Play title Haji Momiji Ase no Kaomise  In Japanese
Author Tsuruya Nanboku IV

The drama "Haji Momiji Ase no Kaomise", based on the "Meiboku Sendai Hagi" and the "Kasane" worlds, was premiered at the Kawarasakiza in the 7th lunar month of 1815, staring Ichikawa Danjűr˘ VII in ten hayagawari roles [casting]. His performance was a huge success but the play was no more performed and its script was lost up to the successful revival made by the star Ichikawa Ennosuke in April 1979 at the Meijiza [casting]. This revival was produced several times during the end of the 20th century. One of the highlights of the play is the confrontation on stage between the good Masaoka (always played by Ichikawa Ennosuke) and the evil Yashio. In January 2010, the ten roles were played at the Shinbashi Enbuj˘ by the young star Ichikawa Ebiz˘. In May 2014, it was the turn of Ichikawa Somegor˘.

Here is a table with the different productions:

Date Theater Ten roles Yashio
1979/04 Meijiza (T˘ky˘) Ichikawa Ennosuke III Nakamura Ganjir˘ II
1979/07 Kabukiza (T˘ky˘) Ichikawa Ennosuke III Nakamura Ganjir˘ II
1979/09 Minamiza (Ky˘to) Ichikawa Ennosuke III Nakamura Ganjir˘ II
1981/02 Misonoza (Nagoya) Ichikawa Ennosuke III Ichikawa Monnosuke VII
1982/04 Meijiza (T˘ky˘) Ichikawa Ennosuke III Sawamura S˘jűr˘ IX
1986/07 Kabukiza (T˘ky˘) Ichikawa Ennosuke III Jitsukawa Enjaku III
1987/02 ďsaka Shinkabukiza (ďsaka) Ichikawa Ennosuke III Jitsukawa Enjaku III
1992/07 Kabukiza (T˘ky˘) Ichikawa Ennosuke III Ichikawa Danshir˘
1999/07 Kabukiza (T˘ky˘) Ichikawa Ennosuke III Sawamura S˘jűr˘ IX
2010/01 Shinbashi Enbuj˘ (T˘ky˘) Ichikawa Ebiz˘ Ichikawa Ukon
2012/08 Shinbashi Enbuj˘ (T˘ky˘) Ichikawa Ebiz˘ Ichikawa Ukon
2013/05 Minamiza (Ky˘to) Ichikawa Ebiz˘ Ichikawa Ukon
2014/05 Meijiza (T˘ky˘) Ichikawa Somegor˘ Nakamura Karoku
2015/02 Hakataza (Fukuoka) Ichikawa Somegor˘ Ichikawa Ukon
2018/06 Hakataza (Fukuoka) Matsumoto K˘shir˘ Kataoka Nizaemon

The latest production of "Date no Jűyaku" (July 1999) was made up of 4 acts and 10 scenes. Here is a table with the different scenes and the roles played by the same actor:

Act Scene Roles
Prologue Inamuragasaki point near Kamakura Nikki Danj˘, Akamatsu Manyű, Yoemon
I Hanamizu bridge in Kamamura Yorikane, Dote no D˘tetsu
  The Miuraya Brothel in ďiso Yorikane, Kasane, Takao, Yoemon
  Takao's room in the Miuraya Brothel Dote no D˘tetsu, Yoemon, Takao
II Near H˘z˘ji Bridge on the Nameri river Nikki Danj˘, Yoemon, Yorikane, Dote no D˘tetsu, Takao's spirit, Kasane
III A parlor in the Ashikaga Mansion Masaoka
  Under the floor of the Ashikaga Mansion Arajishi Otokonosuke, Nikki Danj˘
IV A parlor in the Yamana Mansion Hosokawa Katsumoto
IV Outside the gate of the Court of Law Yoemon, Dote no D˘tetsu, Hosokawa Katsumoto
  Inside the Court of Law Nikki Danj˘, Yoemon, Hosokawa Katsumoto
Key words Aragoto
Date S˘d˘
Ennosuke Jűhachiban
Ennosuke Shijűhassen
Fukkatsu T˘shi Ky˘gen Jűhachiban
Hosokawa Katsumoto

The July offering at the Kabukiza was a treat for Kabuki lovers. July is Ennosuke month at this theater and this is the 29th year he has given this special performance. As usual, the program was packed with excitement. In particular, the evening show featured Ennosuke in "Date no Jűyaku" carrying out 47 quick changes of costume while transforming back and forth between 10 roles-male and female, young and old, villainous and heroic-in addition to doing his trademark chűnori stunt, in which he flies over the heads of the audience on wires to the top floor of the theater. This play was first written in 1815, but was left unperformed until 1979, when Ennosuke revived it and made it into one of the classics of his special brand of acting. Only two other actors have performed this role in the play's history because of its gruelling nature.

Ennosuke announced earlier this year that this would probably be the last time he performed this play in his career because of the physical toll that it takes on him. He has appeared in it nine times in total, the last time being seven years ago. To do these quick role changes, he has to scurry under the stage floorboards, clamber up ladders, run from backstage to the lobby and back, and also speak in one character's voice backstage while his assistants are helping to change his costume to that of another character. I thought I knew most of the tricks he uses, but I was still stumped this time by some of the complete changes, from the tabi socks right up to the wig and makeup, executed in just a few seconds. The rousing applause he received at the end of each four-hour show, and the full-house standing ovation on the final night were a tribute to the sheer skill and entertainment value of this extraordinary man and his performance.

The story of "Date no Jűyaku" is extremely complicated, but in brief it revolves around the plot of a group of conspirators led by Nikki Danj˘ to murder the young son of Lord Ashikaga Yorikane and take over the wealthy clan for themselves. The play is based on a real event involving the Date clan of Sendai during the 1660's, but censorship prevented contemporary incidents being dramatized, so the drama was set during the Muromachi period (1336-1568), and names were changed to disguise the protagonists' identity. The story will further unfold as Ennosuke's 10 roles are outlined:

  • Akamatsu Manyű: the ghost of the great enemy of the clan rises from behind the dead man's grisly skull, which has a sickle sticking out of its eye. Manyű asks his son, Nikki Danj˘, to bring to completion the plot against Lord Yorikane that he was unable to finish before he was murdered. He gives Nikki a scroll of formulas that will ensure him great magical powers.
  • Nikki Danj˘: this arch-villain of Kabuki uses his magical powers to transform himself into the form of a rat. At one point a giant rat appears on the roof of the mansion, with its head moving back and forth and red eyes blazing. Then Nikki breaks out from inside the rat's body and escapes.
  • Dote no D˘tetsu: a villainous priest who arranges for poison to be delivered to the mansion. It will later be used to lace the cakes earmarked for Yorikane's son.
  • Ashikaga Yorikane: the elegant, genteel lord of the clan whose pleasure-loving proclivities are encouraged by the conspirators in order to damage his name and bring him to disgrace with the shogunate.
  • Takao: a beautiful, top-ranking courtesan who is Lord Yorikane's lover. She refuses to part from him despite the pleas of those around her, and is stabbed and killed byů
  • Yoemon: a faithful retainer of Yorikane, who sees her death as the only solution to the problem. Ultimately, he will sacrifice his own life to stop Nikki Danj˘, since only the blood of a man born in the Year, Month, Day and Hour of the Rat can do the trick and he fits the bill exactly. In the meantime, however, Takao's ghost possesses and disfiguresů
  • Kasane: the sister of Takao and wife of Yoemon, who is forced to kill her, too, after she attacks Yorikane's betrothed, Princess Miyagata, who is on her way to join Yorikane. All of these events result in Yorikane having to resign. Now, all that stands between the conspirators and success is Yorikane's child heir, Tsuruchiyo.
  • Masaoka: the nursemaid of Tsuruchiyo. To protect him against assassination Masaoka has trained her own young son, Senmatsu, to taste Tsuruchiyo's food. Those plotting to take over the clan send poisoned cakes via the hand of Sakae Gozen, the wife of a high-ranking judge. She is accompanied by Yashio, the vile sister of Nikki Danj˘. Young Senmatsu dashes out and eats one of the cakes as he has been trained to do, but the cruel and callous Yashio instantly stabs him claiming that his rude behavior is receiving its just punishment. Despite her son being murdered in front of her eyes, Masaoka must show no emotion. In fact, she is so stoic that she fools Sakae into believing that she is on the side of the plotters, and that it was actually Tsuruchiyo disguised in retainer's clothes who had died. Assuming she can trust Masaoka, Sakae gives her a secret scroll listing all the conspirators. Finally alone, Masaoka gives vent to her grief for her son, but Yashio has been watching and attacks her. Masaoka stabs her, but just at that moment, a rat appears and runs off with the scroll.
  • Arajishi Otokonosuke: a hero in the bold aragoto style, who is a loyal retainer, has caught the rat under his foot, but it manages to escape down a trapdoor in the hanamichi and reemerges seconds later in human form as Nikki Danj˘. Carrying the scroll in his mouth, he escapes as if walking on clouds. Ennosuke achieved this effect by using his chűnori technique-he was lifted up on wires and 'walked' through the air up to the third floor balcony. In the final act, an elderly, faithful retainer, Geki, seeks to uphold the legality of Tsuruchiyo's succession to his father's position, but the judge is in Danj˘'s pay and finds against him. However, a senior judgeů
  • Hosokawa Katsumoto: he makes his entrance and overrules the first judge's decision through a clever series of questions and answers in which he demonstrates that Onitsura, Yorikane's wicked uncle and Danj˘'s accomplice, has been derelict in his duty and ought to commit seppuku ritual suicide to atone. Danj˘ is also convicted, but in a final attempt to escape, he stabs Geki. Danj˘ in turn is stabbed by Geki, using the sickle covered in Yoemon's blood, thus breaking Danj˘'s magical powers.
  • Text courtesy of Jean Wilson (July 1999)

    Ichikawa Danjűr˘ VII playing the role of Nikki Danj˘ in the drama "Haji Momiji Ase no Kaomise", which was staged in the 7th lunar month of 1815 at the Kawarasakiza (print made by Utagawa Kunisada I)

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