|Play title||Ura Omote Sendai Hagi
Sakura Butai Maku no Datezome
|Author||Tsuruya Namboku IV|
The playright Tsuruya Namboku IV wrote a particular version of the famous play "Meiboku Sendai Hagi", taking the most famous scenes of the original play and combining them with a story of greed and lust among commoners involved in the plots against the Date clan. This new drama was titled "Sakura Butai Maku no Datezome" and was premiered in the 3rd lunar month of 1820 at the Tamagawaza [casting]. This drama was revived many times under different titles. The title "Ura Omote Sendai Hagi" was used for the first time in May 1912 at the Masagoza (a koshibai venue) but others titles were used up to the end of WW2. "Ura Omote Sendai Hagi" finally became the official title with the production of this drama in January 1949 at the T˘ky˘ Gekij˘. It was successfully revived in May 1968 at the National Theatre [casting].
"The play is based on a real event involving the Date clan of Sendai during the 1660's, but censorship prevented contemporary incidents being dramatized, so the drama was set during the Muromachi Period (1336-1568), and names were changed to disguise the protagonists' identity." (text courtesy of Jean Wilson 1998)
The 17th Date clan was replaced by the 15th Ashikaga clan and Lord Date Tsunamune, the cause of the succession troubles, became Ashikaga Yorikane in the Kabuki drama.
The current version of "Ura Omote Sendai Hagi" is made up of 4 acts (5 scenes).
Act I: the Hanamizu Bridge
The samurai lord Yorikane has fallen in love with the courtesan Takao and has neglected responsibilities, causing high-ranking retainers to plot the takeover of his domain. Returning from the pleasure quarters, he is attacked at Hanamizu Bridge, but is able to escape thanks to the help of a sum˘ wrestler retainer named Kinugawa Taniz˘.
Act II: the House of the Doctor D˘eki
D˘eki is a doctor to commoners who lusts after Otake, the servant of a neighboring maker of geta clogs. On the orders of Nikki Danj˘ and his accomplices, D˘eki has secretly prepared poison to get rid of the lord of the Date clan and hopes to use the two hundred gold coins he received to make Otake his mistress, but instead, he is killed by his servant Kosuke who steals the gold coins. But no sooner does Kosuke get the gold than it is snatched away by a stray dog.
Act III, scene 1: Masaoka's Chambers
Yorikane has been removed from office, but now the titular head of the clan is his young son, a very vulnerable target to the forces trying to take over the clan. Masaoka, the boy's nurse is desperately afraid that he will be poisoned. She refuses to let anyone see him who might try to assassinate him and attempts to keep him safe in the women's quarters where men are forbidden. She even fixes his meal in her quarters using her delicate tea ceremony implements to cook rice. The plotting faction does not give up, though, and sends poison in the form of candy as a present from the Sh˘gun's chief retainer. Masaoka's son sacrifices his life for the young lord by eating the poisoned candy, and when he is killed, Masaoka thinks only of protecting her lord. Her fierce devotion to duty convinces the plotters that she is on their side. Masaoka's actions help save the young lord, and only when she is alone can she grieve for her son.
Act III, scene 2: below the Floor
Another faithful retainer Otokonosuke stands guard underneath the room, but the evil Nikki Danj˘ appears as a giant rat, but then slips away, walking calmly through the clouds.
Act IV: the Trial of Kosuke and Nikki Danj˘'s Violence
In the original "Meiboku Sendai Hagi", there is the trial of Nikki Danj˘, who has been denounced by the elderly Geki, a faithful retainer of the Date clan. In this version, Nikki's trial scene is replaced by Kosuke's trial scene which is a kind of copy involving commoners instead of samurai. Kosuke and Otake are both accused of killing D˘eki, but the judge is in league with Kosuke and soon places the blame on Otake. However, there are two judges and the wise Kurahashi Yajűr˘ comes and shows who the real killer is.
Nikki Danj˘'s trial has taken place at the same time and his lies have been seen through by the wise judge Katsumoto. Condemned to death, Nikki takes his revenge by stabbing Geki, the man that accused him.
Source: Earphone Guide website
The actors Nakamura Nakatar˘, Onoe Kikugor˘ V and Ichimura Uzaemon XIV playing the roles of Otake's father, Kosuke and Otake in the drama "Ume Momiji Nishiki no Dateori", which was staged in the 8th lunar month of 1868 at the Ichimuraza (print made by Toyohara Kunichika)
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