OEDO MIYAGE
   
Play title Oedo Miyage  In Japanese
Author Kawaguchi Matsutar
History

Kawaguchi Matsutar's drama "Oedo Miyage" was premiered in December 1961 at the Meijiza [more details].

Structure

"Oedo Miyage" is in one act, 3 scenes.

Key words Joch
Kakub
Miyage
Miyaji Shibai
Onnagata
Sake
Shibai Jaya
Shimsa
Shinkabuki
Shishi
Shishimai
Tenp
Tobigashira
Tokiwazu
Yushima Tenmang
Zashiki
Summary

Act I, scene 1: Yushima Matsugae
At the Matsugae Tea-House in Yushima

The scene is set in the Matsugae tea-house near the Yushima Shrine in Edo [1]. It also serves as the tea-house of a small Kabuki theatre, to which it is attached. It is almost the end of the New Year festivities, and sipping tea are two brothers who are shishi-lion dancers [7], and who come in from the countryside every year at this time in order to earn a little extra money by performing in the streets of Edo. They always patronise this tea-house, and are well known to Och [6], the maid-cum-waitress at the establishment.

Just being served is another customer - Mojitatsu, a teacher of Tokiwazu ballad singing. She is an unpleasant woman who is avariciously trying to sell her beautiful daughter, Okon, to a rich man who desires her as his mistress, and who is willing to pay a high price. But Okon has other ideas, and is in love with a handsome Kabuki onnagata called Eishi [2], who is currently appearing at the attached theatre. Right now she is hiding from her mother in an inner room of the tea-house - and as everyone is sympathetic to her cause, no one gives her away. Indeed, one of the shishi-lion dancers deliberately misleads Mojitatsu by telling her that Okon has already gone off alone in the direction of the rich man's house - which is where her mother was going to take her by force.

Mojitatsu, accompanied by the fireman Rokusabur [5] who has just arrived, promptly goes to follow her daughter (as she thinks), and Okon comes out of hiding, and gives the shishi-lion dancers a few coins in gratitude for their help. As the dancers leave, Eishi enters from the theatre. He and Okon have been in love for over a year, but they cannot be married because of Mojitatsu's opposition. They talk of perhaps eloping and journeying to saka, where Eishi has had the offer of a job from another theatre. However, Eishi is soon summoned back to the theatre by Einosuke, his deshi - he has just slipped out between scenes and is soon due back onstage. Och once again leads Okon off to a hiding place within the tea-house.

Two middle-aged countrywomen arrive [3]. They are both widows, and make an annual trip to Edo to sell the silk they have woven and so earn extra money to see them through the following year. This is the end of their trip, but they are looking for refreshments before setting off back home. Oy is the more easy-going of the two. She wants a good drink of sake and to relax for a while. But her friend Otsuji is stingier. As soon as she sits down she begins calculating her profits with the aid of a tiny abacus (almost an Edo Period calculator) and doing her bookkeeping. Oy teases her for her money-minded ways. All she wants is some sake - on which Otsuji is too mean to splash out her hard-earned money. She even remains doing her financial calculations in the tea-house whilst Oy goes to pay her respects at the Yushima Shrine.

In her absence, Mojitatsu, realising she has been misled, returns and accuses Och of having hidden Okon and lied about her whereabouts. Seeing Otsuji, she questions her as to whether she has seen Okon. But Otsuji, who has taken an instant dislike to this unpleasant woman, pretends to be deaf and refuses to engage with her - although she takes the opportunity of trying (in vain) to sell Mojitatsu some of her remaining silk. Mojitatsu, realising she is getting nowhere, departs again.

Oy soon returns from the shrine, and starts to enjoy the sake she has ordered. There are sounds of lively music from the adjoining theatre, at which Otsuji begins to feel the stirrings of temptation. She admits that she quite likes a drink, but always considers the cost, and refuses to be extravagant. However, when Oy offers to stand her one, she quickly accepts - although she says she is wary of drinking too much, as if she gets a bit tipsy her caution goes out of the window, and she splashes her money about with wild abandon. Oy, however, is pleased that she has unbent a little and agreed to join her in a wee dram of sake - or two, or three!

As they are drinking another onnagata, Monkichi [4], comes in from the theatre in full drag (as Eishi was not), urgently needing a tipple, and impatient with Och to bring the order. Oy, in a friendly manner, offers Monkichi a sip of her sake to fill in the time. It is only after Monkichi, having gulped down the ordered sake, dashes back to the theatre that the two countrywomen are told that the "lady" they have been talking to was actually a male actor. Otsuji in particular is struck by his feminine beauty. Och says that if they think Monkichi is convincing then they should just see Eishi - who is in the next act at the playhouse. Somewhat under the influence of alcohol, Oy and Otsuji decide it would be a fine idea to take in one act at the theatre as a memory of Edo to take home with them, and ask Och to make arrangements for their tickets - with Oy paying for both. Otsuji is staggered at the price of the tickets (some things never change), but nevertheless the two rather drunkenly set off on their little adventure.

Act I, scene 2: Yushima Matsugae Zashiki
In the Reception Room of the Matsugae Tea-House in Yushima

Some time has passed before the next scene, which is set in an inner room at the tea-house. Okon and Eishi are there together, and have obviously been making love. However, Okon is apprehensive and fears her mother will send paid thugs to tear her away from Eishi and force her into the arms of the rich man. Einosuke rushes on in search of his master. He reports that the tea-house is surrounded by the ruffians Okon feared, and it would be best if the lovers did not leave together. He is quickly followed by Och. She tells Eishi to leave by himself when the performance at the theatre is over - it still has some way to go, and Eishi is just availing himself of another break when he is not required onstage. Och meanwhile will take care of Okon, whom Einosuke leads away to safety. Och also has a favour to ask. The two country ladies have watched the last act - in which Eishi appeared - at the theatre, and they have been overwhelmed by his performance, and enchanted by his beauty onstage. They have now asked if they could possibly meet him in person. Today, one of the first laws of theatre is that actors do not become personally involved with their fans. But in Edo Period Japan it was regarded as just part of the job, so Eishi says he will be pleased to meet them, and leaves the room to make himself more presentable, whilst a young maid shows in Oy and Otsuji, who are quite excited by their theatre visit, and still a little the worse for drink. Och informs them she has made all the arrangements for them to meet Eishi as requested, and departs.

Of the two ladies it is Otsuji who seems the most infatuated, whilst Oy wonders whether she isn't taking things a bit too far in her enthusiasm. It is now Oy who is worrying about the expense of it all, whilst the formerly mean Otsuji, affected by too much sake as she herself predicted, is declaring the whole adventure to be the experience of a lifetime, so to hell with the cost. She expansively orders more sake. In fact, with even more alcohol inside her, she finally tells Oy that she wants Eishi all to herself, so would Oy please leave. Oy is staggered, but there is no arguing with Otsuji, so, not wishing to spoil her friend's pleasure, she leaves to take in another act at the playhouse (one presumably without Eishi in it!).

After she has left, Otsuji begins to get cold feet at the thought of being alone with Eishi, and drunkenly makes to go after Oy - only to be stopped by the arrival of Eishi himself. Like many a fan before and since, Otsuji is covered in confusion by her hero's presence and bows profusely, much to Eishi's embarrassment, whilst blathering drunkenly about her admiration for him. Eishi helps her to her feet by taking her hands, and Otsuji, overcome by this physical contact, breaks out in a sweat. However, Eishi realises her sincerity, and says that he wishes she had seen him perform at a more prestigious theatre.

As the two exchange cups of sake with each other, Otsuji begins to get carried away, reminiscing about the performance, making eyes at Eishi, and sidling up to take his hand, whilst confessing to pangs of love. (This is the reason that one of the first laws of theatre is for actors not to become personally involved with their fans!) Fortunately at this critical point Okon is heard shouting frantically, and she erupts into the room seeking Eishi's protection - whilst the alarmed Otsuji rushes out (but doesn't go far). Okon is rapidly followed by her mother, Mojitatsu, who has found her out. Mojitatsu accuses Eishi of stealing Okon, whilst Eishi insists that he wants to honourably marry her. However, Mojitatsu still will not consent to this unless he pays a high price (50 ry) to match that offered by Okon's rich admirer. But neither Eishi nor Okon has anything like this much money, and their pleas fall on deaf ears.

Outside, in the corridor, Otsuji is eavesdropping and is flabbergasted at the sum of money named. Eishi, who is very persuasive, manages to knock down the requested sum to a mere 20 ry - but it is still far more than he and Okon can muster between them, so Mojitatsu summons the fireman Rokusabur, who is in cahoots with her, to drag Okon away. Okon tries to flee, but in the confusion, as she dashes away, the listening Otsuji enters, and puts herself between Okon and her mother, to everyone's surprise. Mojitatsu recognises her as the deaf lady who had refused to answer her earlier, and Otsuji, still rather the worse for all the sake she has drunk, explains that she pretends to be deaf when she doesn't want to hear, and then introduces herself as a lady from the countryside who is a great fan of Eishi. She says she would like to see the lovers married, and tries to persuade Mojitatsu to give her consent. When Mojitatsu is once again unmoved, she offers all the fortune that she has (from the sale of her silk), which is a little over 13 ry, so that the lovers may be united. (Presumably Okon and Eishi can manage to make up the other 7 ry between them?) She throws her purse containing the money to Mojitatsu, whilst Okon and Eishi protest they cannot accept such a gift. At this moment Oy runs in, aghast at her friend's magnanimity. She points out to Otsuji that she has worked hard for this money, and will need it to see her through the coming year. But Otsuji responds that it is the only foolish extravagance of her life, and that she wants to go through with it. When Oy continues to protest, Otsuji pushes her away, insisting on proceeding with her stupidity, whilst enjoying herself immensely.

Act I, scene 3: Yushima Tenjin Keidai
In the Precincts of the Yushima Shrine

The final scene is set in the grounds of the nearby Yushima Shrine in the evening. Otsuji and Oy are leaving, with Oy still concerned about her friend's financial state. But Otsuji, now sobered up, says she is resigned to the loss of the money. It is the one great infatuation of her life, and her one and only folly, and to her it has been worth it. Oy continues to chide her, and wonders what has occurred between her and Eishi to make it so worthwhile. Otsuji has to confess that she never got beyond holding his hand. Oy is dumbfounded that Otsuji has paid thirteen ry for so little, but the still besotted Otsuji is adamant that it was worth it.

Oy happens to notice that Eishi and Okon are approaching, and she pulls the mystified Otsuji aside into the gloom, and leaves her. Then she approaches the lovers and warns them (falsely) that a couple of ruffians are on the lookout for them. She suggests Okon walk to the shrine gate with her for safety, and that Eishi makes himself scarce and follows on somewhat later. Oy drags Okon away, and Eishi and Otsuji proceed to run into one another - as Oy intended. Eishi is genuinely pleased to see her again, as he had been hoping for an opportunity to thank her for her kindness in private. Otsuji brushes it off as the single opportunity in the life of a poor silk pedlar from the country to become a generous patron, and tells him not to feel bad about it, but laugh it off as the foolishness of an old lady.

Eishi is touched, but does not know how to repay her. On an impulse, he rips off the sleeve of his inner kimono and presents it to her. It is a symbolic act, and the sleeve may be regarded as a sort of collateral on which she can later collect if she wishes, when he has made the big time.

Nothing could have pleased Otsuji more than to be given such an intimate memento, and she accepts it as a souvenir to take home with her as a lasting memory of her visit to Edo. She then sends Eishi on his way, instructing him to take good care of Okon, and shouting his yago after him as a final goodbye.

The shishi-lion dancers are also on their way home via the grounds of the shrine, and have seen Otsuji waving her farewell. Otsuji goes towards them and makes to pay them to give their dance for her. However, she no longer has a penny in the world - but fortunately Oy reappears, having seen Okon to the shrine gate, and her friend asks her to give the dancers a few coins to perform their routine. They accordingly dance away, as Otsuji clutches her memento sleeve - which her friend duly notices and teases her about. Otsuji explains it is her wonderful souvenir of Edo and the play ends with Otsuji using her dearly bought memento to wipe away tears that are halfway between grief and joy.

This summary was written by Marion Hudson (2022)

Notes

[1] Temporarily-speaking, it was set in Spring of the First year of the Tenp era (1830).

[2] Band Eishi.

[3] They came from the Yki Domain in the province of Shimsa.

[4] Ichikawa Monkichi.

[5] The tobigashira Rokusabur.

[6] The joch Och.

[7] They are Kakub from the province of Echigo.

The actors Nakamura Kanzabur XVII and Morita Kan'ya XIV playing the roles of Otsuji and Oy in the drama "Oedo Miyage", which was staged in December 1961 at the Meijiza

 
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