AIBIKI NO ONNA
   
Play title Aibiki no Onna  In Japanese
Author Ikenami Sh˘tar˘
History

Ikenami Sh˘tar˘'s drama "Aibiki no Onna" was premiered in February 1978 at the Kabukiza [more details]. This drama belonged to a series of dramas which was entitled Edo Onna S˘shi (Stories about Edo Women).

Structure

"Aibiki no Onna" is in 3 acts, divided into 5 scenes.

Key words Asakusa
Bingo
Deai Jaya
Edo Onna S˘shi
Hitachi
Kanda
Kanda Suda-ch˘
Kasama-han
Kashi
Kashiya
Kerai
Koroshiba
Sewa Ny˘b˘
Sewamono
Shinkabuki
Tedai
Teishu
Yanaka
Yanaka Sansaki-ch˘
Yusuriba
Summary

Act I, scene 1: in the Inner Garden of the Tamanoo Love Rendezvous Tea House

Tamanoo is a deai jaya outside Asakusa run by the teishu Ch˘bŕ for an elite clientele. Among the visitors is Okinaya Otoku, the wife of Okinaya Nihŕ who runs the prosperous and prestigious eponymous kashiya called Okinaya. She has been having an affair with It˘ Genzabur˘, a retainer (kerai) of the daimy˘ Makino, the head of the Kasama Domain in Hitachi Province who has also the title of lord of the Bingo Province [1]. Genzabur˘ is an official stationed in Edo but he is expected to return to the Hitachi Province. Today he has come for his last rendezvous with Otoku.

Otoku, who finds no satisfaction with her husband whom she has married after he lost his first wife, cannot bear the thought of separation from Genzabur˘, her first true lover. When it is time to part, Genzabur˘ presents her with a silver hair ornament, and then slips away alone so to avoid undue attention. Ch˘bŕ, the owner of Tamanoo, observes Otoku in her sorrow at the parting, and is troubled. Although he has not revealed the matter to her, he remembers her as a little girl in the care of his own sister who has been her nursemaid.

Act I, scene 2: in the Inner Room of the Okinaya Sweets Shop in Kanda Suda-ch˘

Okinaya Nihŕ is the master of the sweets shop Okinaya located in Kanda Suda-ch˘. He was not born the heir to the establishment. He has married into the family, and while his first wife was alive, he has been a meek and quiet man. Now he is a dour man, pseudo-pious and overbearing in attitude, seemingly with no interest beyond running the business on the merits of its past reputation. Otoku, bored after her separation from It˘ Genzabur˘, asks Nihŕ to take her on an outing, but Nihŕ reprimands her for her 'childish' desire. Their boy Heitar˘ comes in briefly before going out to study. Otoku tries to attract Nihŕ's attention by showing him the silver hair ornament given her by Genzabur˘, but Nihŕ shows no interest whatsoever, much to Otoku's contempt.

Kakujun, a young priest from the Ch˘enji Temple, a nearby temple, comes with a message for Nihŕ from the temple abbot. He has come to conduct a memorial religious services in memory of the late Okinaya owner. Otoku recalls Kakujun as a little boy at the temple, and notes how he has grown to a fine young man. She listens raptly as his voice is heard presently reciting the sutras in the altar room.

Act II, scene 1: On the Street near the Backyard of the Tamanoo Love Rendezvous Tea House

Okinaya Otoku is a frequent visitor at Tamanoo again, this time in the company of Kakujun. She is seen leaving by the back way with Kakujun after their monthly love meeting. Kakujun is carrying his temple robes in a packet he is carrying with him, and has to change before returning to the temple. He tells Otoku to go on ahead alone while he changes in a nearby thicket, but Otoku insists on waiting for him. Hearing someone approaching, she slips to the side, but unfortunately, she has already been observed by an acquaintance named Izutsuya Sh˘shichi. Sh˘shichi is now a drinking and gambling good-for-nothing fellow who has been disowned by his parents for his bad ways.

Sh˘shichi slips off following Otoku, but he in turn observed by the Tamanoo teishu Ch˘bŕ who recognizes him and is troubled because he is aware of Sh˘shichi's evil nature. The Tamanoo clerk Jisuke comes by, so Ch˘bŕ again reveals his anxiety to him. Otoku does not remember Ch˘bŕ because she was only a small child, but Ch˘bŕ feels so indebted to her father for his kindness to Ch˘bŕ's sister who has been Otoku's nursemaid, that he feels responsible for Otoku's happiness.

Kakujun, now in his religious robes, comes out of the thicket but not seeing Otoku, presumes she has gone on ahead, and leaves alone. Presently Otoku returns to the scene with Izutsuya Sh˘shichi trailing ominously after her. He tells her that he has seen her coming out of the deai jaya with the bonze. He blackmails her, demanding payment of 50 ry˘. Otoku is aghast at the amount which she has no way of finding on her own, but Sh˘shichi goes off after making it clear that she must bring the money to a certain site at a certain given hour seven days hence.

Ch˘bŕ and Jisuke, who have been listening in from the other side of the gateway, watch in anxiety as Otoku walks uncertainly away.

Act II, scene 2: in the Inner Room of the Okinaya Sweets Shop

Otoku's brother Tomoeya K˘emon, who manages the Tomoeya, a restaurant in Asakusa, has come to borrow 75 ry˘ from Nihŕ because his establishment is in financial trouble. Nihŕ has provided the money promptly with no fuss, much to K˘emon's gratitude. Otoku comes in and is surprised to see her brother there, and even more surprised to learn he has borrowed money from Nihŕ. She is very disappointed because she has been planning to go borrow the blackmail sum of 50 ry˘ from her brother, but now realizes that there is no hope help from that quarter.

After sending Tomoeya K˘emon off, Nihŕ says he has to rush out on business and handing Otoku the key to the safe, he asks her to take out 25 ry˘ for him while he gets ready to leave. Otoku opens the safe and takes out not only the 25 ry˘ needed by Nihŕ but also 50 more to pay off Izutusya Sh˘shichi.

Act III, scene 1: in the Precincts of the My˘rinji Temple in Yanaka Sansaki-ch˘

Otoku has come to pay off Izutsuya Sh˘shichi as promised. They meet in the precincts of the My˘rinji Temple in Yanaka Sansaki-ch˘. As Sh˘shichi is about to take the money, he is stabbed to death before Otoku's eyes by Jisuke who is following Ch˘bŕ's instructions. Ch˘bŕ hopes that the incident will prevent Otoku from having any more affairs. Unfortunately for the well-intentioned Ch˘bŕ, this hope is in vain. Otoku is hurrying homeward to return the money when she sees Kakujun going off for a love meeting with another woman. A moment later Bunkichi, a young Okinaya tedai comes by, and already Otoku starts eyeing him covetously as her next love.

Notes

[1] The Makino clan ruled from Kasama Castle in Kasama Domain but the head of the clan also had the official title of Bingo-no-Kami, kami of the Bingo Province.

The Okinaya tedai Bunkichi (left) and Okinaya Otoku (right)

Okinaya Otoku

 
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