Play title Kurayami no Ushimatsu  In Japanese
Ushimatsu in the Darkness
Author Hasegawa Shin

Hasegawa Shin's drama "Kurayami no Ushimatsu" was premiered in June 1934 at the Tôkyô Gekijô [casting].


"Kurayami no Ushimatsu" was made up of 3 acts, divided into 6 scenes.

Key words Asakusa

Act I

Oyone, daughter of Okuma, has been working as a maid but has been unfortunately discharged for having a love affair with the cook Ushimatsu. As a result she has been forced to go back to Okuma's home in Asakusa Torigoe. Oyone's mother, a selfish and unscrupulous woman, is very dissatisfied that Oyone has become the wife of such a lowly man as Ushimatsu. She wants to make better use of Oyone by forcing her to become the mistress of a wealthy patron, and when Oyone refuses to leave Ushimatsu, she enlists the aid of the good-for-nothing rônin Shiodome Tôshirô to confine her to an upstairs room, with orders to use force if necessary to keep Ushimatsu away from her.

When Ushimatsu is heard knocking impatiently at the door, Oyone tries to go to warn him but is knocked unconscious. In the meantime Okuma tells Ushimatsu that Oyone is not at home, having gone off to visit relatives. However, Ushimatsu hears suspicious noises upstairs, and refuses to believe Okuma. Oyone, having regained consciousness, lets out a cry for help as she tries to ward off Shiodome's advances. Ushimatsu tries frantically to go to her aid, but Okuma rushes upstairs first and whispers to the rônin to kill Ushimatsu. Oyone again tries to warn her lover but is pushed back.

Shiodome Tôshirô slips silently downstairs. Okuma gets worried and goes down cautiously to see what has happened. Still, all is silence. Oyone, who has been weeping, comes to her senses and calls out Ushimatsu's name. There is no answer. But as she starts to go downstairs, Ushimatsu comes up, apparently in a daze. He says he has just killed both Okuma and Shiodome. Distraught and trembling, he says he will give himself up to the police, but Oyone urges him to flee with her as far as they can. When their time is up, they will commit suicide (shinjû). They escape through an upstairs window, planning to go to Ushimatsu's friend Shirobę's home in Honjo, to ask his advice and his support.

Act II, scene 1

One year has passed. Ushimatsu, who is no more ryôrinin Ushimatsu (the cook Ushimatsu) but Kurayami-no-Ushimatsu, literally Ushimatsu in the Darkness (kurayami), has not been detected and arrested by the law enforcers. He stops one rainy night at the Sugiya, a yûjoya (a mix of brothel and inn) located in Itabashi on the outskirts of Edo. As time has elapsed, he is cautiously returning to Edo, where he has left Oyone in the good care of his friend Shirobę, a restaurant manager (motojime). At the inn, the clerk urges him to take a geisha for the night. At first Ushimatsu refuses, but presently says he will take the one who is least popular, out of sympathy. The clerk suggests Okiyo, a beauty who, however, is so quiet and gloomy that she has no customers. Ushimatsu is ushered upstairs.

A commotion is suddenly heard as Yûji, the cook of the Matsunoya, a neighboring establishment, comes in. He angrily looks for Kumakichi, a love rival for the affection of a prostitute. Peering out, Ushimatsu recognizes Yûji as a colleague who has been forced to flee from Edo about three years ago after a bloody fight. He calls out to Yûji in relief, but a second later regrets having revealed himself. However, as they talk together for a moment, he is relieved to see that Yûji seems to be entirely unaware of Ushimatsu's past crimes and present circumstances.

Act II, scene 2

Presently Okiyo comes to Ushimatsu's room. To Ushimatsu's astonishment, it is none other than Oyone. Oyone tearfully tries to explain that Shirobę has fooled her, telling her Ushimatsu had gone to the province of Kôshû, where he had taken up with another woman. Then Shirobę has seduced her, threatening to expose Ushimatsu and put the police on his trail unless she complied. But in the meantime their relationship has been discovered by Shirobę's wife Oima. As a consequence, Oyone has been sold off by the couple as a prostitute.

Oyone has been passed from one yûjoya to another until she finally came to the Sugiya in Itabashi one month ago. However, Ushimatsu refuses to believe that Shirobę could have been so false to him, and suspects that Oyone was at fault in the relationship. He answers her coldly, saying he has been a fool to kill two people for her sake. The gyû Sankichi comes to the room, and Ushimatsu drinks with him, quite ignoring Oyone. Oyone, realizing that it is useless to try to convince him that she is telling the truth, leaves the room sorrowfully, looking back at him a long moment through her tears. She has decided to die alone.

Act II, scene 3

Ushimatsu, in spite of his outer coldness, is at heart somewhat troubled about the matter. He starts to ask Sankichi about her. Sankichi tells him essentially the same story Oyone has just told him, with further details coming from what Oyone's told to her friends at the Sugiya. On hearing Sankichi's story, Ushimatsu is led to believe that perhaps Oyone has been telling him the truth after all, and that it was Shirobę, and not Oyone, who has broken his trust. But Ushimatsu's curiosity concerning the woman has aroused Sankichi's suspicions. He suspects that Ushimatsu knew her previously, and may even be the fugitive from the law who was her lover.

There is a sudden commotion. Sankichi goes to check, and returns to report that Oyone has hanged herself. He tells Ushimatsu to go and help cut her down and perhaps offer a prayer for her soul if he knew her from before. Ushimatsu is tempted, but fears that his identity will be suspected if he were to confess having known her. He refuses, saying he never met her before, but Sankichi is not convinced. Presently Yûji and others come to help with Oyone. Secretly, hiding, Ushimatsu watches Oyone's dead body. Then he slips away. In the meantime, Sankichi brings the police to arrest Ushimatsu, but Ushimatsu is already gone.

Act III, scene 1

It is still fairly early in the morning in Honjo in the neighbourhood of Aioi-chô. Shirobę is making ready to go at the public bathhouse (yuya) when a messenger comes with a letter from Itabashi. Shirobę's wife Oima, hearing it is from Itabashi, takes it to be a letter to Shirobę from Oyone. Being jealous, she takes the letter and rips it to pieces before Shirobę can read it. Shirobę picks up the pieces and makes out that it says something about Oyone's suicide.

Shirobę questions the messenger, who gives them first-hand information on the matter. Shirobę cannot understand why Oyone should have so suddenly committed suicide. Neither he nor Oima wants to be involved any further, and disclaim all responsibility for her. Shirobę asks whether Oyone did not have some regular patron. The messenger answers to the contrary. On the day of her death too, her patron was a one-time guest, who has left hurriedly after hearing of her suicide. Shirobę for a moment wonders whether that guest might not have been Ushimatsu, but dismisses the thought as improbable.

Oima coldly expresses relief on learning that the woman that her husband has seduced is now in the afterlife. Shirobę finally goes off to the bath house. A while later, Ushimatsu comes to the Shirobę's home. Peering into the house, he finds Oima alone. He enters into the room, frightening Oima. Shirobę's wife, on learning that Ushimatsu is aware of Oyone's death, is frightened by the look on his face, and tries to buy time for herself and her husband by pretending to seduce him, offering herself to him so that he can take revenge on Shirobę for having raped Oyone. Disgusted, Ushimatsu throttles her. She falls without a sound. Ushimatsu then heads for the bath house which Oima had inadvertently mentioned as Shirobę's present whereabouts.

Act III, scene 2

Ushimatsu has managed to slip into the Matsu-no-Yu bathhouse from the rear without being seen by anyone, undressed, gone to the bath room, and then disappeared again by the back way without being seen by anyone. Suddenly a commotion is heard in the men's bath. Someone has stepped on a body at the bottom of the big yugama. The victim is Shirobę, stabbed to death with a kitchen knife.

Onoe Kikugorô VI (left) and Onoe Taganojô III (right) playing the roles of Ushimatsu and Oima in the drama "Kurayami no Ushimatsu", which was staged in June 1934 at the Tôkyô Gekijô

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