Play title Nazo no Obi Chotto Tokubŕ  In Japanese
Authors Tsuruya Nanboku IV
Sakurada Jisuke II
Fukumori Kyűsuke I

The drama "Nazo no Obi Chotto Tokubŕ" was premiered at the Ichimuraza in the 7th lunar month of 1811 [more details]. It was based on two real events : the murder of a woman in rice fields in Iriya and a incident which occurred near the Sakata Bridge in Edo. It was a kakikae ky˘gen of "Natsu Matsuri Naniwa Kagami" with many similar names [1] and the action was shifted to Edo instead of ďsaka. It was not successful and it quickly went into oblivion. Some elements from "Nazo no Obi Chotto Tokubŕ" were reused later in Tsuruya Nanboku IV's masterpiece "Yotsuya Kaidan". In modern times, "Nazo no Obi Chotto Tokubŕ" was revived in ˘shibai in September 1922 at the Meijiza [more details]. It was also staged a few years later by the Zenshinza troupe, in August 1931 at the Miyatoza and in June 1934 at the Shinbashi Enbuj˘, with Kawarasaki Ch˘jűr˘ IV, Nakamura Kan'emon III and Kawarasaki Kunitar˘ V in the roles of ďshima Danshichi, Issun Tokubŕ and Okaji/Otatsu. It was also revived twice under the supervision of Tobe Ginsaku at the National Theatre, in August 1991 [2] and in November 1992 [3].


The current version of "Nazo no Obi Chotto Tokubŕ" is made up of 3 acts, divided into 6 or 7 scenes.

Key words Adauchi
Kakikae Ky˘gen


Tamashima Hy˘dayű is the elderly fencing instructor of the Hamada clan. Amongst his former students were ďtori Sagaemon and ďshima Danshichi. The former has been dismissed from Lord Hamada's service for embezzling money that he spent on the courtesan Oiso. The latter has also been dismissed because of his undependable character. The two men are now lawless r˘nin.

Act I scene 1: By the River Sumida at Ry˘goku

Some courtesans, including Oiso, are drinking tea at an outside stall by the Sumida River. ďtori Sagaemon is also here, his face hidden under a large straw hat. The elderly Mikawaya Giheji enters and encounters Denpachi, the bant˘ of the pawnshop Bichűya (shichiya). Apparently a robbery took place last night at a local antique store (d˘guya). Giheiji reveals to Denpachi that he has a good idea who has committed the robbery and that, if he is correct, he will soon collect some reward money. Giheiji also announces that his daughter Otatsu is about to marry Issun Tokubŕ, the wealthy proprietor of the Mikawaya house of assignation at which Oiso is engaged. Oiso overhears it and is startled. Sagaemon who tries to stop Oiso as she is about to leave but Denpachi intervenes to let her go.

Sagaemon is left alone with Giheiji to whom he owes money. As Sagaemon cannot pay him, Giheiji tries to take his clothes but, in the struggle, they are interrupted by the arrival of Tamashima Hy˘dayű. ďshima Danshichi also enters with his young daughter Oichi. Sagaemon is shocked to see his old fencing master. Sagaemon and Giheiji continue their argument until a man intervenes and pays Sagaemon's debt.

Hy˘dayű exerts Danshichi to take good care of his girl. It turns out that Hy˘dayű, himself, has two daughters: an elder daughter, Okaji, who is now a koshimoto in the service of Lord Hamada, and a younger one who was kidnapped, 10 years ago, at the age of seven. Hy˘dayű laments that, for all he knows, the girl could now be a courtesan in one of Edo pleasure quarters. Giheiji, overhearing it, starts in surprise. He was the one who kidnapped the girl long time ago.

Hy˘dayű is on his way with the betrothal money to be presented to the other party on the occasion of the marriage of his lord's son. Sagaemon congratulates Hy˘dayű and humbly asks to be reinstated in his former position. Hy˘dayű dismisses the idea outright and leaves with Danshichi. Sagaemon is furious at having been rejected by Hy˘dayű but he notices Giheiji and withdraws. Giheiji is called away and Oiso enters pursued by Denpachi who is at first embarrassed at being seen by Danshichi but who then asks for the money that Danshichi owes him. Danshichi does not have the money but he does have a plan. One of Danshichi's accomplices is a man named Tsuribune Sankichi, son of a wealthy curio dealer (d˘guya). He was disinherited and has embarked on a life of crime. The robbery, which was earlier evocated by Giheiji, was carried out, at Danshichi's behest, by Sankichi who, in fact, robbed his own father's shop and stole a valuable incense burner (k˘ro). Danshichi urges Denpachi to buy the incense burner for 30 ry˘ and then sell it later for 100 ry˘. Sankichi arrives with the incense burner and the above transaction takes place with Denpachi offering three ry˘ as a deposit and then going to fetch the rest. As he leaves, Denpachi intimates that with the money he makes on this deal, he will buy Oiso, with whom he is infatuated, out of prostitution (miuke).

Danshichi is left alone with the incense burner. It turns out that Danshichi owes 50 ry˘ to Giheiji who then arrives and demands repayment. Danshichi, is anxious to marry Otatsu, Giheiji's daughter. He asks for her hand and offers the incense burner instead of betrothal money. Giheiji pockets the incense burner but announces to Danshichi that Otatsu is already engaged to Issun Tokubŕ. Nevertheless, Giheiji will keep the incense burner as partial repayment (20 ry˘) of Danshichi's debt. This means that Danshichi still owes him 30 ry˘.

Danshichi is dumbfounded at the way he has been so easily cheated by the old man but then he remembers that Hy˘dayű's daughter, Okaji, is the spitting image of Otatsu. Danshichi changes his mind. He will marry Okaji instead of Otatsu.

Hy˘dayű returns and invites Danshichi to accompany him. Danshichi declines. Then, once Hy˘dayű is out of sight, he plots with ďtori Sagaemon, who is anxious to prevent Denpachi from buying Oiso out of her contract. It is agreed that Sagaemon will ambush Hy˘dayű and rob him of the betrothal money he is carrying.

Act I scene 2: The Riverbank at Honjo Ishihara

The scene is set on the bank of the Sumida River in Honjo. Sagaemon and his accomplices are attacking Hy˘dayű as Danshichi arrives. Since Hy˘dayű will not release the money he is carrying, Danshichi cuts his arm off. Then he kills Sagaemon whose sleeve he tears off and places it between the fingers of Hy˘dayű's severed hand.

Hy˘dayű's daughter Okaji then enters, led by the okujochű Kotoura, her aunt, the sister of Hy˘dayű. They discover Hy˘dayű's body. As they lament, Danshichi pretends to arrive on the scene of the crime and feigns shock at his master's murder. Okaji is anxious to avenge her father's murder. The severed arm and the torn sleeve prove that the murderer was ďtori Sagaemon. Danshichi offers to help Okaji and Kotoura suggests that it would make matters easier if Danshichi and Okaji would marry.

Act II scene 1: The House of Danshichi

A year has passed since the murder of Hy˘dayű. Okaji and Danshichi live in dire straits in a miserable house. Okaji is ill and Danshichi, who has no work and no money, has done nothing to avenge Hy˘dayű's death. A man named Gonsuke from a rental shop is demanding the return of the bedding and other household goods that Danshichi has not yet paid for. A local doctor gives medicine to Okaji. She reminds Danshichi that today is the first anniversary of her father's murder. The penniless Danshichi, however, is only eager to go out drinking with his friends. He simply takes Okaji's bedclothes to pawn them. The doctor leaves and Okaji combs the hair Of Oichi who notices in the mirror that Okaji has changed appearance.

Tsuribune Sankichi arrives and refuses to budge until he has been properly paid for the incense burner that Danshichi made him steal. Giheiji also arrives and asks for the remaining money that Danshichi owes him. Giheiji tries to capture Sankichi in order to claim a reward. Sankichi refuses to comply and leaves, not noticing that he is wearing one of Giheiji's wooden geta.

To pay back Giheiji's money, Danshichi decides to sell Okaji into prostitution. Giheiji will come and collect her later. The old man leaves the hovel. Meanwhile Okaji berates Danshichi for having made no attempt to avenge her father. Danshichi claims that he must first raise the money and threatens to sell his daughter Oichi as well into prostitution. Okaji and Oichi protest. In the ensuing fight, Danshichi accidentally burns Okaji on the face with a red-hot poker.

Gonsuke returns to collect the bedding which, of course, Danshichi has pawned. Okaji protests when Danshichi bids Gonsuke to take the mosquito net (kaya) and her fingernails are torn off in the struggle.

When Giheiji turns up with a palanquin (kago) to take Okaji away, he takes one disgusted look at her disfigured face and makes off with Oichi instead as well as the geta left behind by Sankichi. Okaji locks Danshichi inside the house and sets off after the palanquin.

Act II scene 2: The Rice Fields in Iriya

In the rice fields in Iriya, The disfigured Okaji catches up with the palanquin and is pleading with Giheiji when Danshichi arrives and allows Oichi to be taken away. Okaji berates Danshichi who, when he sees Sagaemon's torn sleeve that Okaji has kept ever since her father's murder, pretends to come to his senses and, as if regretting his evil behaviour he decides to kill himself to atone for his misdeeds. Okaji tries to stop him and in the struggle he gives her a mortal wound. Danshichi reveals that it was the one who killed both her father Tamashima Hy˘dayű and ďtori Sagaemon. Okaji dies hatefully cursing him.

Denpachi then arrives, complaining that he gave Danshichi three ry˘ for the incense burner and that was the last he heard of his money. Danshichi strikes and kills him. Then, Issun Tokubŕ and Otatsu arrive at the scene of the crimes and find Sagaemon's torn sleeve.

Act III scene 1: At the Yamatoya in Fukagawa

Oichi has ended up at the Yamatoya house of assignation in Fukagawa where Oiso is also engaged. Sankichi is also here because of Oiso.

Giheiji arrives to meet his daughter Otatsu. Danshichi also arrives and he recognises Sankichi's geta at the door. Producing the other, the one that was accidentally taken by Giheiji, he claims that this proves that Sankichi killed Okaji. Otatsu enters and defends Sankichi whom she has been hiding. She advises Danshichi to wait until he can meet Sankichi later in order to sort everything out.

Danshichi leaves. Sankichi enters and thanks Tokubŕ and Otatsu for their help. He has to go into hiding because of his theft of the incense burner but Tokubŕ promises to sort the matter out for him and gives him some money. Sankichi bids farewell to them and to Oiso but, instead of leaving, he hides behind the Yamatoya.

Otora, a pilgrim woman, arrives and she turns out to be the wife of Giheiji. Otora reveals that Otatsu is in reality the daughter of Tamashima Hy˘dayű and therefore the sister of Okaji. Otatsu and Tokubŕ lament the death of Okaji and Otatsu produces the torn sleeve that Oichi recognises. Otatsu vows to avenge her murdered father and sister and Tokubŕ will assist her.

Tokubŕ is called away and Otatsu and Oichi withdraw inside a mosquito net (kaya). Danshichi returns looking for Tokubŕ and joins the women in the mosquito net (kaya). When Tokubŕ comes back, he remonstrates with Danshichi for being inside the mosquito net (kaya) with Otatsu and the two men fight. A snake suddenly appears and Oichi is possessed by the spirit of Okaji which entreats Tokubŕ to avenge her and her father. Sankichi emerges from hiding and appears to come to Danshichi's assistance by giving him a map leading to a secret place, where Danshichi will meet Sankichi's accomplices who will help him to escape.

Act III scene 2: The Vendetta in Susaki

The map turns out to be a trap for Danshichi who, when he arrives at the Susaki embankment, finds that Sankichi's accomplices are in reality Tokubŕ and Otatsu in disguise. Tokubŕ and Otatsu challenge Danshichi to take their revenge. The evil man is killed. The kanzen ch˘aku logic has prevailed!


[1] Here is a table with the different names used in both "Nazo no Obi Chotto Tokubŕ" an "Natsu Matsuri Naniwa Kagami":

Nazo no Obi Chotto Tokubŕ Natsu Matsuri Naniwa Kagami
ďshima Danshichi Danshichi Kurobŕ
Issun Tokubŕ Issun Tokubŕ
Tsuribune Sankichi Tsuribune Sabu
Mikawaya Giheiji Mikawaya Giheiji
Danshichi's wife Okaji Danshichi's wife Okaji
Tokubŕ's wife Otatsu Tokubŕ's wife Otatsu
Danshichi's daughter Oichi Danshichi's son Ichimatsu
Bichűya Denpachi D˘guya Denpachi

[2] In August 1991, it was staged at the National Theatre with Ichikawa Danshir˘, Nakamura Karoku and Nakamura Tokiz˘ in the roles of ďshima Danshichi, Issun Tokubŕ and Okaji/Otatsu.

[3] In November 1992, it was staged at the National Theatre with Kataoka Takao, Ichikawa Sadanji and Nakamura Jakuemon in the roles of ďshima Danshichi, Issun Tokubŕ and Okaji/Otatsu.

The actors Iwai Hanshir˘ V and Matsumoto K˘shir˘ V playing the roles of Okaji and ďshima Danshichi in the drama "Nazo no Obi Chotto Tokubŕ", which was staged in the 7th lunar month of 1811 at the Ichimuraza (print made by Utagawa Toyokuni I)

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