Play title Koi Ny˘b˘ Somewake Tazuna  In Japanese
The Loving Wife's Particolored Reins [1]
Keisei Somewake Tazuna  In Japanese
Authors Miyoshi Sh˘raku
Yoshida Kanshi I [2]

The play "Koi Ny˘b˘ Somewake Tazuna" was originally written for the puppet theater (Bunraku) and staged for the first time in the 2nd lunar month of 1751 in ďsaka at the Takemotoza. It was adapted for Kabuki a few months later and staged for the first time in the 7th lunar month of 1751 in Edo at the Nakamuraza [casting].


The drama "Koi Ny˘b˘ Somewake Tazuna" was originally made up of 13 acts. The most famous act, the 10th, "Shigenoi Kowakare" is often staged independently.

Key words D˘j˘ji
Gidayű Ky˘gen


Higashiyama Ry˘sen
At Ry˘sen in Higashiyama

When the curtain is drawn, the scene opens in a detached room of a temple at Ry˘sen in Higashiyama. Retainers, attendants of the young lord Yurugi Umanosuke and courtesans are idly chatting. A woman named Osan, holding a baby in her arms, comes in to ask for Date no Yosaku, one of young lord's retainers. The next visitor is Sagisaka Sanai, a messenger from the Yurugi clan's mansion, who has come to meet Takemura Sadanoshin, the master of Umanosuke. Umanosuke is the eldest son of Yurugi Saemon, the lord of the Tanba Province. Umanosuke was sent here to learn more of the world, but under the pretext of studying plays, he flirts with Ky˘to courtesans. Afraid that rumours of Umanosuke's dissipation might reach the Sh˘gun's ears, the Yurugi clan's kar˘, Date Yosobŕ, has ordered Sagisaka Sanai to bring Umanosuke home as soon as possible.

In the course of the talk with Sanai, Sadanoshin is surprised to know that his daughter, Shigenoi, a koshimoto working at Lord Yurugi's mansion, has gone home sick. Umanosuke appears on stage, dallying joyfully with courtesans. Looking at Sanai, he asks him to help him to win the heart of Iroha, his favorite courtesan. He needs 300 ry˘ to ransom her and the money has been gathered by Yosaku.

The third visitor is the evil Washizuka Hachiheiji, brother of Washizuka Kandayű. It is announced that he desires a private interview with Umanosuke. Being suspicious, Sanai asks Umanosuke and others to go to an inner room. When Hachiheiji is enters the room, he immediately accuses Yosaku of being responsible for the young lord's dissipated life. This is part of a plot crafted by his brother Kandayű to trap Date no Yosaku. A messenger from the Shimabara pleasures quarter enters to urge Hachiheiji to pay back a debt he owes. Hachiheiji leaves the room.

Sanai tells Yosaku that, as the young lord has determined to go back home the day after tomorrow, he should escort him with great care. As a consequence, the redemption of Iroha is dropped and the ransom money of 300 ry˘ is no more necessary. Sanai orders the money sent back as soon as the yakko Ippei, at the service of Yosaku and the carrier of the money, arrives. Eavesdropping the conversation, Hachiheiji takes the decision to rob Ippei of the money. He needs the 300 ry˘ to redeem a courtesan in Shimabara (miuke). He can kill two birds with one stone: buying his lover's contract and putting the blame on Yosaku.

Osan enters the room with the baby in her arms, who is none other than Yonosuke, the son of Yosaku and Shigenoi. The father sees his son's face the first time and he wishes Takemura Sadanoshin to meet his grandson. However, Sadanoshin tearfully refuses. This birth is a violation of family laws: to take a retainer as a lover for a lady-in-waiting is a terrible offence, which can be punished by death or exile. He can't admit the baby as his grandson. Yosaku tells Osan to hold the baby above the wash-basin so that the baby's reflection on the water-mirror can be seen by Sadanoshin. Glancing at it, Sadanoshin rushes and hugs the baby, shedding tears on the luckless child who has nothing except the clothes he is wearing. Though the baby was born of respectable father and mother, the grandson of a chief retainer, the love between Yosaku and Shigenoi is not allowed.

Yurugike Shimoyashiki
At the Lower Mansion of the Yurugi Family

Date Yosobŕ and Sagisaka Sanai are finally relieved as the young lord of the Yurugi clan has safely returned home without redeeming his favorite courtesan and tarnishing his reputation. Honda Yasozaemon, the kar˘ of Lord Iruma, comes to arrange the engagement between the Yurugi Saemon's 1-year-old daughter Princess Shirabe and Iruma's son.

Hachiheiji appears on stage with a man named Yamagataya Gihei, a Ky˘to,merchant who has come to explains that the 300 ry˘ to redeem Iroha have been stolen by the yakko Ippei, Yosaku's servant. Moreover, he has heard that Date no Yosaku spent it to pay back his own debts. Sanai questions Gihei to see whether he has any proof of Yosaku's deeds or whether Gihei was asked by a malevolent person to tell such a story. Gihei answers that he has no evidence. Hachiheiji interrupts Gihei, saying he will investigate the matter later himself, and sends Gihei away as he is fearful that his wicked plan may be revealed.

Angered by his son's conduct, Yosobei stands up to call his son in order to punish him. Yosobei strikes Yosaku and tries to question him about Gihei's story, but he cannot control his feelings. He asks Hachiheiji to question him in his place. The evil Hachiheiji triumphantly launches a strict cross-examination. Yosaku explains how Umanosuke had insisted on redeeming Iroha, and that he, Yosaku, sent Ippei to fetch the 300 ry˘, but that Ippei had been ambushed and robbed by thieves. Ippei unfortunately ran away leaving behind him only a letter of apology. However, as Yosaku's explanation lacks evidences, Yosobei hits him with the back of his sword. Then, he takes away Yosaku's own swords and kicks him off. Sanai suspect Hachiheiji of the crime but there is no proof. He has no other choice than ordering the exile of Yosaku, who made no effort to stop his young lord's dissipated life and, moreover, had lost some of his clan's money.

Yosobei disowns Yosaku (kand˘), and orders him to wear the ragged clothes of a servant as he is now forbidden to wear any garment with the family mon. Sanai brings Shigenoi and speaks to himself in a voice loud enough to be heard by Yosaku, saying that both Yosaku and Shigenoi should be put to death. In order to save their lives, he has decided to exile Yosaku for the crime of losing the 300 ry˘ though Hachiheiji seems to be a more suitable suspect but it can't be proved. Under the light of a dim lamp Yosaku meets Shigenoi for the last time. Her heart breaks when she sees her disinherited lover and she laments their ill fate. They exchange hasty farewell and Yosaku walks away.

Yurugike Naga R˘ka
In the Long Corridor of the Yurugi Family

Several retainers are talking about the illicit love story between Shigenoi and Yosaku. As soon as today's performance finishes, she will be banished or put to death on account of her misconduct. The evil Washizuka Kandayű, who loves her and wanted her as a mistress, has revealed the scandal because she resisted his advances. Sagisaka's wife Fujinami enters and gives them some details of this sad affair. Takemura Sadanoshin, Shigenoi's father, will also be deprived of his position because of Shigenoi's misconduct. Before his dismissal, in honour of Princess Shirabe's birthday, he will perform the dance-drama "D˘j˘ji". The kind-hearted Lord Yurugi has ordered Shigenoi to play the supporting role of a priest. As a consequence of this kind order, Sadanoshin will be able to see his daughter and hear her voice for the last time. He will not be permitted to talk with the guilty Shigenoi. The lord has also ordered all the retainers to watch the play bearing this fact in mind.

Yurugike N˘ Butai
At the N˘ Stage of the Yurugi Family

As the curtain opens, on the stage, Takemura Sadanoshin, in the costume of a shiraby˘shi, is performing in the dance-drama "D˘j˘ji". He touches the bell which falls down. When the bell is hung up again, Sadanoshin appears in the guise of a serpent burning with jealousy. He keeps dancing, but suddenly begins staggering, for he has committed seppuku inside the bell. Everybody, either on or off stage, is astonished. He tells them, though fully convinced that Shigenoi is very much guilty, she may well be punished because she has, blind with love, broken her master's family laws. He is overwhelmed with pity for her and wishes to save her life at the sacrifice of his own. With tears he begs Yurugi Saemon for her life and to make her a nun. She will be left alone after his death, for her mother died long ago, and her baby has been put out to nurse. Shigenoi bursts into tears and Yurugi Saemon is deeply moved by Sadanoshin's love for his daughter. Cutting Shigenoi's long furisode sleeves in compensation for her crime, declares her not guilty anymore and appoints her as the official nurse-governess of Princess Shirabe. Then he tells Sadanoshin to show the cut sleeves to his wife in the afterlife so that she will be relieved at her daughter's marriage [3].

Sadanoshin, deeply pleased, gives Shigenoi his mask as a keepsake, and tries to stand up. The lord orders them to bring a palanquin for him but he begs to be allowed to go without it. Hardly has he walked a step or two leaning on an iron staff before he falls dead on stage.

Kutsukakemura Hachiz˘ Sumika
At Hachiz˘'s Home in the Village of Kutsukake

Shigenoi's son Yonosuke, who is now five years old, is living in the house of his nurse Onaka in the village of Kutsukake. He was entrusted to this nurse by his parents four years ago. Both Onaka and his son Kutsukake no Hachiz˘ are holding a strong loyalty to Date no Yosaku and the Date family. As Onaka is seriously ill, Hachiz˘, the leader of a group of umakata, cannot work hard enough to make both ends meet. When two merchants come to collect bills, Hachiz˘ has a hard time to make them leave without any money.

Hachiz˘ goes out with his horse for work. He soon comes back, carrying a zat˘, Keimasa, whom he rescued from two highway robbers. As Keimasa is tired, he soon goes to bed. Hachiz˘ then takes out a whetstone and begins to sharpen his sword. His mother suspects that Hachiz˘ may be preparing to rob the blind man. She advises him not to kill him. Hachiz˘ says he was preparing to kill not the blind man but Washizuka Hachiheiji who robbed Date no Yosaku of 300 ry˘. Hachiz˘ has learned that Hachiheiji is at the nearby village of Sakanoshita. Hachiz˘ intends to go there to get the money back.

The next day, after Keimasa's departure, the two highway robbers, who were interrupted by Hachiz˘, come to take their revenge. Hachiz˘ defends himself with his hibachi. The hibachi breaks and three packs of money fall from it. Inspecting the packs, Hachiz˘ finds that each of them contains 100 ry˘ and that Hachiz˘'s name is written on its cover. Hachiz˘ goes to Sakanoshita to deliver the money to Keimasa who he believes has deliberately left it in the hibachi.

At the Village of Sakanoshita

Hachiz˘ catches up with Keimasa who is nearly dead, having been attacked by Hachiheiji. Keimasa reveals that his real name is Date no Yohachir˘. He is the elder brother of Date no Yosaku and the son of Date Yosobŕ, who was a distinguished samurai. Hachiz˘ then attacks and kills Hachiheiji, the sworn enemy of the Date clan.

Yurugike Okuzashiki
In the Innermost Room of the Yurugi Family

Eleven years have passed since the "Yurugike N˘ Butai" scene. Princess Shirabe, the daughter of Yurugi Saemon, is now 12 years old. Today, she is about to start her long journey to Edo to marry a son of the Iruma clan. Honda Yasozaemon has come to meet her at her mansion. Sake has been served and the senior retainer is slightly intoxicated. Unfortunately, a report saying that the princess stubbornly insists she won't go to Edo reaches him. Her parents and her governess are trying to persuade her, so far in vain. Shigenoi, who is responsible for her education, tells her to be more sensible and to try to understand the situation, as she is over ten years old. Otherwise Shigenoi must apologize to her lord by committing seppuku. The little princess refuses to listen anymore.

A maid comes in to report that outside, a young umakata, who belongs to the accompanying group of servants, is now playing an interesting game called sugoroku using a picture map of the T˘kaid˘. She suggests that they bring him in to show the game to the princess to get her into a better mood. Everybody agrees and the boy is led into the room. He introduces himself as Sankichi, an 11-year-old umakata. Sankichi explains how to play the game. He throws a dice and he moves the playing pieces along the stopping places on the T˘kaid˘, giving amusing descriptions of each place. When the princess reaches the goal first and wins the game, her mood brightens, and she says that Edo seems to be such a nice place that she would like to visit it. They can now all focus on preparing themselves for the journey before the princess changes her mind.

Sankichi, left alone in the reception hall, looks around curiously. Shigenoi appears with a tray of delicacies, saying that they are a reward from the lord and that, if he needs anything while he travels to Edo with them, he is to ask for the governess Shigenoi. Hearing this, Sankichi makes sure of her name and hangs on her saying that she is his mother. Sankichi heard from his nurse that his father is Date no Yosaku, an ex-retainer of the Yurugi clan, and that his mother is Shigenoi, a governess, and that his real name is not Sankichi but Yonosuke. He shows his amulet-case as evidence. He says that, after his nurse died when he was five, he lived under the tender care of his neighbours and learned to drive a horse. Now he can make horse shoes and even straw sandals. He asks Shigenoi to find his father so that they can live together. Shigenoi recognizes Yonosuke, whom she entrusted to the nurse Osan just after his birth, and can hardly restrain herself from embracing him. However, she is now in the service of Princess Shirabe, who is about to marry in Edo. It will bring disgrace upon the princess to have as foster-brother a humble umakata. After some moments of tough inner struggle, Shigenoi succeeds in controlling herself. She can't drive him away, pretending she is not his mother as he believes. Instead, she prefers to tell him the truth.

Filled with pity at the sight of his dirty clothes, she explains that she indeed fell in love with Yosaku, breaking the law and committing a serious offence against the clan. She secretly gave birth to Yonosuke. When his birth was revealed, she was going to be punished but her father, Yonosuke's grandfather, sacrificed himself to save her life and the lord had mercy on her and spared her. So far she has devoted a total loyalty to her lord but she has not spent a day without being oppressed with anxiety about the fates of both her husband and her son. She asks him to understand that she cannot openly claim him as her son. She is suddenly called at the back of the house and she leaves the stage, leaving Sankichi alone and sad.

Yurugike Genkan Saki
At the Entrance of the Yurugi Palace

Poor Sankichi starts to go, covering his cheeks with a towel to hide his tears. He is called by Shigenoi, who wants to see his face again. She tells him to take care when he goes along steep mountain paths, not to go out at night in bad weather and not to get sick. Then, she gives him what money she has. Sankichi is well aware of his mother's difficulties but his heart breaks. Finding her real was a long search. She has finally found her and she refuses to claim him as her son. He throws away the money she has given him. He says that he can't accept the money from a stranger. Shigenoi, too, weeps over the ill fate which forces her to let her only child, the heir of an honorable chief retainer, drive a horse to earn his living.

Princess Shirabe appears with a train of attendants following her. All are prepared for the journey. Yasozaemon, seeing Shigenoi and the little boy crying, wonders what had happened between them. Shigenoi manages to explain away their tears. Yasozaemon orders Sankichi to sing an umakata song to wish the princess good luck. Sobbing, Sankichi begins to sing it.

Seki no Jiz˘
At the Jiz˘ of the Barrier

A group of umakata are chatting near the jiz˘ about what has recently happened with the Yurugi clan. It seems that a thief has broken into the officially appointed inn for Princess Shirabe and her suite. Several umakata were arrested and Sankichi was found guilty. The umakata feel sorry for the boy, who may be sentenced to death. It was also disclosed, to their surprise, that the leader of the umakata, Tanba no Yosaku, forced Sankichi to commit the theft. They reproach Yosaku for his reckless conduct and call him to be a disgrace to their group.

They all know that Yosaku fell in love with Koman, a popular prostitute at a barrier station on the T˘kaid˘ and generally known as Seki no Koman (literally Koman of the Barrier). Both Yosaku and Koman disappeared just after the theft was made public. The logical conclusion for all folks was that they must have run away together. Having been exiled, Date no Yosaku has been making a living as an umakata and has become Koman's lover. Yosaku, realizing that Sankichi, whom he forced to commit theft, was in reality his own son Yonosuke, becomes deeply ashamed of his conduct and makes up his mind to pay for his sin by killing himself. Koman is very sympathetic towards her lover and reveals her desire to die with him. They now are on their way to commit their shinjű.

Koman sold herself to a brothel when she was 12-years old. Now she is 21. None of all her customers was ever kind enough to shed friendly tears for her. Yosaku is ashamed of himself, for he has been reduced from samurai to umakata though he has no one to blame for it but himself. They arrive at their final destination. Though Koman has nothing to regret, if only she can die with her lover, Yosaku is still worrying about his son. They agree to go to hell to make up for their sins and begin to chant a prayer, making ready to kill themselves. Hearing someone approaching, they try to hide themselves. It is Sagisaka Sanai, who calls to Yosaku not to run away. Sanai comes to inform Yosaku that, during the course of investigation of the theft, Sankichi was identified as Yosaku's son, formally named Yonosuke. Princess Shirabe, who is going to marry in Edo, wishes to grant special favors to Sankichi. Yosaku will be admitted back into his household and will return to his former service with the Yurugi clan, because the 300 ry˘ have been stolen by Washizuka Hachiheiji. As for Koman, she is also to be permitted to serve the Yurugi clan at the request of Shigenoi. Both Yosaku and Koman are moved to tears by the generosity of Princess Shirabe and the kind-heartedness of Shigenoi. Sanai asks both of them to dance against the background of the beautiful scenery to wish good luck on the departure of Princess Shirabe.


[1] The title "The Loving Wife's Particolored Reins" comes from osakaprints.com.

[2] The pen name of the famous puppeteer Yoshida Bunzabur˘ I.

[3] furisode sleeves are only for unmarried girls, and women used to shorten their long sleeves after their marriage.


Princess Shirabe is nicknamed iyajahime, literally "Princess I-don't-want", because she keeps on saying "iyaja iyaja", which means "I don't want (to go) I don't want (to go)".

From a tsuji banzuke for the production of "Koi Ny˘b˘ Somewake Tazuna" at the Suehiroza in Nagoya in Mars 1908 (with a tabi shibai troupe led by Jitsukawa Enjir˘ I, Ichikawa Ichijűr˘ III and Sawamura Shirogor˘ IV)

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