Play title Honch˘ Nijűshik˘  In Japanese
Authors Chikamatsu Hanji
Miyoshi Sh˘raku
Takeda Inaba
Takeda Heishichi
Takemoto Saburobŕ II

From ancient time, the Twenty-Four Examples of Filial Piety, one of the Confucian classics, has taught respect for one's parents with stories that seem rather strange and even grotesque today. For example, there is the story of the man whose sick mother wanted fresh fish in the dead of winter and so the man lay naked on the ice until he melted a hole through and the gods, taking pity on his plight saw that fish jumped out through this hole. Another story has a mother who wants to eat fresh bamboo shoots in the dead of winter. A dutiful son digs through the snow and finds that, miraculously, there are bamboo shoots growing underneath the snow. Chikamatsu Hanji, a playwright for the puppet theatre, combined these legends with the story of two feuding clans in the Japanese age of warring states (sengoku jidai), Nagao Kenshin and Takeda Shingen, to produce a fantastic historical drama on a grand scale, which was entitled "Honch˘ Nijűshik˘" ("Twenty-Four Examples of Filial Piety in Japan"). It was staged for the first time in the 1st lunar month of 1766 in ďsaka at the Takemotoza. It was adapted for Kabuki a few months later and was produced by both Nakamura Utaemon I and Mimasu Daigor˘ I in ďsaka at the Naka no Shibai [casting].

In this play, the Sh˘gun is assassinated and both Nagao Kenshin and Takeda Shingen are suspected of being behind it. They are granted three years to investigate the incident and this play shows the various events surrounding this.


"Honch˘ Nijűshik˘" is made up of 5 acts:

Act Scene In Japanese In English
I 1 足利館大広間 Ashikaga Yakata ďhiroma
The Grand Hall of the Ashikaga Mansion
  2 足利館奥殿 Ashikaga Yakata Okugoten
The Inner Pavilion of the Ashikaga Mansion
II 1 諏訪明神百度石 Suwa My˘jin Hyakudo Ishi
The "100 Times" Stone in the Suwa My˘jin Shrine
  2 武田信玄館切腹 Takeda Shingen Yakata Seppuku
Self-disembowelment in Takeda Shingen's Mansion
III 1 桔梗ヶ原 Kiky˘-ga-Hara
The Bellflower Plain
  2 勘助住家 Kansuke Sumika
Kansuke's Home
  3 勘助住家裏手竹藪 Kansuke Sumika Urate Takeyabu
A bamboo grove behind Kansuke's Home
  4 勘助物語 Kansuke Monogatari
Kansuke's story-telling
IV 1 道行似合の女夫丸 Michiyuki Niai no Meotogan
The Travel Dance of the Perfectly Matched Couple
  2 謙信館鉄砲渡し Kenshin Yakata Tepp˘ Watashi
The Delivery of the Rifle at Kenshin's Mansion
  3 謙信館十種香 Kenshin Yakata Jusshuk˘
The incense Jusshuk˘ at Kenshin's Mansion
  4 謙信館奥庭狐火 Kenshin Yakata Okuniwa Kitsunebi
The Fox Fire in the Inner Garden of Kenshin's Mansion
V 1 道三最期 D˘san Saigo
The End of D˘san
You need a Japanese Language Kit installed within your system in order to be able to read the characters

  • The most famous scene of "Honch˘ Nijűshik˘" is the third one in the fourth act, which is commonly called "Jusshuk˘" and is frequently staged either with or without the following scene ("Kitsunebi").
  • "Kitsunebi" is also often staged as a shosagoto.
  • Act III is commonly called "Takenoko Hori". It was very popular during the 18th or the 19th centuries, more popular than "Jusshuk˘", but this is no more the case nowadays as it is only revived once every 20 years.
  • Key words Gidayű Ky˘gen
    Hyakudo Ishi
    Sengoku Jidai
    Suwa My˘jin
    Suwa Taisha Takeda Katsuyori
    Takeda Shingen
    Uesugi Kagekatsu
    Uesugi Kenshin

    Act I: Ashikaga Yakata
    At the Ashikaga Mansion
    --> A dedicated summary: "Ashikaga Yakata"

    Act II, scene 1: Suwa My˘jin Hyakudo Ishi
    The "100 Times" Stone in the Suwa My˘jin Shrine
    --> A dedicated summary: "Suwa My˘jin"

    Act II, scene 2: Takeda Shingen Yakata Seppuku
    Self-disembowelment in Takeda Shingen's Mansion
    --> A dedicated summary: "Shingen Yakata"

    The mansion of Takeda Shingen, the ritual suicide of Katsuyori. The Sh˘gun is assassinated and the top warlords Takeda Shingen and Nagao Kenshin have been ordered to find the assassin. Even though they are bitter rivals, in a political marriage, Takeda Shingenĺs son Katsuyori has long been betrothed to marry Princess Yaegaki, the daughter of Nagao Kenshin. Shingenĺs son Katsuyori is blind and must die by ritual suicide if Shingen is unable to find the assassin of the Sh˘gun. Eventually he dies, but as it turns out, the Katsuyori that dies is an imposter, substituted as a child by a villain trying to take over Shingenĺs clan. Nureginu, a lady-in-waiting who is the only one to truly love the false Katsuyori, mourns this false Katsuyori. The real Katsuyori has lived as a humble gardener and Shingen sends Katsuyori and Nureginu to sneak into the mansion of Nagao Kenshin to recover a precious helmet that is a treasure of Shingenĺs clan.

    Act III: Takenoko Hori
    Digging up the Bamboo Shoots
    --> A dedicated summary: "Takenoko Hori"

    The Nagao Kenshin and Takeda Shingen clans seem to be bitter rivals, but both are ordered to search for the assassin of the Sh˘gun. In the rare "Takenoko Hori" scenes, the rivalry between the two clans is very clear as they fight over the services of the sons of the brilliant strategist Yamamoto Kansuke Haruyuki, now dead. There are two brothers, the gentle Jihiz˘ and the rough Yokoz˘. Their mother worries over whom to declare their father's heir by bestowing the secrets of strategy. The two brothers fight in the snow, furiously digging up the box of strategic secrets. This scene resembles the ancient legend of the filial son digging up bamboo shoots in the snow, giving this act its title.

    Act IV, scene 1: Michiyuki Niai no Meotogan
    The Travel Dance of the Perfectly Matched Couple
    --> A dedicated summary: "Michiyuki Niai no Meotogan"

    This michiyuki dance scene shows the journey of Katsuyori and Nureginu to Kenshinĺs mansion. The title of the dance ironically describes them as a ôperfect couple,ö but Nureginu loved the Katsuyori that died who was an imposter, but she must travel with a man who has the same name, but is a totally different person. Meanwhile, Katsuyori must travel to Princess Yaegaki, who has long been promised to him in marriage, but he must masquerade as Minosaku, a humble gardener.

    Act IV, scene 2: Kenshin Yakata Tepp˘ Watashi
    The Delivery of the Rifle at Kenshin's Mansion
    --> A dedicated summary: "Tepp˘ Watashi"

    Act IV, scene 3: Kenshin Yakata Jusshuk˘
    The incense Jusshuk˘ at Kenshin's Mansion
    --> A dedicated summary: "Jusshuk˘"

    At Kenshinĺs mansion, Princess Yaegaki is mourning the death of Katsuyori. She has never met him, but since they were betrothed to marry, she has always regarded herself as Katsuyoriĺs wife. She spends her days gazing at a portrait of Katsuyori. Meanwhile, in another room, Nureginu, who has become a lady-in-waiting to the princess, mourns for the Katsuyori who has died as well. But Nureginu knows that the Katsuyori that died was an imposter. At the same time, the real Katsuyori, who entered the mansion as a gardener wears the robes of a samurai and looks exactly like the portrait of Katsuyori that the princess has treasured for so long. When the princess sees Katsuyori, she knows at once that this is the genuine Katsuyori and asks Nureginu to help her to be united with the man she loves.

    Act IV, scene 4: Kenshin Yakata Okuniwa Kitsunebi
    The Fox Fire in the Inner Garden of Kenshin's Mansion
    --> A dedicated summary: "Kitsunebi"

    This section is a musical highlight, as magical foxes that will allow her to save the life of her beloved Katsuyori possess the princess.

    Act V, scene 1: D˘san Saigo
    The End of D˘san
    This scene is no more part of the current Kabuki repertoire [1]

    While trying to go by stealth to the room of Nagao Kenshin late at night, Sekibŕ is caught by Nagao Kagekatsu and Takeda Katsuyori (disguised as the gardener Minosaku), who have come back from their respective trips to Shiojiri, and Yamamoto Kansuke Haruyuki, an eminent strategist, who is on Shingen's payroll. Sekibŕ is in fact the villain nyűd˘ Sait˘ D˘san, who assassinated the Sh˘gun three years ago. The two daimy˘ Nagao Kenshin and Takeda Shingen have been pretending to be antagonistic to each other in order to outmaneuver D˘san, who has been plotting to bring about the downfall of both Kenshin and Shingen and eventually to overthrow the Sh˘gunate government.

    Though surrounded by his enemies, D˘san defiantly declares that he has assassinated Lady Taoyame with the same rifle as the one used by him for the assassination of the Sh˘gun. Actually, however, the victim proves to be Nureginu. Kenshin, who had anticipated D˘san's attack on Lady Taoyame, secretly disguised Nureginu as Lady Taoyame, thereby causing D˘san to unknowingly kill his own daughter. Kenshin shoots D˘san to death with an arrow, bringing the rebel's plot to a disastrous end.

    Source: Earphone Guide website


    [1] In October 1971 at the National Theatre, the apparition of the nyűd˘ Sait˘ D˘san was added at the end of "Kitsunebi" but he was not killed. Jitsukawa Enjaku III played the role.

    The actors Onoe Tamiz˘ II (upper right corner) and Arashi Rikaku II (lower left corner) playing the roles of Yokoz˘ and Jihiz˘ in the "Takenoko Hori" scene of the drama "Honch˘ Nijűshik˘", which was staged in ďsaka in the 10th lunar month of 1861 at the Kado no Shibai (print made by Enjaku)

    The actor Sawamura Tanosuke III playing the role of Princess Yaegaki in the drama "Honch˘ Nijűshik˘", which was staged in the 9th lunar month of 1861 at the Ichimuraza (print made by Utagawa Toyokuni III)

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