WAKAKI HI NO NOBUNAGA
   
Play title Wakaki Hi no Nobunaga  In Japanese
Author Osaragi Jir˘
History

The drama "Wakaki Hi no Nobunaga" was premiered at the Kabukiza in October 1952 [casting]. It was adapted to the cinema a few years later, in 1959, directed by Miura Nobuo and starring Ichikawa Raiz˘ VIII in the role of Nobunaga.

Structure

The drama "Wakaki Hi no Nobunaga" is made up of 3 acts and 4 scenes.

Key words Oda Nobunaga
Shinkabuki
Taik˘ki
Tsuzumi
Summary

It was during the war period in the mid-sixteenth century, a period when only one's self could be trusted, a period of "kill or be killed". The story takes place in Kiyosu, the territory ruled by young Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) still in his teens. The third anniversary memorial service of the death of Nobuhide (1510-1551), Nobunaga's father, is being held at the family temple. At a nearby hill, a group of peasants and passersby are chatting and gazing at the anniversary memorial service. Joining this group, Priest Kakuen and a subordinate notice that the main guest, Nobunaga, has not arrived at the service yet. Nobunaga is especially notorious for his extraordinary stubbornness, so this provides Kakuen and the rest of the group an excellent opportunity to see it for themselves.

Just then Hayashi Mimasaka finds Kakuen among the crowd and questions him as he would a stranger. In truth, they are acquainted with each other. Like many other of Nobunaga's vassals, Mimasaka, who is in charge of Nagoya Castle, has been encouraged by Kakuen to betray Nobunaga, and he intends to take the opportunity.

In front of the others, they pretend not to know each other in order to avoid suspicion. A girl accidentally heard Kakuen pressing Mimasaka for his answer. Kakuen tries to kill the girl. But when Kakuen finds out the girl is Yayoi, the daughter of the ruler of Narumi, Yamaguchi Samanosuke, his attitude changes. She had been sent to Nobunaga as a hostage. The bright girl notices the change in Kakuen's attitude. After Mimasaka persuades Kakuen to leave, he approaches his beloved Yayoi.

Just then, Nobunaga comes along with the village children. He has a sloppy look and uses a lotus leaf as sunshade. Arriving at the top of the hill, he starts eating persimmons with the children. The sutra-chanting of the memorial service has begun. Nobunaga grumbles about those officiating being so particular about formality. He mumbles, "The best way to grieve for my father would be to do it alone in an open field under the sun." Chatting with the other children, Nobunaga diverts his uneasy feelings. Soon the children go on, leaving Nobunaga all alone.

Kakuen asks Nobunaga for a sip from his bottle gourd. After speaking with him for a while Kakuen senses greatness in the young man. Kakunen finds out from T˘kichir˘ (1536-1598, known in later years as Toyotomi Hideyoshi), who happened to pass by, that the young man is Nobunaga. Nobunaga, on the other hand, has such keen insight that he knew at first glance that Kakuen was a spy. Overwhelmed and surprised by Nobunaga's skillful insight, Kakuen leaves.

Nobunaga lays on hay still wondering. The ceremony has ended. Yayoi tells Nobunaga that Hirate Masahide (1492-1553) felt very sorry about and responsible for Nobunaga's absence from the ceremony. His stiff-minded, old tutor has been a nuisance to the rebellious young lord. He leaves with Yayoi, knowing Masahide worries about him, but seems to pay no attention to the man who follows behind them in a state of deep depression. Masahide is well aware of Nobunaga's ability and has often remonstrated with him. Since Nobunaga never seems to listen, however, he feels at the end of his rope.

On a cold snowy morning, Masahide calls his three sons together and reveals his determination to commit "hara-kiri". The three sons know that it is impossible to change their father's mind. So, they don't try to dissuade him from killing himself. Following traditional practices, Masahide writes his last will and testament to his master Nobunaga and prepares for the ritual suicide.

Just then Nobunaga, back from a long horse ride, drops by Masahide's residence for tea. Afraid of losing his determination, Masahide refuses to meet him. Instead, he sends Yayoi as a substitute to meet Nobunaga and tell him that all is fine. Hearing this Nobunaga leaves with a few kind words for both Masahide and Yayoi. Then a strange sense of foreboding seems to come from the Butsuma (the room which contains the family's Buddhist altar). The sons find Masahide has dexterously committed suicide. Concealing his grief at his father's death, Goroemon sends Yayoi to summon Nobunaga.

Hurrying back, Nobunaga calls out to Masahide at the top of his lungs. As he grabs the will and reads through it, he becomes confused, then suddenly cries loudly, realizing that he has lost his most loyal servant. He swears to himself that he will not allow Masahide's death to be in vain, that he will always bear Masahide's teachings in mind. Hayashi Sada and his son come to tell Nobunaga that Yayoi's father, Samanosuke and others have joined forces with his enemy Imagawa and are on their way to attack. Nobunaga, feeling that it is unnecessary to keep Yayoi as a hostage any longer, lets her go and makes up his mind to face the traitors with force.

As the enormous Imagawa army swarms into Owari territory with irresistible force, the people in the streets are in panic. In Nobunaga's castle the vassals gather for a strategy conference. Masahide's sons are also present. Mimasaka and a few others come running out of the wildly excited meeting. Sado insists that Nobunaga and all the vassals should hole up in the castle while Nobunaga considers reconciliation. The samurais are thoroughly discouraged by the time the meeting adjourns.

Finding that nobody understands his real intention, Nobunaga leaves his seat in frustration. He hurries into another room to escape the pursuing Sado. He picks up a tsuzumi hand-drum and checks the tone-cord. A look of agony comes over his face. Then the always reliable T˘kichir˘ comes in with some sake. Drinking by himself, Nobunaga recalls memories of old Masahide.

Yayoi, who is worried about Nobunaga, comes in. Nobunaga tells her that circumstances have forced him to have her father killed. Then suddenly he makes up his mind to raid the Imagawa army at Okehazuma and orders T˘kichir˘ to get things ready. Before the attack, Nobunaga dances to the tsuzumi of his beloved Yayoi.

This summary has been written by Watanabe Hisao, edited by Jeff Blair and Sh˘riya Aragor˘ [website]

Trivia

"Wakaki Hi no Nobunaga" is nicknamed Osaragi Jir˘'s Hamlet! It is also Ichikawa Danjűr˘ XI's Hamlet!

The poster for the video cover of the movie version of "Wakaki Hi no Nobunaga" (1959), starring Ichikawa Raiz˘ VIII in the role of Nobunaga

 
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