ARAKAWA NO SAKICHI
   
Play title Edoe Ry˘goku Hakkei  In Japanese
Pictures of Edo Eight Views of Ry˘goku
Common title Arakawa no Sakichi  In Japanese
Author Mayama Seika
History

Mayama Seika's ninj˘mono drama "Edoe Ry˘goku Hakkei" was premiered in April 1932 at the Kabukiza [more details]. It was also staged the same month in ďsaka at the Nakaza with a non-Kabuki casting.

Structure

"Edoe Ry˘goku Hakkei" was divided into 4 acts.

Key words Aimasa
Akiba Jinja
Bakumatsu
Buraikan
Ch˘meiji
Daiku
Dejaya
Edokko
Geisha
Heyagashira
Honjo
Kengy˘
Kobun
K˘shű
Ky˘kaku
M˘moku
Muk˘jima
Muk˘ Ry˘goku
Ninj˘mono
Oyabun
R˘nin
Ry˘gokubashi
Sagamiya Masagor˘
Seisai
Sewamono
Shinkabuki
Sh˘ki Daijin
Tenp˘
Tobigashira
Tsutsumi
Summary

Act I, scene 1: Edo Ry˘gokubashi Fukin Dechaya Okamoto no Mae
In Front of the Okamoto Tea Stall near Ry˘goku Bridge in Edo

The play is set at the end of the Tenp˘ era and the first scene is set in front of the Okamoto tea stall (dejaya) near Ry˘goku Bridge. Amid the usual busy afternoon crowd, the rascal (buraikan) Ago no Gonroku is bullying Emaya Jűsaku, an old man from the countryside, for some pretended issue, while his daughter Osode angrily protests against the rough treatment of her father. Gonroku takes this as an affront and transfers his attention to the girl, angrily trying to take her away with him while telling the father he can have her back when he comes to apologize. Onlookers sympathize with the girl and her father, but all are aware of Gonroku's bad reputation as a local bully and none has courage to help them. The carpenter (daiku) Tatsugor˘ comes to help but is not strong enough. Seeing the r˘nin Narikawa G˘emon nearby, he asks him to help, but Narikawa refuses.

This time Arakawa no Sakichi [1], formerly a carpenter but now a henchman (kobun) of an underworld boss (oyabun) Sh˘ki no Nihŕ [2], comes by. He too observes Gonroku's bullying of the girl and her upset father. Unable to curb his temper, Sakichi jumps into the fray, unmindful that he is not strong enough to beat Gonroku. He is soon knocked down by Gonroku, but when the ugly bully demands that he gives the name of his boss, he refuses because if he were to do so, it would embroil his boss Nihŕ in the matter too. Narikawa, for reasons of his own, taunts Sakichi to make him continue the fight and reveal his boss's name. It is Tatsugor˘, who shouts out the name of Sh˘ki no Nihŕ, at which the cowardly Gonroku slips away.

Now Sh˘ki no Nihŕ himself comes to the site, accompanied by some of his henchmen, among whom Yagurashita no Genji, who acts as an intermediary for the boss and who reprimands Sakichi for causing trouble in their territory. Nihŕ scolds Sakichi for loitering in this vicinity instead of carrying out Nihŕ's errand to the province of K˘shű. Then he notices Narikawa G˘emon and makes some veiled, sarcastic remarks to him, saying that Narikawa is not much of a man if he sells the integrity of his sword for a price. Sakichi overhears but does not understand what the remark means. However, it is obvious that Narikawa is seething at the remark.

Afterwards, Tatsugor˘ asks Sakichi why he should abandon carpentry in which he has sufficient skill to gain respect, and settle instead for such a lowly position among Nihŕ's henchmen. Sakichi answers that he has lowered himself to Nihŕ's level, attracted to the principle that only the strongest survive but also because of his love for Nihŕ's daughter Oyae. It goes without saying that there is no hope for Sakichi regarding Oyae because of his low rank in the clan hierarchy. Narikawa was listening intently to the comment that Sakichi has just made. The two friends go off for a drink together before Sakichi leaves on his errand to K˘shű. A commotion breaks out and there are shouts indicating that a brawl has just started. It seems from reports that the victim is none other than Sh˘ki no Nihŕ, who has been badly wounded by Narikawa G˘emon. The r˘nin staggers to the site where Gokuraku Tokubŕ [3] and Yagurashita no Genji [4], two of Nihŕ's henchmen, lie in wait for him. However, they recoil in the face of Narikawa's malevolence. They know they are no match for Narikawa.

Act I, scene 2: Muk˘ Ry˘goku Sh˘ki no Nihŕ no Ie
At the House of Nihŕ in Muk˘ Ry˘goku

The scene is set at the home of Sh˘ki no Nihŕ in Muk˘ Ry˘goku. Outside, it is twilight and a group of well-wishers has gathered at Nihŕ's house. One of these people is Sumida no Seigor˘, one of Nihŕ's henchmen, who is lost deep in thought. Nihŕ's daughter Oyae, who has feelings for Seigor˘, turns up, but is given a chore and retreats inside the house.

Suddenly Narikawa G˘emon appears to convey his well wishes to Nihŕ, and ends up saying that he cut Nihŕ in order to take over Nihŕ's territory. With his mind made up, Sumida no Seigor˘ faces Narikawa alone but is no match for him and ends up being easily cut down. Narikawa then exits calmly.

Act II, scene 1: Honjo Shimizu-ch˘ Hen no Nihŕ no Ie
At the House of Nihŕ in Honjo Shimizu-ch˘

The scene is set at the home of Sh˘ki no Nihŕ in Honjo Shimizu-ch˘. About four months have passed since the previous scene. Sh˘ki no Nihŕ after having been badly wounded by Narikawa, has lost his former influence, and his 'territory' has been claimed by the r˘nin, leaving Nihŕ in bad circumstances. One drizzling autumn day, when Nihŕ is away, Gokuraku Tokubŕ drops by at the humble house in Honjo Yokogawagashi where Nihŕ lives with his daughter.

A little later, Sakichi comes to the house. He is dressed in travel garb. He has been to K˘shű on the errand for Nihŕ and while there he fell sick with a fever and had stayed away much longer than originally scheduled. In the meantime, unknown to him, Nihŕ has been wounded and one arm made useless. Unable to carry on, he had disbanded his group, and most of the men with little loyalty to their former boss have quickly become the henchmen of Narikawa after he has taken over. Sakichi, having heard of these terrible events on his return to Edo, seeks out Nihŕ at his new address.

Oyae is surprised to see Sakichi but is rather brusque and unkindly. After all, he was only a lowly member among her father's men. Sakichi shows concern over the obvious circumstances of the household where not even a single henchman remains. He says that although he may have been only a small underling in Nihŕ's clan, he is a good carpenter and can find means to financially support both Nihŕ and Oyae. As daughter of a once powerful boss, Oyae feels insulted at such an offer. Sakichi, who has made the offer in a spirit of true loyalty, is trying to cover his embarrassment at his blunder when Nihŕ comes home. Nihŕ has been to visit his elder daughter Oshin, who is the mistress of a wealthy merchant. A child had been born, and it has been hoped all around that Oshin and the child would be accepted into the merchant family as legal wife (seisai) and son. Unfortunately for Nihŕ's family, the child has been born blind (m˘moku), and the merchant family refused to take in such a child which they felt would be a disgrace to their house. As a consequence, the baby has been forced on Nihŕ with money and the promise of a considerable allowance every month to pay for the child's care. Nihŕ asks Oyae to care for the child, but Oyae, who in the meantime has been dressing to go out, angrily refuses to be tied down by such a burden. She is particularly angry at the sight of the money attached to the baby, which her father tries to hide. Nihŕ's character has undergone a change from the time when he was a respected boss. Not feeling concerned by the crying baby, Oyae leaves the house. Sakichi, who is fond of children, cannot leave the little boy unattended. He picks the baby up and starts to fondle it, succeeding in quieting the little boy. Nihŕ tells Sakichi to mind the baby while he goes out for a gambling party. When Sakichi realizes that Nihŕ is planning to use loaded dices against the same gamblers who have previously mocked and beaten him, he desperately tries to stop him. Nihŕ refuses to be stopped and he goes off, most likely to meet his untimely fate, leaving Sakichi to care for the baby.

Act II, scene 2: Honjo Yokogawagashi H˘onjibashi no Hen
Near the H˘onji Bridge in Honjo Yokogawagashi

After dark, neither Nihŕ nor Oyae have returned at home, and Sakichi is still singing a lullaby to the baby when Gokuraku Tokubŕ comes running to the house. He says that Nihŕ has been caught cheating at the gambling party and has been stabbed to death. His body is being brought home and will arrive in a moment. Sakichi finds himself in the position of taking care of an abandoned baby and supervising last rites of his late boss.

Act III, scene 1: Daiku Tatsugor˘ no Ie
At the House of Tatsugor˘ the Carpenter

Unokichi, the blind son of Oshin, has become a fine little boy under the good care of both Sakichi and his friend Tatsugor˘. It has been a difficult task for the two men to bring up the blind child, but they have loved him deeply and have been rewarded in kindness. It is their dream to be some day able to send the boy to Ky˘to to apply for the rank of kengy˘, the highest official rank to be bestowed on a blind person, bringing with it esteem and security. It is unfortunately very expensive and there is little hope that they will ever be able to get it done. It has become a kind of 'impossible dream' for Unokichi.

Presently Sakichi comes home, but he seems distracted and detached. It turns out that Sakichi has been approached by representatives sent by the Marus˘ House, the merchant family to which Unokichi rightfully belongs, asking for the boy's return. Oshin has finally been accepted into the household as the young master's legal wife (seisai), but there has not been another child born after Unokichi. Tatsugor˘ and Sakichi agree that those 'rich' people got what they deserved as they have discarded Unokichi so callously and remorselessly as a baby.

Unfortunately for Sakichi, it is already too late. A couple of men come as representatives from the Marus˘ House. One is the tobigashira Hikojir˘ who often works for the Marus˘ House. The other is a man of influence, the heyagashira Shirokuma no Chűsuke, a minor official in the household of the daimy˘ of the Tosa Domain. They have brought 100 ry˘ to work out the transaction for the return of Unokichi to the Marus˘ House. This financial offer deeply insults Sakichi, who begins to vituperate against those 'rich' people who think that money can buy anything they want, even a child. He angrily throws the money back at them. This results in a quick fight, which Sakichi easily wins. Now he is sure he is ready to strike Nihŕ's enemy Narikawa G˘emon and claim revenge for the death of his former boss. He takes the sword that has belonged to Sh˘ki no Nihŕ, and sets off to find Narikawa after asking Tatsugor˘ to care for Unokichi.

Act III, scene 2: Muk˘jima Ukechi Akiba Gongen no Hen
At Akiba Gongen Shrine in Muk˘jima Ukechi

The scene is net near the Akiba Shrine in Muk˘jima. Sakichi has forced a man to come with him to identify Narikawa G˘emon when he passes by. The man, intimidated by Sakichi's threatening manner, does as bid and points out Narikawa from among the group of men around him. Sakichi recognizes him. He also recognizes several henchmen who have been Nihŕ's men and have betrayed their boss. Sakichi, no longer afraid or unsure of himself, challenges Narikawa to a duel. Narikawa accepts the challenge but, after having understood Sakichi's determined stand, he sneaks behind his henchmen to wait for a chance to strike maliciously after his men have tired Sakichi out. In the meantime, a palanquin has come by and its occupant shows himself. It is Sagamiya Masagor˘, a very influential ky˘kaku with a high reputation. He is commonly called Aimasa. He has seen Narikawa's cowardly maneuver and calls for a straightforward duel between the two. One on one, Sakichi succeeds in beating and slaying the r˘nin Narikawa G˘emon and avenging his late boss.

Act IV, scene 1: Ry˘gokubashi Fukin Sakichi no Ie
At the House of Sakichi near Ry˘goku Bridge

With Sagamiya Masagor˘'s backing, Sakichi has attained a somewhat better standard of living, and the house where he, Tatsugor˘ and Unokichi now live shows that improvement.

A while later, Sagamiya Masagor˘ comes to pay them an unexpected visit. He is followed by Oshin. Sakichi sees Oshin and instinctively moves as if to protect Unokichi from her. Masagor˘ says he has come to make several requests. He knows they are difficult requests to fulfill and he hesitates to use his influence in the matter, but he is indebted to the Marus˘ House for obligations in the past. His first request is that Sakichi take over Sh˘ki no Nihŕ's former territory and become the boss for that district, taking Oyae as his wife. Sakichi is perfectly aware that this is only the prologue and the easiest request to ask. As expected Masagor˘ continues, although finding it difficult to come out with it, namely that Unokichi is to be returned to his parents.

Sakichi turns to Oshin and says he has a few things to say to her. He pours out his resentment at the cold-heartedness of Oshin, her husband, and Oshin's sister Oyae, who have all refused to take care of the blind baby. He was a burden to them. They have abandoned him to be brought up by near-strangers. He says he is sorry to hear that Oshin's husband is sick, but he has already explained his stand to the earlier envoy. He thinks his attitude should therefore be perfectly clear. Oshin answers that she understands Sakichi's stand but her husband is so ill he thinks of nothing else. Sakichi repeats his words of hatred for those who think money can buy everything and never stop to reflect on their own selfishness and cold-heartedness. He then states that he will never hand Unokichi over to such people.

Feeling pity for Oshin, who attempts suicide over despair at this rejection, Sakichi knows deep inside that he is putting up a losing fight. Masagor˘ says that Unokichi will be happy when he lives with his wealthy parents rather than with Sakichi. Abruptly, Sakichi orders Tatsugor˘ to take the child right away to the Marus˘ House in the heart of Nihonbashi, and to stay with him for two or three days at the other house until Unokichi gets used to his new surroundings. Tatsugor˘ protests, saying that Sakichi should be the one to accompany Unokichi, but he immediately understands that Sakichi cannot stand the thought of parting and wants to get it over with as quickly as possible.

Unokichi goes off somewhat anxiously with Tatsugor˘ after being assured falsely by Sakichi that he will visit the Marus˘ House later. Then Sakichi turns to Masagor˘ to say he has a request of his own to make. He says he has no intention of taking over Nihŕ's former territory from Narikawa. He only wants permission to leave Edo. He does not plan to return, because he feels it will not be well for the boy to have a foster father of questionable profession around if he is to become the future master of the Marus˘ House. He wishes to leave Edo before dawn. Masagor˘ says he will be waiting at a shop along the way for a farewell drink at dawn.

Act IV, scene 2: Muk˘jima Ch˘meiji Mae no Tsutsumi
On the Embankment in front of Ch˘meiji Temple in Muk˘jima

Arakawa no Sakichi, dressed for travel, comes by on his way out of town and looks around for the sedge hat which Masagor˘ has said he would place outside the wayside tea house (chaya) where he will be waiting for Sakichi. Locating the house, he asks for Masagor˘ and is greeted by a geisha, who on closer observation, is none other than Nihŕ's younger daughter Oyae. She comes to apologize to him and to serve him a farewell drink.

Presently Masagor˘ comes in accompanied by Tatsugor˘ who is carrying Unokichi. After a round of farewell drinks, just as the sun is coming up, Sakichi hurries away, afraid to look back toward Unokichi, who is calling out to him.

This summary would have not been possible without the help of Marion Hudson!

Notes

[1] Literally Sakichi from the Arakawa River.

[2] Sh˘ki comes from Sh˘ki Daijin.

[3] Literally Tokubŕ "Paradise".

[4] Literally Genji "Under the Turret".

The actor Ichimura Uzaemon XV playing the role of Arakawa no Sakichi in the eponymous drama "Arakawa no Sakichi", which was staged in April 1932 at the Kabukiza

The actors Ichikawa Sadanji II and Ichimura Uzaemon XV playing the roles of Narikawa G˘emon and Arakawa no Sakichi in the drama "Arakawa no Sakichi", which was staged in April 1932 at the Kabukiza

Prints & Illustrations

 
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