Play title Kaidan Botan D˘r˘  In Japanese
Authors Kawatake Shinshichi III / ďnishi Nobuyuki
San'yűtei Ench˘

"Botan D˘r˘" was a famous Rakugo story based on a Chinese legend created by San'yűtei Ench˘ (his masterpiece!). It was adapted to the stage for the first time in July 1892, staged at the Kabukiza under the title "Kaidan Botan D˘r˘" [casting]. A more modern version was written in 1974, written by the playwright ďnishi Nobuyuki for the Bungakuza troupe, starring Sugimura Haruko (Oyone, Omine), Kitamura Kazuo (Tomoz˘) and Ninomiya Sayoko (Otsuyu). It was so successful that it was staged one more time a few years later, in April 1976 at the Shinbashi Enbuj˘, with a casting mixing Kabuki actors (Onoe Sh˘roku II, Onoe Tatsunosuke I, Iwai Hanshir˘ X) and actresses (Sugimura Haruko, Ninomiya Sayoko, Inano Kazuko). Then, the ďnishi version was staged for the first time with a full Kabuki casting in June 1989, at the Shinbashi Enbuj˘ [casting]. The Kawatake Shinshichi III version is still occasionally revived but is less popular than the ďnishi Nobuyuki's one.

Key words Kaidanmono

The chief characters in "Botan D˘r˘" are Otsuyu, a beautiful maiden in love with Hagiwara Shinsabur˘. There is also the young lady's maid, and a picturesque evildoer, Tomoz˘.

Otsuyu meeting secretly with her lover is suddenly surprised, and they are rudely parted. In despair, she commits suicide with her maid, and the ghostly shapes visit Shinsabur˘ nightly. A priest gives him a small golden image of the Goddess of Mercy to ward off her nocturnal visits, and puts up a charm to keep Otsuyu away. Tomoz˘, the hero's faithless servant, steals the image and tells his wife that the ghost of Otsuyu will appear and pay him a sum of money for hiding it, the influence of which prevents her from entering her lover's house. He is firmly convinced the ghost will appear, and his look-out for the apparition is so full of surprise and contrast, and the suspense so well sustained, that the audience is thoroughly keyed up in anticipation. Tomoz˘ and his wife talk so much of the ghost that every moment they think she has come, and soon are trembling with fear, the frightened wife taking refuge under the large green mosquito net suspended over her bed. Otsuyu and her maid are suddenly seen to float behind the drooping branches of a willow tree, seemingly suspended in air, the maid carrying the ghostly lantern, shaped like a pink peony, that gives out a dim and intermittent glow. The transaction over between Otsuyu and Tomoz˘, the ghosts make their way towards Shinsabur˘'s house, but they cannot enter unless the Buddhist charm above the doorway is removed. This Tomoz˘ accomplishes, and immediately as the two weird shapes vanish, a peony lantern is seen to rise mysteriously from mid-stage and without the aid of hands, sail through the air and enter an open space over the door. Shinsabur˘ is now left to the mercy of the ghosts, who claim him as their own and take him away from the land of the living.

(ZoŰ Kincaid in "Kabuki, the Popular Stage of Japan")


  • There is a superstition concerning The Peony Lantern to the effect that actors who play the ghosts' r˘les soon pass away. This was brought home when the play was presented at the Imperial Theatre in August 1919. During the performances two of the most promising young actors* of T˘ky˘, taking the r˘les of mistress and maid, took ill and died within a week of each other. Nightly they had been seen, pale-faced, the hair worn long and dishevelled, the maid with the ghostly lantern in hand, moving behind the willow tree. Soon they were to become like the shades they impersonated, no longer of the earth, earthy (ZoŰ Kincaid in "Kabuki, the Popular Stage of Japan").
  • "Botan D˘r˘" most famous feature is the onomatopoeia "karannn koronnn", which is in fact the clatter of Otsuyu's ghost's wooden clogs announcing her appearance on stage.
  • (*) Kawarasaki Kunitar˘ IV and Onoe Kikujir˘ III, who respectively died the 13th and 27th of August 1919.

    The actors Onoe Kikugor˘ V and Onoe Eizabur˘ V playing the roles of Tomoz˘, Oyone's ghost and Otsuyu's ghost in the drama "Kaidan Botan D˘r˘", which was staged in July 1892 at the Kabukiza (print made by Toyohara Kunichika)

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