Play title Katsuragawa Renri no Shigarami  In Japanese
Author Suga Sensuke (original drama)
Namiki Gohŕ (1784 revision)

The play "Katsuragawa Renri no Shigarami" was originally written for the puppet theater (Bunraku) and staged for the first time in the 10th lunar month of 1776 in ďsaka. It was adapted for Kabuki several years later and staged for the first time in the 5th lunar month of 1784 in ďsaka at the Naka no Shibai, in a version revised by the playwright Namiki Gohŕ [casting].

This drama is based on a real event, which happened in Ky˘to during the Ky˘h˘ era: the discovery of two dead bodies in the Katsuragawa river, the body of a 50 year old man and the body of a 14 or 15 year old girl.


"Katsuragawa Renri no Shigarami" was originally in two acts. The main scene, the "Obiya" scene, was at the end of the second act. A michiyuki was added later on.

Key words Sewamono
Gidayű Ky˘gen


The Obiya is a business, which is specialized in obi, the traditional kimono belt. It is located in Ky˘to in the district of Toraishi-ch˘. Hansai, the Obiya master, had adopted a man named Ch˘emon in order to have a heir. After the death of his first wife, he got married with Otose, a widow like him, who brought her son Gihei at the Obiya. Otose and Gihei are two greedy good-for-nothing who plot to get rid of Ch˘emon, the only legitimate heir, and take over the Obiya house after the death of Hansai.

Ishibe Yadoya
At the Inn in Ishibe

Ohan, a 14-year old daughter of a Ky˘to merchant, stays at the Debaya Inn in Ishibe on her way back from a visit to the Great Shrine of Ise. She is accompanied by Ch˘kichi, a decchi at her father's Shinanoya house, an obi shop, and a maid. Ch˘emon, a 40-year old obi dealer, and next-door neighbour to Ohan's family, also registers at the same inn on his way back from a business trip to the Enshű province.

A little after midnight, Ohan comes to Ch˘emon's room, asking to be protected because she is troubled by Ch˘kichi's amorous advances. This night is the beginning of their unfortunate love story as Ohan falls in love with this man in his forties.

A little later, Ch˘kichi leaves his room to look for Ohan and, peeping into Ch˘emon's room, find Ohan in Ch˘emon's embrace in bed. To take his revenge on Ch˘emon, Ch˘kichi takes out the sheathed blade of a precious sword Ch˘emon has been asked to transport. He exchanges it with the blade of his own sword of little value.

At the Rokkakud˘ Temple

When Okinu, wife of Ch˘emon, owner of the obi store in Ky˘to, is praying at the Rokkakud˘ Temple for the happiness of her married life, Gihei, son of Ch˘emon's Step mother, approaches her and tells her that her husband, who is nearby 40 years old, is in love with Ohan, a 14-year old daughter of his next-door neighbor. Okinu laughs at his allegation, calling it a sheer nonsense. Gihei is insistent, however, showing her as a proof Ohan's love letter to Ch˘emon, which Gihei has managed to secure. When Okinu asks him to lend her the letter, he Says he will do so if only she agrees to sleep with him. Being eager to get hold of the letter, Okinu pretends to agree but when Gihei tries to kiss her she repels him so strongly that he runs away.

Ch˘kichi, an apprentice at the Store of Ohan's father, happens to pass through the temple compound on a shopping errand, Okinu calls him and asks him to pretend to be in love with Ohan and falsely admit that Ohan's love letter to Ch˘emon is addressed to him, taking advantage of the fact that its addressee is "Dear Ch˘" which can be construed as either Ch˘emon or Ch˘kichi. As Ch˘kichi agrees to dance to her tune, Okinu gives him a fairly large sum of money as an advance reward.

At the Obi Shop
--> A dedicated summary: "Obiya"

In the absence of Ch˘emon, his step-mother Otose' talks ill of him to Okinu. His father Hansai comes out of his room to caution Otose not to be so harsh to Ch˘emon.

After Hansai has withdrawn with Okinu, Otose's son Gihei enters and tells Otose that Ch˘emon has misappropriated 100 ry˘ of money. Otose says she has stolen 50 ry˘ from the safe with a pass key in order to give it to Gihei, Otose and Gihei conspire to make a false charge of stealing the 50 ry˘ against Ch˘emon besides accusing him of the misappropriation.

Ch˘emon returns home and Hansai and Okinu come to greet him. Otose exposes Ch˘emon's misappropriation and Gihei falsely accuses Ch˘emon of stealing 50 ry˘ from the safe and, taking out Ohan's love letter, takes him to task for his love affair with Ohan. As Gihei starts reading Ohan's love letter, Okinu interferes, saying that the letter is from Ohan to Ch˘kichi, not to Ch˘emon. Gihei goes to the store next door to call Ch˘kichi.

As instructed by Okinu, Ch˘kichi falsely testifies that he is in love with Ohan and that he has indeed received her love letter. Otose and Gihei are furious with disappointment but can do nothing as far as the love affair is concerned. So they concentrate on the money problem. Ch˘emon admits his misappropriation of 100 ry˘ but says he has nothing to do with the alleged theft of 50 ry˘. Heedless of his protestation, Otose beats him with a broom. Hansai scolds her and rejects the charge of Ch˘emon's misappropriation, saying that, since Ch˘emon is the owner of the store, he is free to do anything about its money.

Alone in bed at night Ch˘emon is worried because he knows that Ohan is pregnant and very soon their affair will be beyond concealing any further. Ohan steals into his room to tell him that she will never come to see him again, Ohan quickly leaves and almost immediately Ch˘emon guesses her meaning, He rises to follow her and finds by the door her will, a confirmation of his fear that Ohan intends to commit suicide (shinjű). Unable to face life without her, Ch˘emon runs out to join her.

The Travel Dance at the Katsura River in a Dim Moonlight

Carrying Ohan on his back, Ch˘emon proceeds to the Katsura River in a dim moonlight to die together. On their way Ch˘emon suggests to Ohan to continue living after his death, but she is firm in her determination to die with him, fondly remembering that he kindly took her to various places of interest when she was an infant, They pick up pebbles and put them into their sleeves to make sure that they will not fail in their attempt to drown themselves.

The actors Band˘ Hikosabur˘ III (top/left) and Iwai Hanshir˘ IV (bottom/right) playing the roles of Obiya Ch˘emon and Shinanoya Ohan in the drama "Nihon Matsu Michinoku Sodachi", which was staged in the 7th lunar month of 1794 in Edo at the Kawarasakiza (print made by T˘shűsai Sharaku)

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