Play titles Sanzes˘ Nishiki Bunsh˘  In Japanese
Oku D˘sha Musume Sugegasa  In Japanese
Common title Osono Rokusa  In Japanese
Author Sakurada Jisuke III

Sakurada Jisuke III's drama "Sanzes˘ Nishiki Bunsh˘" was staged as a natsu ky˘gen in the 7th lunar month of 1857 at the Nakamuraza [more details]. "Sanzes˘ Nishiki Bunsh˘", which was the nibanme of a drama entitled "Oku D˘sha Musume Sugegasa", was an unusual drama for two reasons:

  • (1) It dealt with the buddhist paradise and hell, offering a Kabuki trip in the netherworld to the audience.
  • (2) A Tokiwazu ensemble was used in all acts, giving each act a dance-drama touch.
  • The current version was revised by Uno Nobuo and staged for the first time in February 1979 at the Shinbashi Enbuj˘ [more details].


    "Sanzes˘ Nishiki Bunsh˘" was originally made up of 6 acts. The current structure is made up of 3 acts (6 scenes):

    Act Scene In Japanese In English
    I 1 深川仲町福島屋 Fukagawa Naka-ch˘ Fukushimaya
    At the Fukushimaya in Fukagawa Naka-ch˘
    II 1 洲崎道行 Susaki Michiyuki
    The Lovers Travel in Susaki
    II 2 十萬億土 Jűman Okudo
    On the Road to Paradise
    II 3 三途川渡し Sanzugawa Watashi
    The Ferry on the Sanzu River
    II 4 堕地獄 Dajigoku
    At the Entrance of Hell
    III 1 元の福島屋 Moto no Fukushimaya
    Back at the Fukushimaya
    III 2 三社境内 Sanja Keidai
    At the Sanja Festival
    You need a Japanese Language Kit installed within your system in order to be able to read the characters
    Key words Asakusa
    Enma Dai˘
    Jűman Okudo
    Natsu Ky˘gen
    Sanja Matsuri

    Act I, scene 1: Fukagawa Naka-ch˘ Fukushimaya
    At the Fukushimaya in Fukagawa Naka-ch˘

    The courtesan Osono, who belongs to the Fukushimaya house in Fukagawa, is ailing because of over-anxiety concerning her lover Komurasaki Rokusabur˘ (commonly called Rokusa). He has been dismissed from service as samurai because he lost a family treasure, a valuable poem card (shikishi) that had been entrusted to his keeping. Fukushimaya Seibŕ and his wife Okaji are kind-hearted people who are full of sympathy for Osono and her small daughter Omatsu. Okaji urges Osono to rest and the courtesan takes a nap. A little cloud appears on the scene symbolizing that Osono is sleeping and dreaming.

    Osono's brother Ch˘an, a doctor who is more a charlatan than a skilled doctor, knows that Rokusa is a hopeless r˘nin. Therefore, he wants to sell Osono off to a wealthy friend named Shichir˘suke. The two evil men start to argue with Okaji about the price of Osono. Shichir˘suke's packet of money somehow gets tossed away, and presently Seibŕ comes to the room with the money, saying he was awakened from his nap by being hit by this packet of money. He adds meaningfully before returning the money to Ch˘an that it is very interesting, as the packet is marked with a sign that matches the one said to have been on money stolen the previous night from a nearby house.

    Ch˘an reproaches Seibŕ to keep in his house a courtesan like Osono whose relationship with Rokusa can be seen in the name tattooed on her arm. Seibŕ suddenly grasps Osono's arm and burns out the tattoo with his kiseru, hinting to Osono however, that it is only the outer appearance that has been altered and not her true feelings.

    At this point a pilgrim beggar comes by playing on a kokyű. Okaji tries to send him off quickly by handing him a small amount of money but is surprised to find that he is Rokusa! She quickly shuts the door so that the suspicious Ch˘an will not notice anything. Then she and Seibŕ lead Ch˘an and Shichir˘suke away to another room, leaving the room free for Osono and Rokusa.

    Rokusa has heard rumors that Shichir˘suke is seeking to purchase Osono's contract. Osono has already made clear to Seibŕ that she has no intention of being sold off to Shichir˘suke, but on the other hand she suspects that Shichir˘suke has in his possession the stolen poem card that Rokusa is desperately seeking. She decides to pretend to give up Rokusa for Shichir˘suke in order to try to gain possession of the poem card for her lover. Rokusa is getting angry when he hears that Osono has chosen to give him up for Shichir˘suke. He angrily vows to kill her and leaves the room.

    Ch˘an returns to the room and tells Osono that he has in his possession the missing poem card, which he will give to her only after she has given herself to Shichir˘suke. He shows the poem card to her. Osono tries to take it and in the ensuing struggle the precious card is torn in two. Omatsu steps in between the two to try to stop the fight. Ch˘an strikes her to death. Osono goes into frenzy and, quickly using Ch˘an's sword, she stabs him to death! Seibŕ comes seeking Osono and realizes what has happened but pretends not to notice anything. He tells Osono to go attend a party outside. Okaji comes to the room and finds the bodies of Ch˘an and Omatsu. Seibŕ explains the circumstances, saying he has allowed Osono a chance to run away and join Rokusa in order to die together (shinjű).

    Osono, who is readying herself for departure, is met by Rokusa who has come back to kill her. Osono gives him a letter she had written to explain everything. Rokusa understands the circumstances and they go off together.

    Act II, scene 1: Susaki Michiyuki
    The Lovers Travel in Susaki

    Osono and Rokusa are dressed in white kimono. They seek death together (shinjű) at a lonely site on the river bank in Susaki. Rokusa kills Osono and then stabs himself to death, his body falling over his lover's body. This is not the end of the play ...

    Act II, scene 2: Jűman Okudo
    On the Road to Paradise

    We are in the frightening darkness of Jűman Okudo, an area of the netherworld, where demons stand guard and that must be passed by the dead on their way to paradise. A small group of recently dead Kabuki actors come by and are accosted by some demons who ask their identity. Then they demand that the actors perform a dance for them as fee for passage.

    Now Osono arrives on stage, alone and frightened, calling for Rokusa. Fortunately her lover is near and the two are quickly united, groping for each other in the dark, and proceeding on their way hand in hand.

    Act II, scene 3: Sanzugawa Watashi
    The Ferry on the Sanzu River

    Rokusa and Osono come by the ferry site on the Sanzu River. The dead must cross this river. Here, they stop to rest at a small tea-house they find by the river. They notice a poster on the wall which advertises a Kabuki performance. This part of the scene is the occasion of a lot of ad-libs and jokes about fathers or grandfathers, alive or dead, of the actors playing the roles of Osono and Rokusa. The conclusion is that Kabuki in the netherworld is infinitely more animated than any to be seen in the real world.

    Osono and Rokusa are informed by an old woman that they must proceed on their way to where they will meet Enma Dai˘, the great king of buddhist afterlife, who will decide whether they proceed to paradise or hell after weighing their past deeds. The old woman says she will put in a word on their behalf, and they hurry off as the boatman shouts that the ferry is about to leave.

    Act II, scene 4: Dajigoku
    At the Entrance of Hell

    Enma Dai˘, who decides on the fate of the dead as to whether they go to paradise or hell, is passing judgment on one after another of the recently dead who come by. He is flanked by many frightening demon guards, and beside him there is a great mirror that is used to show the past deeds of the dead. This is the turn of Ch˘an, who was killed by Osono in the first scene. Ch˘an tries to make his way to paradise by putting on an act of humility and piety, but Enma Dai˘ sees through the subterfuge and announces him as an evil person. Ch˘an is put in front of the mirror where his bad deeds come to light. Osono and Rokusa arrive at the site and peer into the mirror, in which they see Ch˘an with the poem card in his possession, hiding it inside the artificial peony flower on the Sanja festival float. Enma Dai˘ also reveals to them that Ch˘an is not Osono's brother but is the murderer of Osono's mother. Ch˘an is sentenced to hell, and in spite of Ch˘an's protests of unfairness, Enma Dai˘ forgives Osono her act of killing Ch˘an. Osono and Rokusa receive their golden passes to paradise.

    Act III, scene 1: Moto no Fukushimaya
    Back at the Fukushimaya

    Osono awakens from her long dream of murder, suicide and trip to the netherworld. She finds that neither Omatsu nor Ch˘an are dead, and that Rokusa has came to meet her. Her lover says he overheard Ch˘an and Shichir˘suke whispering together about the poem card and suspect they may have something to do with its loss. Osono remembers what she saw in Enma Dai˘'s mirror and tells Rokusa that the shikishi is hidden on the festival float. They recall that Seibŕ has been asked to perform the dance "Shakky˘" during the Sanja festival, and that the costume for the dance is at hand. It is decided that Rokusa borrow the costume and go out on the float in place of Seibŕ, in order to look for the hidden poem card.

    Act III, scene 2: Sanja Keidai
    At the Sanja Festival

    Ch˘an and Shichir˘suke come to the Sanja festival site in Asakusa with a group of henchmen. They plan to attack Fukushimaya Seibŕ when he will perform his dance. Then, they will retrieve the hidden poem card from its hiding place. When they leap out to attack the approaching person dressed in the dance costume, they find that it is not Seibŕ but Rokusa.

    Rokusa demands that they return to him the shikishi and a fight ensues. After chasing off his adversaries, Rokusa approaches the float and finds the poem card hidden within the large artificial peony flower on the float.

    Osono comes to the site dressed in tekomai festival costume and is overjoyed to learn that Rokusa has found the poem card at the exact place which was revealed in her dream. Ch˘an and Shichir˘suke return and attempt to retrieve the poem card but they are finally arrested. Seibŕ and Okaji come running to the scene too and join in the celebration of the recovery of the card, while festival participants dance gaily around them.


    The story of Osono and Rokusa is based on two real events which happened in ďsaka in 1749: the 18th day of the 3rd lunar month of the 2nd year of the Kan'en era [1], the courtesan Osono (from the Minami pleasure district) and the carpenter Rokusa committed a double suicide. The same day, a courtesan from the Kita Shinchi pleasures district, who had killed her elder brother and was sentenced to death, was executed. The story of Osono and Rokusa is a fusion of these two real events. In Sakurada Jisuke III's version, the actions and characters are shifted to Edo.

    In scenes which are no more part of the current version of "Sanzes˘ Nishiki Bunsh˘" (the Uno Nobuo revision), Osono goes to Paradise, where she meets her daughter Omatsu (who has become blind in the netherworld). It ends with a kowakare scene as Osono is sent back to hell as a retribution for her sins. Then, she wakes up in her room at the Fukushimaya.


    [1] The 18th day of the 3rd lunar month of the 2nd year of the Kan'en era was the 4th of May 1749 in the western calendar.

    The actors Sawamura Tossh˘ II (bottom/left), Ichikawa Enzabur˘ (center), Arashi Koroku V (top/right) and Kataoka Gat˘ II (bottom/right) playing the roles of Rokusabur˘, Fukushimaya Seibŕ, Seibŕ's wife Okaji and Osono in the drama "Sanzes˘ Nishiki Bunsh˘", which was staged in the 7th lunar month of 1857 at the Nakamuraza (print made by Utagawa Toyokuni III)

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