Play title Horikawa Nami no Tsuzumi  In Japanese
Author Chikamatsu Monzaemon

This play is based on a real case of adultery and murder, which happened in the 6th lunar month of 1706 and involved the samurai Ôkura Hikohachirô, his wife Otane and the samurai Miyai Den'emon. When it was dramatized for the puppet theater (Bunraku), the names and the details were changed. The play, which was entitled "Horikawa Nami no Tsuzumi", was staged for the first time in Ôsaka at the Takemotoza in the 2nd lunar month of 1707. It was adapted for Kabuki for the very first time more than 2 centuries later, in April 1914 in Ôsaka at the Nakaza. After World War II, several major playwrights like Hôjô Hideji or Tanaka Sumie wrote their own version of the script. "Nami no Tsuzumi" was also revived in May 1973 at the National Theatre to commemorate the 249th anniversary (250th memorial service) of Chikamatsu Monzaemon [casting].


The original drama was in 3 acts. The 1973 revival at the National Theatre was made up of 3 acts, divided into 7 scenes. A standard production is made up of act I and act II (a total of 3 scenes).

Key words Chikamatsu San Kantsűmono
Gidayű Kyôgen

Act I, scene 1: Naruyama Chűdayű Sumai
At Naruyama Chűdayű's House

In the courtyard of the house of Naruyama Chűdayű his daughter Otane is fulling her kimono in his absence, being helped by her younger sister Ofuji, who happens to be visiting the house. Otane is the wife of Ogura Hikokurô, a samurai, who is in Edo, serving as an attendant to his lord who is now staying there for his alternate-year residence. Ofuji is a maid in service in one of the households of the fief.

Otane tells Ofuji that she is lonesome because her husband stays in Edo every other year and even when he is here in Tottori he has to stay ten nights a month in the lord's castle for gourd duty. The sound of a hand drum comes from the house, for Bunroku, Otane's younger brother adopted by Hikokurô and Otane as their son, is receiving a hand drum lesson from Miyaji Gen'emon, who has come from Kyôto. When a love song sung to the accompaniment of the hand drum is heard, Otane joyfully runs up to a pine tree in the garden, mistaking it for her husband who she imagines has come back from Edo. Ofuji laughs at her foolish act.

The hand drum practice ends and Bunroku introduces his teacher to Otane. Joined by Ofuji, Otane entertains Gen'emon with sake. As she exchanges many cups of sake with her guest, Ofuji cautions her not to drink too much. As a servant of Ofuji's master comes to call her Ofuji leaves with him. Bunroku also leaves to go back to his master's house.

Gen'emon, feeling awkward to stay with Otane in the same room, goes to the next room to rest. When Otane faces the mirror to comb her hair, Isobe Yukaemon, a fellow retainer of the same fief, who has been excused from accompanying his lordship to Edo by pretending to be sick, comes to the house and tries to seduce her. As Otane refuses to comply, Yukaemon draws his sword and threatens to kill her and himself. In order to appease him, Otane falsely promises to let him have his way if he comes secretly to her house the following day.

Yukaemon thanks her but insists on having it immediately. As he struggles with her Gen'emon beats his hand drum and sings a song. Surprised, Yukaemon dashes out of the house, saying everything he has been saying has been a joke. Gen'emon emerges from the next room and tries to go out of the house when Otane catches his sleeve and asks him whether he heard what had happened just now. Gen'emon makes an enigmatic answer and shakes himself loose, but Otane clings to him again and asks him to promise never to tell anyone about it. As a sign of promise she proposes to exchange a cup of sake with him. Filling the cup, she drinks half and then offers the rest to him. As he drinks it, she undoes his obi and they go into the next room together.

Later that night Yukaemon comes back and, imitating Chűdayű's voice, tricks Otane into opening the door. When Otane unfastens the latch, Yukaemon stretches out his hands and tightly clasps Otane's and Gen'emon's sleeves together, saying, "I've got proof of your adultery." Otane slams the door shut but Yukaemon does not let the sleeves out of his grasp. So Gen'emon unsheathes his dagger and slits off the ends of the sleeves. Opening a side door, he flees hurriedly for his inn.

Yukaemon stuffs the sleeves into the fold of his kimono and forces his way into the house. Telling Otane to show him some love if she wants him to keep her crime a secret, Yukaemon gropes for her in the darkness and bumps into the maid, who has come out of her bed. She runs into her bedroom and Yukaemon follows her, taking her for Otane. Otane's maid Rin comes with a lantern to escort her home. The light of the lantern makes Yukaemon realize his mistake to his great disappointment.

Act II, scene 1: Ogura Hikokurô Sumai
At Ogura Hikokurô's House

On the day of Hikokurô's return from Edo, a messenger from Masayama Sangobei, husband of Hikokurô's younger sister Yura, visits his house to offer a hemp cloth as Sangobei's gift to Otane. The Japanese word, for hemp cloth is man, which is phonetically similar to maotoko, or a paramour.

When Hikokurô arrives, Ofuji catches his sleeve and, asking him why he has not answered her two love letters, pushes her third letter into the fold of his kimono. Hikokurô refuses to accept and throws it down.

Otane, who has secretly observed this, picks it up and beats Ofuji with a broom, accusing her of her immoral love. Ofuji asks those who have gathered around them to leave the room and, when left alone with Otane, confides to her that Otane's adultery is already a wide-spread gossip and that she wanted to save Otane's life by pretending to love Hikokurô and thereby causing him to divorce Otane. She also tells Otane that she knows Otane is four months pregnant and has had her maid buy some abortion medicine for her. Hearing someone noisily approach the house, the sisters go to an inner room. Soon Yura, Hikokurô's younger sister, enters, pursuing her brother with a halberd. She informs Hikokurô of his wife's shameless conduct during his absence and shows him the sleeves of the guilty pair as evidence.

Act II, scene 2: Ogura Hikokurô Sumai Butsuma
The Buddhist Altar in Ogura Hikokurô's House

Now fully convinced of Otane's crime, Hikokurô bids her to come before the Buddhist altar. In front of the altar Otane opens the front of her kimono to show that she has plunged a dagger to the hilt into her breast to atone for her crime. Hikokurô unsheathes his sword and deals her the deathblow with a final thrust. He then leaves the house to dispose of his wife's paramour.

Source: Hironaga Shűzaburô

Illustration from the tsuji banzuke for the drama "Horikawa Nami no Tsuzumi", which was staged in August 1918 at the Kabukiza

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