"Oguri" was the 3rd Sûpâ Kabuki creation of Ichikawa Ennosuke, after "Yamato Takeru" (1986) and "Ryûô" (1989). It was premiered in April/May 1991 at the Shinbashi Enbujô and was a huge commercial success. It was also staged at the Chûnichi Theatre (Nagoya) and at the Minamiza in June 1991 and March 1992. It was revived (and modified) in 1998.
Shinsaku Sûpâ Kabuki Jûban
The story concerns Oguri Hangan whose seventh wife, Ryûko, suddenly disappears after three months of marriage leaving a distraught Hangan. His father sends him to the province of Hitachi and after some time it is suggested it might be appropriate for him to look for another wife. He is not interested, but to keep everyone happy he agrees to meet Princess Terute. However, as soon as he sets eyes on her he sees that she is the double of his beloved wife, Ryûko. He breaches local etiquette by rushing in on her without asking her family's permission. As he talks with her he realizes that she is even more his ideal woman than Ryûko had been. She succumbs to his charms and they make love. Her father and brothers, however, are outraged at his breach of protocol and kill him and his followers with a poisoned drink. Her father also determines that Terute must be taken to a lake and drowned.
The two rogues who are given the dirty work of drowning her have a change of heart and decide that just once in their lives they will perform a good deed, so they set the cage in which she is imprisoned free. She is found by a local fisherman who takes her into his home and plans to adopt her, but his jealous old wife simply sees her as competition and sets the nearby hut on fire while Terute is inside. However, Terute emerges unscathed, so the old woman sells her to slave traders. The husband is disgusted and leaves home.
Meanwhile Hangan is in hell but Enma Daiô, the god of Hell, agrees that Hangan can return to the world, but only in the form of a grotesquely disfigured man in order to cure him of his love sickness. He has to remain sitting in a cart which will be pulled by various people to whom it will be counted as merit toward going to heaven.
Terute has been sold to a brothel but refuses to ply trade like the others. Instead she works hard and does all the menial household work. One day Hangan's cart is left outside and she goes out to enquire about him. When she realizes that she can earn merit for her late husband and his followers by pulling his cart she takes five days' leave. She never realizes that the man she is pulling is in reality her late husband returned from the dead. Hangan, however, does realize when she tells him why she is pulling his cart, but he cannot bring himself to reveal his true identity to her. However, during the few days they are together they develop a warm bond. Finally, she poignantly says that she would be glad to find out that her husband were still alive even if he were disfigured like him. She makes Hangan promise that he will go and visit her after he is healed.
Hangan's distress worsens after she leaves. During the journey he suffers greatly, both by being mistreated and physically abused by those whom he meets on the way and because others suffer on his behalf. For example, the old fisherman who had rescued Terute saves him from a gang of ruffians and pulls Hangan's cart for a while, only to be murdered by thieves in front of Hangan's eyes. Finally, Hangan realizes the truth of all the suffering in the world. He decides that he does not want to go on living and throws himself off a cliff, but when he comes round he miraculously finds himself in the arms of the god Yakushi Nyôrai and is healed of his disfigurement. He is given the choice of living wherever he wishes, and elects to reside in the province where Terute lives. He journeys to the place where she works and the two are blissfully reunited.
Text courtesy of Jean Wilson
The poster of "Oguri"
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