Play title ďshű Adachi-ga-Hara  In Japanese
Authors Chikamatsu Hanji
Takeda Izumi
Kitamado Goichi
Takemoto Saburobŕ II

Chikamatsu Hanji's play in five acts "ďshű Adachi-ga-Hara" was originally written for the puppets theater in 1762. It was adapted for Kabuki in the 2nd lunar month of 1763 and staged at the Moritaza [casting|illustrations]. The historical background of this play is the zenkunen war, which opposed the Abe clan, ruler of the northern provinces of Japan (ďshű), to the Minamoto clan. The latter clan, led by Minamoto no Yoriyoshi and his son Minamoto no Yoshiie, defeated the former clan, led by Abe no Yoritoki and his two sons, Abe no Sadat˘ and Abe no Munet˘. After the war, the two sons became fugitives and the play is about their actions and their last murder attempts against their victor. The playwrights also integrated within this drama two famous ďshű legends, the ogress of Adachi-ga-Hara and the ut˘ bird.


"Sodehagi Saimon", Sodehagi's saimon (literally "The Song of Sodehagi") belongs to the final and main scene of the third act of "ďshű Adachi-ga-Hara", which is nicknamed adasan (ada stands for Adachi and san means three/third) and which is entitled "Tamaki-no-Miya Akigoten" (literally "At Prince Tamaki's Empty Palace"). This scene is divided into 3 parts. The first two parts, "Shikitae Shisha" (literally "Messenger Shikitae") and "Ya-no-Ne" (literally "The Arrowhead"), are short but almost never performed nowadays. "Sodehagi Saimon" is third part, the main and longest one of "Tamaki-no-Miya Akigoten". "Sodehagi Saimon" is staged once every 4/5 years on average, either as an independent drama or within a t˘shi ky˘gen production of "ďshű Adachi-ga-Hara".

Key words Abe Munet˘
Abe Sadat˘
Abe Yoritoki
Gidayű Ky˘gen
Minamoto Yoriyoshi
Minamoto Yoshiie


After the defeat and the death of Abe no Yoritoki, his two sons, Sadat˘ and Munet˘, went into hiding, desperately waiting for a chance to strike back and kill Minamoto no Yoshiie. Sadat˘ became a servant at lord Taira no Kenj˘ Naokata's house and Munet˘ became a money-lender, calling himself Soto-ga-Hama no Nambei. The former fell in love with Kenj˘'s daughter Sodehagi and had to run away after the discovery of this lover affair by Kenj˘. The latter succeeded in becoming the substitute of a local hunter, who killed a sacred crane belonging to Yoshiie. It was forbidden to kill this kind of crane, which held a golden tablet around its neck. Nambei's goals were to be taken in front of Yoshiie and kill him during the crane-killing trial to avenge his father's death. Sodehagi had a daughter, named Okimi, and was disowned by Kenj˘. She was banished from the family mansion, fell ill, lost her sight and became a blind shamisen-playing and singing beggar, wandering from village to village and supporting her life with music.

Abe no Sadat˘ has built a plan of action, which starts with the secret abduction of prince Tamaki. Kenj˘ Naokata has been ordered by the Imperial household office to investigate this strange disappearance. He will have to kill himself if he can't find the missing Prince in a few days. Abe no Sadat˘ has disguised himself as Katsura Noriuji, the emissary of the Imperial Palace, who was sent the mansion to conduct questioning concerning the Tamaki affair.

Act III, scene 2: Tamaki-no-Miya Akigoten
At Prince Tamaki's Empty Palace
Part III: Sodehagi Saimon | The Song of Sodehagi

Sodehagi has heard in a previous scene that her father is under questioning at Prince Tamaki's palace in Ky˘to. She fears that his life may be in danger and, although it is full winter and the snow is heavily falling, she decides to hit the road to meet him. She knows that there is little chance that he will relent and allow such a meeting. However, she hopes that he will at least agree to meet his granddaughter Okimi, who has never yet met her grandparents.

Led by her daughter, Sodehagi arrives to the mansion. They stumble to the gateway and Kenj˘ notices the sound of Sodehagi's weeping, which penetrates the walls. He peers out, recognizes Sodehagi but slams the gate shut. His wife Hamayű also peers out and then quickly closes the gate. Hamayű is shocked and heart-broken when she hears the pair weeping outside, but knows it would be useless to try to make Kenj˘ change his mind. She advises Sodehagi to act as a beggar and tell her story by singing a beggar's song. This would be the only way to deliver her message to Kenj˘.

The skin of her shamisen is broken and the strings are very old but Sodehagi follows the piece of advice of her mother and sings her sad tale. She recounts her reason for coming and asks Kenj˘ and Hamayű to consent to meeting their granddaughter Okimi. In spite of Hamayű's tearful plea, Kenj˘ refuses to forgive his daughter. He berates her for having married below her rank. At this, Sodehagi takes out a letter written by her husband, saying that he was a samurai of good birth, not a commoner. Kenj˘ carefully reads the letter and quickly realizes that her husband is none other than Japan most wanted fugitive Abe no Sadat˘. At the same time he notices that the handwriting is identical with the one of Katsura Noriuji. Kenj˘ says nothing and tosses the letter back to Sodehagi.

It begins to snow heavily outside the palace. Sodehagi falls ill and collapses in front of the gate. Okimi covers her mother with her own little kimono and tries to make her drink some snow. This is too much for Hamayű, who weeps at this sad sight. She flings her coat over the fence to her daughter and advises her to depart immediately as Kenj˘ shows no sign of forgiving her. As Sodehagi and Okimi are about to go away, a stranger who introduces himself as Abe no Munet˘, Sadat˘'s brother, approaches the pair. He is pleased to meet them and explains Sodehagi that he had been brought here as a prisoner. He has got himself into that position for the purpose of being brought for trial before Yoshiie, thereby perhaps winning a chance to strike at his sworn enemy. He gives her a dagger and orders her to use it to kill Kenj˘, who stands as an obstruction for the Abe brothers' attempt to kill Yoshiie. Suddenly, the voice of Yoshiie is heard calling for Munet˘. Sodehagi and Okimi hide themselves, while Munet˘ confesses to his enemy that he had broken loose from his bonds and tried to run away. Yoshiie, who he is aware of his real identity, gives him a pass which will allow him freedom to travel without being stopped at any military barrier. Munet˘ is impressed by Yoshiie's benevolent attitude. He respectfully takes a bow and leaves the stage trough the hanamichi.

Sodehagi is caught in the usual conflict between giri and ninj˘. The only way for her to avoid any betrayal is to stab herself with Munet˘'s dagger. At the same time Kenj˘, who is now aware that Noriuji is in reality the enemy Abe no Sadat˘, who in turn is Sodehagi's husband, decides also to commit ritual suicide. Noriuji comes on stage to supervise Kenj˘'s death. It was his duty in the event Kenj˘ could not find the missing Prince Tamaki by that day. His mission being fulfilled, Noriuji starts to take his leave. He stops on the hanamichi when he hears the sound of suspicious battle drums. His voice starts to change, from the soft voice of a Ky˘to nobleman to the rough voice of the warrior Abe no Sadat˘. The voice of Yoshiie is heard once more, calling this time for Sadat˘. Two soldiers rush to Sadat˘ and bring him back to the palace, while Yoshiie makes his appearance on stage with four of his generals. Yoshiie has recognized Sadat˘ through his resemblance to his father. He asks him to admit immediately his real identity. Sadat˘, through a spectacular bukkaeri, shows the larger-than-life villain who he is really. Yoshiie tells him that, no matter how valiant he and his brother Munet˘ may be, they stand no chance of defeating his army. He suspects that Sadat˘ is behind the disappearance of Prince Tamaki, but knowing that Sadat˘ will never reveal anything, even under torture, he proposes to let him go free, postponing the final showdown battle between the Abe clan and the Minamoto clan.

Sodehagi and Kenj˘ are both near death. They both realize now that they will meet soon in the afterlife. Yoshiie, who asks Sadat˘ to greet his daughter instead of challenging him, promises to adopt and take care of Okimi, earning Sodehagi's and Sadat˘'s gratitude. An arrow wings suddenly through the air to the stage and Munet˘ appears on the hanamichi, dressed as a magnificent warrior challenging Yoshiie to a duel. However, Sadat˘ dissuades Munet˘ from a fight now and the brothers decide to leave the palace. They will meet Yoshiie again on the battlefield in the future to come. The curtain is drawn on an amazing pose, with Hamayű holding the white banner of the Minamoto clan (which was stained by blood by Munet˘ in a previous scene) and Sadat˘ holding the red banner of the defeated Abe clan.


All the major performances of "Sodehagi Saimon", from the beginning of World War II to the first performance of the 21st century

The actors Kawarasaki Sansh˘ (left) and Band˘ Kakitsu I (right) playing the roles of Abe no Munet˘ and Hachiman Tar˘ Yoshiie, while Nakamura S˘jűr˘ (second from left and second from right) plays two roles, Abe no Sadat˘ and Sodehagi, in the drama "ďshű Adachi-ga-Hara", which was staged in September 1873 at the Murayamaza (print made by Toyohara Kunichika and courtesy of My Japanese Hanga (The Lavenberg Collection))

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