SOGA NO ISHIDAN
   
Play titles Ume Yanagi Sakigake Soga  In Japanese
Kichirei Kotobuki Soga  In Japanese
Common title Soga no Ishidan  In Japanese
Authors Namiki Gohei I, Matsui K˘z˘ I, Shimizu Sh˘shichi I, Muraoka K˘ji I, Shinoda Kinji I (1806 "Ume Yanagi Sakigake Soga")

Takeshiba Kisui (1902 "Kichirei Kotobuki Soga")
History

A spectacular fight scene with Yawata no Sabur˘ and ďmi no Kot˘ta on giant stone stairways was included for the first time in the new year sogamono "Ume Yanagi Sakigake Soga", which was staged in the 1st lunar month of 1806 at the Ichimuraza. The roles of Yawata no Sabur˘ and ďmi no Kot˘ta were played by Suketakaya Takasuke II and Matsumoto K˘shir˘ V. Takeshiba Kisui recycled it to open his new year drama "Gi-ha Omoki Oda no Tamamono", which was staged in January 1900 at the Meijiza. The roles of Yawata no Sabur˘ and ďmi no Kot˘ta were played by Ichikawa Kodanji V and Ichikawa Sadanji I. The title "Kichirei Kotobuki Soga" was used for the first time in January 1902 at the T˘ky˘za [more details].

Structure

The current version of "Kichirei Kotobuki Soga" is made up of two acts (3 scenes).

Key words Adauchi
Adauchimono
Ageya
Aragoto
Fujisan
Gand˘-gaeshi
Ishidan
Kariba
Keisei
Kewaizaka
Kud˘ Saemon Suketsune
Kuruwa
ďiso-juku
Omamori
Shinz˘
Soga Gor˘ Tokimune
Soga Jűr˘ Sukenari
Sogamono
Tsurugaoka Hachimangű
Wagoto
Yakko
Summary

ďiso Kuruwa Maizuruya
At the Maizuruya in the Pleasure Quarter of ďiso

The scene is set at Maizuruya ageya in the pleasure quarters (kuruwa) of ďiso-juku. Tsurugizawa Danj˘ Saemon is a retainer at the service of Kud˘ Saemon Suketsune, a senior official of the Kamakura Shogunate. He is plotting to take over the head of the Kud˘ clan and has stolen an important map of the hunting fields (kariba) near Mt. Fuji, which Suketsune needs to organize an important New Year hunting expedition for the Sh˘gun. Another of Danj˘'s preoccupations is the beautiful keisei ďiso no Tora [1], who works at the Maizuruya. Danj˘ comes calling again in the hopes of meeting her, intimidating the owners of the ageya by telling them that he serves a powerful government official.

Tension is broken when a letter arrives from ďmi Kot˘ta Shigeie, with whom Danj˘ is conspiring. As he is reading the letter by a lantern, Mank˘, who is the proprietress of the ageya, steals glances at it from the second-floor window, and the yakko Hachinai, a retainer of the rival lord Yawata Sabur˘ Yukiuji, reads it from under the engawa as the scroll dangles to the ground. The letter reveals that Sabur˘ has learned of the plot, and Danj˘ hands his servant a reply to be taken to Kot˘ta. Miyazono, a new shinz˘ at the Maizuruya, and Hachinai discuss the contents of the letter. Miyazono is in reality Kud˘ Suketsune's daughter and has come to spy on Danj˘, who is suspected of being the stealer of the map of the hunting fields. If she can't find back the map, her father will be forced to take his own life and the villains will take over the clan.

Kawazu Sabur˘ Sukeyasu, who was Soga Gor˘ Tokimune's father, was killed by Kud˘ Suketsune when Gor˘ was just an infant. He has been plotting to avenge the death of his father for years. To do this with honor requires that he acquire a famous sword named Tomokirimaru. He learns of a merchant who is selling the sword, but is devastated to learn that it costs 300 ry˘, an astronomical amount of money. Gor˘ĺs costume bears a motif of butterflies and the role is performed in the bombastic aragoto style of acting.

Meanwhile, Danj˘ is worried that he might lose the map of the hunting fields if he carries it around with him and decides to hide it in the garden of the ageya.

Soga Jűr˘ Sukenari, Gor˘'s elder brother, has been spending much time at Maizuruya recently after learning that Danj˘, a retainer of Suketsune, is a frequent customer, and he has gained the confidence of the keisei ďiso no Tora, whom Danj˘ is infatuated with. Jűr˘ĺs costume bears a motif of flying plover birds and the role is performed in the soft wagoto style of acting. Gor˘ believes, though, that his elder brother has all but forgotten their common pledge to avenge their father's death and is squandering his time and money in the licensed pleasure quarters. Gor˘ is repelled by his brother's attitude and challenges him to a duel. Tora jumps in between them and calms Gor˘ by explaining Jűr˘'s real motives and admonishing Gor˘ for jeopardizing the opportunity to carry out the vendetta together. The brothers reaffirm their resolve but wonder how they can possibly secure 300 ry˘ to purchase the Tomokirimaru sword. A voice is heard from the second floor offering them the money they need. It is Mank˘, who is actually the mother of the Soga brothers. She tells Tora to dig a hole at a precise spot in the garden, from which the stolen map of the hunting fields is discovered.

Miyazono, carrying 300 ry˘ on a tray, and the merchant of the Tomokirimaru sword emerge from the back of the ageya. She asks that the map be sold to her for 300 ry˘ as it is vital to her father and his clan. Jűr˘ and Gor˘ are shocked to learn that the enemy's daughter is working at the ageya and threaten her life. Their mother calms them, reminding them that their enemy is Kud˘ Suketsune, not his daughter. If Suketsune should lose control of the clan because of a conspiracy, moreover, the brothers will be unable to carry out their vendetta. They all agree to sell the map to Miyazono and use the money to purchase the Tomokirimaru sword.

Danj˘, realizing that the map has been discovered, attacks Miyazono and the Soga. Gor˘ cuts him down after a short scuffle. The brothers are now free to go ahead with their revenge mission. As Gor˘ hurries off to Kamakura to confront Kud˘ Suketsune, he runs into his lover, the keisei Kewaizaka no Sh˘sh˘ [2], who has been waiting for his return. They spend what will be their last night together, as Gor˘ knows he will be killed after taking revenge on Suketsune.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangű Ishidan
On the Stone Stairway of the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine

The scene is set at the stone stairway [3] (ishidan) leading up to the main hall of the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine in Kamakura. The yakko Hayahei, who is at the service of ďmi Kot˘ta Shigeie, and the yakko Hachinai, who is at the service of Kot˘ta's rival lord Yawata Sabur˘ Yukiuji, are grappling with each other for the possession of a letter carrying a secret message to Kot˘ta. Hachinai, who suspects the scheming nature of the letter, manages to steal it from Hayahei in the course of the struggle.

Eventually the rival lords Kot˘ta and Sabur˘ themselves appear on the stone stairway, on their way back from paying their respects at the shrine. Kot˘ta carries on his tray a charm (omamori), while Sabur˘'s tray holds the letter that had just been handed to him by his retainer Hachinai. Sabur˘ claims he has deciphered the code in which the letter was written and knows it is addressed to Kot˘ta. Kot˘ta tries to grab the letter back to prevent Sabur˘ from reading the message of the conspirators, and a fight ensues in which a bird picks it up and flies away. The scene ends with the spectacular scene-change (gand˘-gaeshi) of the stone stairway rotating to reveal the next set.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangű Takadono
At the Tall Building [4] of the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine

Mt. Fuji can be seen in the distance. Kud˘ Saemon Suketsune, the target of revenge by the Soga Brothers, has just been promoted to a senior government post and named head of the coming shogunal New Year hunting expedition. A bird brings the letter from the previous scene to him, detailing the plot to take over control of the Kud˘ clan. Now that the plot has been revealed to Suketsune, the yakko Hayahei jumps out to take the senior official's life but is easily wrestled to the ground.

The Soga brothers Jűr˘ and Gor˘ arrive to confront Suketsune along with Miyazono, Suketsune's daughter. Suketsune dismisses the challenge, saying that he has a thousand soldiers at this command who will guard him securely. Before Suketsune orders that the brothers be killed, Miyazono steps in, claiming that the two brothers' lives should be spared as they helped to retrieve the map of the hunting fields and thwart Danj˘'s plot. Suketsune throws them a gift: the tickets to the hunting expedition. Then, he challenges them to come and meet him there.

Notes

[1] Tora from the pleasure quarter of ďiso-juku.

[2] Sh˘sh˘ from the pleasure quarter of Kewaizaka.

[3] This scene has given the play its popular title of "Soga no Ishidan", the "Stone Stairway of the Soga Brothers".

[4] The "Tall Building" is the massive vermilion gate of the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine, which is also called sanmon.

The actors Seki Sanjűr˘ II and Nakamura Utaemon III playing the roles of Yawata Sabur˘ Yukiuji and ďmi Kot˘ta Shigeie in the new year sogamono drama "Na-ni Takaki Fuji-ga-Ne Soga", which was staged in the 1st lunar month of 1812 at the Nakamuraza (print made by Utagawa Toyokuni I)

 
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