Play title Kanadehon Chűshingura  In Japanese
Common titles Hangan Seppuku  In Japanese
Hangan's Ritual Suicide
Yodanme  In Japanese
The Fourth Act
Authors Takeda Izumo II
Miyoshi Sh˘raku
Namiki Senryű I

The play "Kanadehon Chűshingura" was originally written for the puppet theater (Bunraku) and staged for the first time in the 8th lunar month of 1748 in ďsaka at the Takemotoza. It was adapted for Kabuki the same year and staged for the first time in the 12th lunar month of 1748 in ďsaka at the Kado no Shibai [casting]. The "Yodanme" act (4th act) was performed with the actors Ichinokawa Hikoshir˘ II, Arashi Sanjűr˘ II, Anegawa Shinshir˘ I, Kataoka Nizaemon IV and Tamiya Jűzabur˘ II in the roles of Hen'ya Hangan, ďboshi Yuranosuke, Ishid˘ Umanoj˘, Ono Kudayű and Yakushiji Jirozaemon.


The "Yodanme" act, the fourth act of "Kanadehon Chűshingura", is made up of 3 scenes commonly called "Hana Kenj˘" (literally 'Flower Offering'), "Hangan Seppuku" (literally 'Hangan's Ritual Suicide') and "Shiro Akewatashi" (literally 'Vacating the Castle'). Scene 2 and 3 are always performed for a t˘shi ky˘gen production of this drama and are never staged independently. Scene 1 is still in the repertoire but it is rarely-staged nowadays.

Key words Adauchi
Gidayű Ky˘gen
Gishi Ky˘gen
Kabuki Sandai Meisaku Ky˘gen

Previous scene: "Hana Kenj˘"

Act IV, scene 2: Hangan Seppuku
Hangan's Ritual Suicide

The story moves on and despite the slight nature of lord Moron˘'s wound, Hangan is sentenced to death. His property is disolved and his entire household is disbanded. His retainers become r˘nin, (literally "wave men"), the term used for samurai who lose their master. The whole of this rather long scene is extremely heavy and sombre in mood. When handed his sentence of death by the Sh˘gun's two envoys Hangan shows how he was prepared for the verdict by revealing his pale undergarments... the traditional attire of those about to take their own lives. Hangan must now cut open his own stomach before the eyes of the envoys and then his lands must be handed over. Hangan would be ready... except that he needs to speak one last word in secret with his chief retainer, Yuranosuke, who has not yet returned to the mansion. He tries to stall for time, but must not appear cowardly, and repeatedly asks Yuranosuke's son, Rikiya,whether his father is back yet. Meanwhile, the slow ritual of seppuku,("disembowlment"), is carried on in front of us with a gruesome attention to detail and correct procedure that keeps our attention in its feeling of being true-to-life. It takes a long time, but finally the moment arrives when Hangan must plunge the short-sword into his belly and draw it across from the left side to the right thereby slitting it open. But death does not come quickly and it is only now at the last minute that Yuranosuke rushes in along the hanamichi. He is allowed to approach his lord who has just enough breath left to hint at his final instructions to his faithful retainer. Yuranosuke is the only one who can be trusted and as he is also wise he understands his lord's dying wish. His wish is for revenge. Prevented from defending his honour by Kakogawa Honz˘, it is now up to Yuranosuke to seek satisfaction on his behalf.

After this the envoys leave the stage and Hangan's corpse is placed inside a palanquin for its later removal to the near-by temple. Kaoyo appears briefly, dressed all in white and revealing that she's taken the tonsure by cutting her hair. All pay their last respects and burn incense for the departed soul. Finally, the palanquin is carried off, Kaoyo retires and Yuranosuke is left in the room with the other men.

Though the effectual leader of all Hangan's retainers, Yuranosuke is not infact the most senior. That position belongs to the elderly Ono Kudayű whom Yuranosuke does not necessarily trust. The old man's loyalty is called into doubt when he nods off during the sad but tedious proceedings, and Yuranosuke knows him well enough not to expose any plan for revenge while Kudayű is still in the room. It is only after he's gone that Yuranosuke makes his intentions known to those loyal samurai who are left. He insists that they do not oppose the Sh˘gun's orders to hand over the property for afterall, it is not the Sh˘gun who is their enemy but rather the wicked Moron˘. They must bide their time untilthey are ready to attack and kill that lord. He and the men then rush to the front gate of the mansion to stop and inform other retainers.

Courtesy of Paul M. Griffith

Next act: "Shiro Akewatashi"

Ichikawa Ebiz˘ V and Sawamura Tossh˘ I playing the roles of ďboshi Yuranosuke and En'ya Hangan in the "Hangan Seppuku" scene of the drama "Kanadehon Chűshingura", which was staged in the 3rd lunar month of 1833 at the Kawarasakiza (print made by Utagawa Kunisada I)

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