a litter, which is about to stop on an embankment (dote) near Kumagaya-juku on the Nakasend˘ Highway. Peasants are discussing Tomiz˘'s arrest when they notice his imminent arrival and leave the stage. The bakuto Ikiuma no Ganpachi then enters. He is a former acquaintance of Tomiz˘'s and he has unsuccessfully tried to seduce a woman who eventually married Tomiz˘. Ganpachi still bears a big grudge against Tomiz˘. He asks permission of Hamada Sanai, the official in charge of the group, to speak to the bounded Tomiz˘. Sanai gives his assent but Ganpachi only insults the defenseless Tomiz˘ before Sanai is obliged to intervene and to send Ganpachi away.

Tomiz˘'s wife, Osayo, then arrives with their child, Otami, and her father the udonya Rokubŕ. Sanai grants them permission to speak to Tomiz˘, who, having already divorced Osayo, treats them as mere strangers. The compassionate Sanai persuades Tomiz˘ to recognize them and an emotional scene follows. The scene ends with a sorrowful parting.

Act IV, scene 1: Denmach˘ Nishi ďr˘
The Western Prison in Denmach˘ Jailhouse

Tomiz˘ is put into the Denmach˘ Jailhouse, in the western prison (Nishi ďr˘) where, because of the enormity of his crime, he quickly assumes a position of importance in the convicts' hierarchy on top of which rules the r˘nanushi Matsushima Okugor˘ [3]. It is his responsibility to interrogate new prisoners and to discover what talents and what skills they possess. Tomiz˘ recognizes several people among the new arrivals, including Terashima no Ch˘tar˘, who has attempted to steal 100 ry˘ from the wakadanna Itamiya Tokutar˘ in the first act of this drama, and also Ikiuma no Ganpachi on whom he takes his revenge for the insults he received at Kumagaya-juku.

Act IV, scene 2: R˘yashiki Iiwatashi
The Passing of the Sentences at the Prison

Yashű no Tomiz˘ and Fujioka T˘jűr˘ are finally sentenced to death by the authorities. They express their gratitude to the prison governor for his mercy and for the fine clothes that he has given them so that they may die in a right way. The two are led away with the shouting of encouragement from the other inmates and the chanting of prayers.

Act V, scene 1: R˘ya Ato Soshid˘
At the Prayer Hall built on the Ruins of the Prison

Years have passed. The Denmach˘ Prison has been demolished and a temple has been built on the site for prayers for the souls of all the executed criminals. Today a group of k˘in [4] gather to dance and chant.

Notes

[1] Samuel Leiter

[2] Literally Ch˘tar˘ from (the village) of Terashima. Terashima was the name of a village in Muk˘jima, where the Edo star Onoe Kikugor˘ III retired. Terashima became also the official family name of Onoe Kikugor˘ V. Ch˘tar˘ was played for the first time by Onoe Kikunosuke II, whose real name was Terashima Hidesaku.

[3] Why Matsushima? Most likely because the first actor who performed the role of Matsushima Okugor˘ was Kataoka Gad˘ III, whose yag˘ was Matsushimaya.

[4] This section is performed with a Kiyomoto ensemble. In the original drama, the k˘in belonged to the Chitose k˘jű. A k˘jű named Chitose because of the Chitoseza, the theater where the drama was premiered. If not Chitose, another possible reading for this k˘jű could be Senzai, which phonetically sounds more buddhist than Chitose.

The actors Onoe Kikugor˘ VI and Nakamura Kichiemon I playing the roles of the mushuku Yashű no Tomiz˘ and the r˘nin Fujioka T˘jűr˘ in the drama "Shisen Ry˘ Koban no Ume-no-Ha", which was staged in April 1928 at the Meijiza

 
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