Play titles Igagoe D˘chű Sugoroku  In Japanese
Igagoe Norikake Gappa  In Japanese
Keisei Tonoi Zakura  In Japanese
Sono Umayaji Sagara no Kikigaki  In Japanese
Authors Chikamatsu Hanji, Chikamatsu Kasaku ("Igagoe D˘chű Sugoroku")
Nagawa Kamesuke I ("Igagoe Norikake Gappa")

During Japan's feudal period, from time to time there were people that could not be punished due to clan loyalties and highly fragmented authority. Under certain conditions, retainers and family members were empowered to take the law into their own hands and conduct an official vendetta. "Igagoe D˘chű Sugoroku" was written by Chikamatsu Hanji and first presented in the Bunraku puppet theater in the 4th lunar month of 1783 and adapted for Kabuki in the 9th lunar month of 1783 in ďsaka at the Naka no Shibai [casting]. The authors drew their inspiration from Nagawa Kamesuke I's successful drama "Igagoe Norikake Gappa", which was directly written for Kabuki and was staged for the first time in the 12th lunar month of 1776 in ďsaka at the Naka no Shibai [casting]. A similar drama was staged in Ky˘to in the 1st lunar month of 1777 under the title "Keisei Tonoi Zakura" [casting].

"Igagoe D˘chű Sugoroku" is an epic based on a true incident in 1634 in which Watanabe Kazuma killed the murderer of his younger brother, a man named Kawai Matagor˘ at Iga Ueno, with the aid of Araki Mataemon. In the final fight, Mataemon killed several people, which has made him legendary as a master swordman celebrated in theatre, k˘dan storytelling and popular novels. Watanabe Kazuma's desperate search for Kawai Matagor˘ takes him throughout Japan and the success of the vendetta is due to the help he gets from others. The play focuses on the often tragic consequences of divided loyalties as people confront members of this vendetta.

When it was dramatized, the names and details, and even the era were changed because of censorship by the ruling Tokugawa Shogunate:

Real Names Theater Names
Kawai Matagor˘ Sawai Matagor˘
Araki Mataemon Karaki Masaemon
Watanabe Yukie Wada Yukie
Watanabe Kazuma Wada Shizuma
Kawai Jinzaemon Yamada K˘bŕ

The play focuses on the often tragic consequences of divided loyalties as people confront members of this vendetta, and is set like a journey along the T˘kaid˘ highway.


"Igagoe D˘chű Sugoroku" is made up of 10 acts:

Act Scene In Japanese In English
I 1 鶴が岡 Tsura-ga-Oka
At the Tsura-ga-Oka Shrine in Kamakura
II 1 和田行家屋敷 Wada Yukie Yashiki
At the Mansion of Wada Yukie
III 1 円覚寺 Engakuji
In the Engakuji Temple
IV 1 宇佐美五右衛門屋敷 Usami Goemon Yashiki
At the Mansion of Usami Goemon
V 1 唐木政右衛門屋敷 Karaki Masaemon Yashiki
At the Mansion of Karaki Masaemon
  2 誉田家城中 Hondake J˘chű
In the Castle of the Honda Clan
VI 1 沼津棒鼻 Numazu B˘bana
On the road at Numazu
  2 沼津平作住居 Numazu Heisaku Sumika
At Heisaku's home in Numazu
  3 沼津千本松原 Numazu Senbon Matsubara
In the Thousand-pine Plain in Numazu
VII 1 富士川新関 Fujikawa Shinseki
At the new barrier on the Fuji River
VIII 1 岡崎山田幸兵衛住 Okazaki Yamada K˘bŕ Sumika
At Yamada K˘bŕ's home in Okazaki
IX 1 伏見北国屋 Fushimi Hokkokuya
At the Hokkokuya Inn in Fushimi
X 1 伊賀上野仇討 Iga Ueno Adauchi
The Revenge at Iga Ueno
You need a Japanese Language Kit installed within your system in order to be able to read the characters

Act II (commonly called "Yukie Goroshi", "the Murder of Yukie"), Act V (commonly called "Manjű Musume" (scene 1) and "H˘sho Jiai" (scene 2), in English "the Sweet Cake Girl" and "Paper Duel"), Act VI (commonly called "Numazu") and Act VII/Act VIII (commonly called "Okazaki") are still part of the current Kabuki repertoire. "Numazu" is the most popular and most frequently performed-act.

Key words Adauchi
Gidayű Ky˘gen
Sandai Adauchi
Yamato K˘riyama

Act II
Wada Yukie Yashiki
At the Mansion of Wada Yukie
--> A dedicated summary: "Yukie Goroshi"

Sawai Matagor˘ lusts after Otani, the daughter of Wada Yukie, a senior retainer of the Uesugi clan, and a precious sword belonging to the family, for which he has tempted Yukie's son Wada Shizuma into disgracing the family name. Yukie rejects all of Sawai Matagor˘'s requests, but suddenly, the senior retainer is killed by a sword coming through the floor, part of a plot by the treacherous Matagor˘.

From Act I to Act V
--> A dedicated summary: "Engakuji" (Act III)

Wada Yukie is a senior retainer of the Uesugi clan and has two children, a daughter Otani and a son, Shizuma. Sawai Matagor˘ lust after Otani, the daughter of Wada Yukie, and a precious sword belonging to the family, for which he has tempted Yukie's son Shizuma into disgracing the family name. Sawai Matagor˘ assassinates Wada Yukie, and then flees, helped by the merchant Jűbŕ. In the encounter, Yukieĺs son Shizuma is wounded. Shizuma would like to avenge his fatherĺs death, but in his weakened state is unable to and his only hope is brother-in-law Karaki Masaemon who is married to his sister Otani. But legally, they cannot participate in the vendetta since Otani was disowned by her father. Moreover, Masaemon is on the verge of accepting an important post as fighting master to a samurai lord. In these scenes Masaemon decides to help Shizuma and must do it by renouncing all that is dear to him.

Act V, scene 1
Karaki Masaemon Yashiki
At the Mansion of Karaki Masaemon
--> A dedicated summary: "Manjű Musume"

Karaki Masaemon, who has left Kamakura with his wife Otani, now lives in the K˘riyama Domain, having been employed by Honda Dainaiki, the daimy˘ of K˘riyama Castle, through a recommendation by a samurai named Usami Goemon. A strange thing to be reported: Masaemon has suddenly divorced his wife without any apparent reason.

In his absence his retainer Ishidome Busuke is supervising the preparation for Masaemon's second wedding which is to take place in the evening. When Otani, who is near her time of childbirth, comes to the mansion, Busuke tells her that the new bride is about to arrive. He encourages Otani by saying that no matter what happens she is still Masaemon's wife because she is pregnant with his child. She hides herself in an inner room when she hears Masaemon's footsteps.

On his return, Masaemon tells his servant that he has been ordered by Honda Dainaiki to have a fencing contest with Sakurada Rinzaemon the following morning. Otani reenters and, act as if she were a maid. Pretending ignorance, Masaemon asks Busuke who this woman is. Busuke has to answer that she is indeed a newly-employed maid.

Usami Goemon comes to meet Masaemon and challenges him to a duel, saying he is angry with Masaemon's divorce of Otani. Masaemon easily succeeds in dissuading him by pointing out that Goemon would prove disloyal to their daimy˘ if he killed Masaemon before the fencing contest.

Presently the bridal party arrives. From the palanquin appears a most unusual bribe. She is a young girl about seven years old named Onochi. She is accompanied by her mother Shibagaki, who is none other than Wada Yukie's widow. She formally asks Masaemon to accept the young girl as his wife and she offers to him as the bridal gift a letter to Yukie's son Shizuma from his lord permitting him to avenge his father's death.

Masaemon now tells Otani that he has divorced her because if Otani, who has not been permitted by her father to marry Masaemon, is his wife, he can't legitimately help Shizuma. By marrying Onochi, who is Yukie's latest child, Masaemon will be well qualified to join the vendetta. Hearing Masaemon's explanation, Otani gladly understands the situation.

Masaemon then tells Goemon that he is going to be deliberately defeated by Rinzaemon in the fencing contest in order, hopefully, to be discharged and free to help Wada Shizuma's vendetta. He asks Goemon to kill himself after Masaemon's defeat in the contest as a gesture of apology for his recommendation of "the wrong swordsman" to Honda Dainaiki. Goemon agrees to comply with his request.

Act V, scene 2
Hondake J˘chű
In the Castle of the Honda Clan
--> A dedicated summary: "H˘sho Jiai"

Otani's husband Karaki Masaemon loses the fencing match in the presence of the lord so that he can travel in search of Sawai Matagor˘ and avenge the death of Otani's father Wada Yukie. But the lord sees that he is the superior swordsman due to the excellence of his stance. The lord lets him meet Wada Shizuma and gives him leave immediately to participate in the vendetta.

Act VI: Numazu
--> A dedicated summary: "Numazu"

"Numazu" is one act that tells of the sacrifices of those not directly involved in the vendetta itself but members of the same family who are indebted to the two opposing sides. The kimono merchant Jűbŕ meets a porter Heisaku as he travels west on business. They find that not only are they long-separated father and son, but that they also lie on opposite sides of the vendetta. Their loyalties prevent them from openly acknowledging their relationship. Heisaku sacrifices his life to get information from his son essential to his side's cause.

Acts VII and VIII
--> A dedicated summary: "Okazaki"

The plot involves the efforts of Wada Shizuma and his brother-in-law Karaki Masaemon, to pursue the villainous Matagor˘, who has murdered Shizuma's father Yukie. Their pursuit takes them along the T˘kaid˘ Highway. In this act, Shizuma reaches the Fuji River barrier and with the help of Osode the tea-shop girl, heads towards Okazaki, with Masaemon close behind. Although Osode is betrothed to Matagor˘ (whom she has never seen), she falls in love with Shizuma, who passes himself off as Matagor˘. They reach the house of her father, Yamada K˘bŕ, whom Masaemon recognizes as his old fighting teacher. Not knowing that these men are his enemies, K˘bŕ asks Masaemon to aid Matagor˘ (his daughter's betrothed). Masaemon pretends to agree. His distraught wife Otani, whom he has divorced in order to gain his master's permission to let him help Shizuma, arrives outside the house, and collapses in the snow. Not wanting distractions, Masaemon grabs the infant that she is carrying and dispatches Otani to a nearby shrine. Back at the house, the men find a note inside the child's amulet identifying him as Masaemon's son. To show his loyalty, Masaemon kills the child and asks K˘bŕ where Matagor˘'s is hiding. But K˘bŕ has already divined the men's identities. Realising that they are in his debt he knows that honour demands that he must break his bond with Matagor˘ so that their vendetta can be played out.

Act X: Iga Ueno Adauchi
The Revenge at Iga Ueno

Shizuma and Masaemon overtake Matagor˘ at Iga Ueno, halfway between Nara and Nagoya. They kill Matagor˘ and Rinzaemon to avenge the death of Shizuma's father.

Source for "Okazaki": the Fitzwilliam Museum Website
Others: Earphone Guide website


The word sugoroku in the title means a traditional Japanese game similar to "snakes and ladders". Many of these games were related to the stages of the famous T˘kaid˘ road. This drama is a long chase along the T˘kaid˘, which includes scenes in famous stages like Numazu, Fujikawa or Okazaki

The poster of the production of "Igagoe D˘chű Sugoroku", which was staged in September 1970 at the National Theatre

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