Play title Ikite-iru Koheiji  In Japanese
Author Suzuki Senzaburô

Suzuki Senzaburô's drama "Ikite-iru Koheiji" was premiered in June 1925 at the Shinbashi Enbujô [more details]. It was a modern revision of the famous story of the travelling actor [1] Kohata Koheiji [2], with much more psychology and less kaidanmono stage effects.


"Ikite-iru Koheiji" is made up of 3 acts (one scene per act).

Key words Asaka no Numa
Tabi Shibai

Act I: Asaka no Numa
At the Asaka Marsh

It is late afternoon in spring on the Asaka Marsh in Ôshû. The sky is dark and the shadows of the trees are gloomy. The Asaka Marsh is sullen. Two men are fishing on a boat. Their sullen mood matches their surroundings.

Nago no Takurô [3], a hayashigata (taiko-uchi), and Kohata Koheiji [2], an actor, are members of a traveling troupe (tabi shibai), and old friends. Although outwardly they are still good friends, there is now a strained feeling between them. This is because of a woman named Ochika, who was widowed some four years ago. Since then, she became Takurô's nyôbô, but being a libertine she is also at the same time having a love affair with Koheiji, who is thoroughly infatuated with her. Takurô is aware of his wife's infidelity but he has always pretended not to notice. This situation has dragged on for four years, and the strain has become quite unbearable for the two friends. Both of the men are rather timid in nature and each feels himself guilty, one for coveting the other's wife, the other because he feels his loose wife is merely toying with his friend.

Koheiji finally brings up the matter, very hesitantly. He says that he realizes Takurô must have been aware of the love affair, and he must have despised him in his heart. Takurô answers that after all it is only a fickle game on the part of his wife, so that he has felt it beneath his dignity to make a fuss over it. Koheiji, feeling deeply insulted, says that it is not a game. He is genuinely in love with Ochika, and that if he were not, then he would not waste time playing with the wife of a mere hayashigata. This time Takurô feels also insulted. The stifled feelings of the two men gradually come out into the open. Koheiji begs Takurô to relinquish Ochika and give her to him as his wife. Takurô refuses, saying that although he seems to treat Ochika roughly, he is in love with her. Moreover she is his wife. Therefore, Koheiji is the one who must give her up. He taunts Koheiji, telling him to use all his power as actor to try to woo Ochika into eloping with him (kakeochi). He reiterates his belief that Ochika is only amusing herself with Koheiji, and that if it came to making a choice, she would stick with her husband. Koheiji shows sullen anger and swears that he will make Ochika his wife. The quarrel suddenly develops in subdued fury, until finally Takurô strikes Koheiji with a board. Koheiji falls into the marsh.

By this time it is growing dark over the marsh. Takurô shivers apprehensively and starts to row off. But suddenly Koheiji, bloody and covered with swamp grass, tries to climb aboard the boat. In a frenzy, Takurô strikes at the apparition. Koheiji slips back into the water. Takurô looks off into the dusk over the water. The shivering Takurô feels that Koheiji is still alive. He starts to row again, but the boat begins to go in circles.

Act II: Edo Takurô no Ie
At Takurô's Home in Edo

Ten days have passed since the end of the first act. It is dusk and the sounds of the nearby Sumida River are heard in the background. Rain is falling. Ochika is sitting in front of a mirror combing her hair. Koheiji comes to the door and peeks inside. He looks almost dead, with his wounds still open and his clothes covered with mud.

Ochika opens the door when Koheiji calls out. She is surprised to see him in such a condition, and when she questions him, he tells her that he has killed Takurô. He convinces her to run away with him and start a new life by threatening to say that she planned the murder of Takurô with him if he gets caught.

Ochika goes upstairs to get some money and make preparations to leave immediately with Koheiji. Before she comes back downstairs, Takurô appears at the door and calls out to Ochika. Koheiji hides in a corner of the entranceway. When Takurô notices Koheiji, Koheiji urges Takurô to kill him again. But Takurô, unsure whether Koheiji is really alive or a ghost (yûrei), is so frightened that he promises to give Ochika to Koheiji if he will only leave him alone. Just as Takurô gets hysterical, Ochika comes downstairs.

Takurô is in abject terror and begs Ochika to go away with Koheiji. But finally, when Ochika asks if Takurô is really going to leave her, Takurô plucks up his courage once more and stabs Koheiji. Ochika helps Takurô by tripping Koheiji as he tries to run away. Takurô puts his foot on the fallen Koheiji and stabs him through the middle of the chest once more. Ochika is overjoyed, but Takurô begins to weep bitterly and lamenting that he has finally actually killed a good old friend.

Act III: Umibe
At the Seaside

The scene is set at the seaside on a dark night. Ochika and Takurô are on the run, but Ochika has become so tired that she cannot go a step farther. Takurô asks Ochika whether she saw a man in the shadows at the inn the night before who looked just like Koheiji. Ochika answers absently that she did not see him. It seems that wherever they go, they meet a man in the shadows looking like Koheiji. This story is indeed a ménage à trois for life... and beyond.


[1] Kohata Koheiji, the "ghost" of the story, was said to have been a former servant of a Kabuki actor. He later became an itinerant actor, but he was betrayed and murdered by her wife Otsuka and and her lover Adachi Sakurô. This story was handled as a ghost play in Tsuruya Nanboku's drama "Iroeiri Otogisoshi" in 1808 and has been taken up since in various forms, mainly in the ghost-play category.

[2] We've found different possible readings for the name : not only Kohata Koheiji but also Obata Koheiji (Samuel Leiter in "New Kabuki Encyclopedia"), Kohada Koheiji or Kobata Koheiji.

[3] Literally Takurô from Nago. A place now in the city of Tateyama in Chiba Prefecture, which is famous for its temple named Nagodera.

The actors Onoe Kikugorô VI and Ichikawa Kigan V playing the roles of Takurô and Takurô's wife Ochika in the drama "Ikite-iru Koheiji", which was staged in June 1925 at the Shinbashi Enbujô

Bandô Tamasaburô V playing the role of Koheiji's wife Ochika in "Ikite-iru Koheiji" in a print made by Tsuruya Kôkei in July 1987

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