BENIKAN
   
Play titles Iro Momiji Tsugiki no Futsutsuka  In Japanese
Chigusa Hana Masago no Shinbutai  In Japanese
Common title Benikan  In Japanese
Authors Ky˘gend˘ Sak˘ II (lyrics)
Tokiwazu Mojibŕ I (music)
History

The dance-drama "Iro Momiji Tsugiki no Futsutsuka" was premiered in the 7th lunar month of 1864 in Edo at the Moritaza [more details]. It was staged within the program "Chigusa Hana Masago no Shinbutai" which celebrated the reopening of the Moritaza which was destroyed in a fire the 22nd 4th lunar month of 1864 [1]. Supported by 3 musical ensembles (Tokiwazu, Kiyomoto and Nagauta), it was a cheery dance piece that perfectly captured the exuberant town life of Edo in the mid-19th century and it was premiered the 14th day of the 7th lunar month of 1864 [2].

Key words Asagao-uri
Asakusa
Benikan
Beniya Kanbŕ
Ch˘ch˘-uri
Daiku
Kakubŕ
Kiyomoto
Machi Musume
Mushi-uri
Nagauta
Shamisen
Shosagoto
Sh˘ya
Tokiwazu
Uchiwa-uri
Summary

The public unveiling of a temple grounds in Asakusa draws a diverse gathering: young girls (machi musume) from the neighborhood, vendors peddling butterflies, potted plants or insects [3], and the local headman (sh˘ya). As they meander about in search of amusement, the renowned street performer Benikan [4] arrives. They warmly welcome him into their midst, creating a lively circle where each person takes a turn displaying their unique dancing or singing skills.

Following everyone's performance, the enthusiastic crowd implores Benikan to share his talents. He commences with a spirited dance portraying a cheerful turtle, seamlessly transitioning into a captivating narrative accompanied by the melodic strumming of his shamisen. Entertaining the audience with a medley of popular songs, Benikan concludes his performance with a high-energy dance, much to the delight of the gathered spectators.

Notes

[1] The 22nd day of 4th lunar month of the 1st year of the Genji era was the 27th of May 1864 in the western calendar.

[2] The 14th day of 7th lunar month of the 1st year of the Genji era was the 15th of August 1864 in the western calendar.

[3] There are an asagao-uri, a ch˘ch˘-uri, a daiku, a mushi-uri, an uchiwa-uri and two kakubŕ.

[4] The Benikan in this dance-drama had a different ideogram for kan. As the role was played for the first time by Nakamura Shikan IV, the original kan in Benikan was replaced by the kan from Shikan:

The real Benikan The role Benikan

Illustration from the ehon banzuke for the staging of "Iro Momiji Tsugiki no Futsutsuka" in the 7th lunar month of 1864 at the Moritaza with the actors Nakamura Shikan IV, Sawamura Tanosuke III, Sawamura Tossh˘ II, Ichikawa Kuz˘ III, Band˘ Tamasabur˘ II and Onoe Baik˘

 
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