Play titles Sannin Kichisa Kuruwa no Hatsugai
Sannin Kichisa Tomoe no Shiranami
Common title Sannin Kichisa  In Japanese
Author Kawatake Shinshichi II

The drama "Sannin Kichisa Kuruwa no Hatsugai" was premiered at the Ichimuraza in the 1st lunar month of 1860 [casting]. It was both a kakikae ky˘gen and a naimaze ky˘gen as it parodied the famous story of Yaoya Oshichi and mixed it with Umemori Kokuga's popular novel "Keiseikai Futasujimichi", which was about the love of the lumber-merchant Kiya Bunz˘ (who became Kiya Bunri in the play) and the courtesan Ch˘jiya Hitoe. The original story of Yaoya Oshichi had one Kichisa in it but Kawatake Shinshichi II added his own story about three Edo bandits, who all bear the name of Kichisa.

"The theme of the play may be described as "honour among thieves," for the three Kichisa, who have sworn blood brotherhood, have one redeeming characteristic - loyalty to each other. Because of this, in spite of the crimes they commit, the playwright allows them to escape the public executioner and die a more honourable death. The three Kichisa are: Osh˘ Kichisa, a priest; Oj˘ Kichisa, a young pickpocket who because of his girlish appearance often disguised himself as a woman; and Ob˘ Kichisa, a r˘nin. The story has a moral: the evil which the same sum of money can cause if wrongfully acquired." (Aubrey and Giovanna Halford in "The Kabuki Handbook")


The drama "Sannin Kichisa Kuruwa no Hatsugai" was made up of seven acts and 14 scenes. The scenes with Kiya Bunri are rarely revived nowadays. The scenes with the three Kichisa are very popular and it is a custom to use the title "Sannin Kichisa Tomoe no Shiranami" instead of the original one. The scene "By the Sumida River near the K˘shin Shrine" (scene 2 of act 1 in our summary) is often staged independently of the rest of the play.

Key words Hong˘
Kakikae Ky˘gen
Naimaze Ky˘gen
Yaoya Oshichi

Act I Scene 1: By the Sumida River

Dozaemon Denkichi finds a man who is about to jump into the river, and stops him. Denkichi asks him what had happened to him. That man, Jűzabur˘ is a clerk in a sword shop. After he received an important sum of money from a customer, he bought a streetwalker (yotaka in Japanese) last night. A fighting had happened between the other guests then, so that he got away immediately from there. After that, he noticed that he had lost his money, 100 ry˘. He searched for that streetwalker all day long today, but he couldn't find her. And he thought that he had no way except dying in the river.

Denkichi is surprised to hear Jűzabur˘'s talking. Denkichi has a streetwalker daughter, Otose, an honest girl in spite of her profession, and he heard that a stupid guest left behind a purse last night. That stupid guest must have been Jűzabur˘. Denkichi takes Jűzabur˘ to his home.

Act I Scene 2: By the Sumida River near the K˘shin Shrine

Otose is looking for her guest of last night in order to hand back his purse. A young girl accosts Otose to ask her the way to home. She introduces herself as a greengrocer's daughter Oshichi, but he is in reality the thief Oj˘ Kichisa disguised as a girl. He suddenly mugs Otose, robbing Jűzabur˘'s purse and kicking Otose into the river. There is 100 ry˘ in the purse. The moneylender Taroemon, who has watched everything, comes by. He tries to rob the purse from Oj˘ Kichisa, but Oj˘ Kichisa robs him of a short sword that the man was bringing. The man got away. Oj˘ Kichisa does not know that she has in her hand the short sword called K˘shinmaru, a treasure sword that was stolen from Yasumori Genbŕ.

Meanwhile, a passing palanquin halts nearby. The newcomer who had been watching the crime scene speaks to Oj˘ Kichisa to demand the money. The newcomer is known as Ob˘ Kichisa, and he knows the mugger is Oj˘ Kichisa. Oj˘ Kichisa refuses his demand and they begin to fight each other. Another newcomer intervenes to stop their fight. Both Oj˘ Kichisa and Ob˘ Kichisa know who he is. He is well known in the underworld as the wicked priest Osh˘ Kichisa. They all know that they have the same name, Kichisa. Osh˘ Kichisa says that the 100 ry˘ should be divided equally between Oj˘ Kichisa and Ob˘ Kichisa. But Oj˘ Kichisa suggests giving the money to Osh˘ Kichisa, because he has ended their fight before they could kill each other. Ob˘ Kichisa agrees with him, and they present Osh˘ Kichisa with the 100 ry˘.

They each cut their arm to take blood into a cup and they drink it, celebrating their blood brotherhood.

Act II Scene 1: Denkichi's Home in Warigesui

The following evening, Denkichi is worried about his daughter Otose because she hasnĺt come home since the previous day. The yaoya Kyűbŕ comes here with Otose. Kyűbŕ had saved her from drowning, after Oj˘ Kichisa mugged her. When Kyűbŕ hears the story about the incident from Otose, he thinks that the stupid guest who had left behind 100 ry˘ might have been his son Jűzabur˘. Jűzabur˘ works as a clerk in a sword shop, and he has disappeared since the previous evening. He was on the way bringing the 100 ry˘ that was the proceeds of the sword K˘shinmaru to his master Kiya Bunri. Kyűbŕ and Otose have not been able to locate Jűzabur˘ and the 100 ry˘, in spite of extensive search, and they are worried.

Jűzabur˘ has stayed in Denkichi's home since the previous night. He was saved by Denkichi, when he was going to commit suicide. Thus Kyűbŕ and Denkichi each saved the life of the other's child. But the money hasn't been found yet. Kyűbŕ says that Jűzabur˘ isn't a legitimate child of him. Kyűbŕ's son had been kidnapped when he was 5. When Kyűbŕ was looking for his son, he found a baby at the shrine. He adopted him, named him Jűzabur˘ and reared him as his own son.

As Denkichi hears this tale he realizes that Jűzabur˘ is his own son. Denkichi abandoned him before. He was the twin brother of Otose. But he keeps this fact in his mind secretly, because Jűzabur˘ and Otose are beginning to love each other. Denkichi has realized one more fact: the 100 ry˘ are the proceeds of the treasure sword K˘shinmaru that he stole before. After that, Kyűbŕ leaves Denkichi's home, and the twins retire to an adjoining room.

Osh˘ Kichisa pays his father Denkichi a visit to give him 50 ry˘, half the amount of money that he got from the two others Kichisa. Denkichi refuses to receive it, because he thinks Osh˘ Kichisa got the money illegally. Osh˘ Kichisa protests, but Denkichi doesnĺt listen to him. Finally he leaves his father's home with the 50 ry˘.

Denkichi starts to speak alone out loud about his twins and the 100 ry˘. Denkichi's wife gave birth to twins, but twins were thought at that time as persons who committed double suicide and were born again. Denkichi decided to abandon the boy at the shrine, because he thought that a girl would make money for him later. Denkichi stole K˘shinmaru from Yasumori Genbŕ, who was the father of Ob˘ Kichisa. Gembei was ordered to keep K˘shinmaru by the Sh˘gun himself. After Denkichi stole K˘shinmaru, Gembei had to commit ritual suicide (seppuku). Just after the theft, he also killed a pregnant dog. Afterwards, Denkichi lost K˘shinmaru and his wife gave birth to a baby who had many birthmarks on the body. She jumped into a river with that baby and died.

Osh˘ Kichisa hears all of it because he didnĺt leave his father's home. He knows everything about his siblings and K˘shinmaru now. Osh˘ Kichisa puts the 100 ry˘ on the family altar silently and disappears, passing a man named Kamaya Buhŕ going towards Denkichi's house to propose getting married with Otose. As soon as Denkichi finds the money, he throws it to the man entering his home, thinking it is Osh˘ Kichisa. It is in fact Buhŕ, who receives the 100 ry˘. Denkichi notices the mistake, but Buhŕ gets away. Then Denkichi chases Buhŕ to get back the 100 ry˘.

Act II Scene 2: at Otakegura, Honjo Sector

Ob˘ Kichisa accosts Buhŕ, and the 100 ry˘ are handed to Ob˘ Kichisa by force. Denkichi appears on the scene, and begs Ob˘ Kichisa to lend him the 100 ry˘, but Ob˘ Kichisa refuses. They fight and Ob˘ Kichisa finally kills Denkichi. When Ob˘ Kichisa is going to get away, Jűzabur˘ and Otose come on the scene of the crime to look for Denkichi. They discover his dead body and the knife that Ob˘ Kichisa has left behind.

Act III Scene 1: At the Kissh˘in Temple in Sugamo

Some time has passed. The police is gradually coming close to the three Kichisa. One night, when Osh˘ Kichisa comes to the Kissh˘in temple, his hiding place, he is ambushed and arrested by cops. They say that if Osh˘ Kichisa helps to arrest the two others Kichisa, he would be free. Osh˘ Kichisa accepts the suggestion. When Osh˘ Kichisa comes into his temple, Ob˘ Kichisa is already hiding here. He intends to leave Edo, so that he came here to discuss with Osh˘ Kichisa. Ob˘ Kichisa, who has listened to the discussion between Osh˘ Kichisa and the cops, asks the priest to take him to police. Osh˘ Kichisa refuses it of course, and says that he has tricked the cops to help the two others Kichisa. Osh˘ Kichisa knows that Ob˘ Kichisa is the heir of the Yasumori family. He should help Ob˘ Kichisa because of his father Denkichi's crime. Osh˘ Kichisa says Ob˘ Kichisa to hide himself until night has come.

Jűzabur˘ and Otose come to the temple to notify Osh˘ Kichisa that Denkichi was killed. They ask Osh˘ Kichisa to find the murderer, and to help making 100 ry˘. When Jűzabur˘ shows the knife of the murderer, Osh˘ Kichisa realizes that it is Ob˘ Kichisa's one. When Otose tells that she was mugged, he also realizes that the mugger was Oj˘ Kichisa. Osh˘ Kichisa says them to wait for him at the cemetery behind the temple.

Meanwhile Ob˘ Kichisa comes out from his hiding place. He now knows that the man he murdered was Osh˘ Kichisa's father. He decides to commit suicide to atone for his crime. A voice suddenly calls him out. This is the voice of Oj˘ Kichisa, who was hiding behind the ornamental lintel of the temple main pavilion. Oj˘ Kichisa has been hiding himself at the temple for a few days. Both of them have overheard everything that Jűzabur˘ and Otose told about. So now they know their crime, and they know that Osh˘ Kichisa also knows it. Oj˘ Kichisa has realized that he was Kyűbŕĺs son who was kidnapped. Ob˘ Kichisa and Oj˘ Kichisa decide to kill themselves as an apology to Osh˘ Kichisa's family. They write out their last message on a large white piece of cloth.

Act III Scene 2: At the Cemetery Behind the Kissh˘in Temple

Osh˘ Kichisa knows why Ob˘ Kichisa and Oj˘ Kichisa fell into the unfortunate circumstances. His father Denkichi was responsible for everything because he stole the treasure sword K˘shinmaru. He canĺt accept to betray his sworn brothers. Furthermore, he canĺt accept the incest of his siblings. Osh˘ Kichisa kills Jűzabur˘ and Otose at the cemetery, telling them that the bonds of brotherhood are stronger that the family bounds. He must kill them as substitutes to save both Oj˘ Kichisa and Ob˘ Kichisa. However, Osh˘ Kichisa can't tell them that they are twins.

Act III Scene 3: Inside the Temple

When Osh˘ Kichisa comes back into the temple, Ob˘ Kichisa and Oj˘ Kichisa are going to kill each other. Osh˘ Kichisa stops them and shows the two fresh severed heads of Jűzabur˘ and Otose. He intends to take them to the police as Ob˘ Kichisa and Oj˘ Kichisa.

Ob˘ Kichisa hands to Osh˘ Kichisa the 100 ry˘ he has. Oj˘ Kichisa hands to Osh˘ Kichisa the sword that he robbed before. When Ob˘ Kichisa looks at the sword, he realizes that it is K˘shinmaru. They decide that Ob˘ Kichisa takes K˘shinmaru to his home to revive his house. Oj˘ Kichisa takes the 100 ry˘ to hand the money back to Kyűbŕ, who is his real father, to prove that Jűzabur˘ was innocent.

Act III Scene 4: Under the Fire-Watching Tower in Hong˘

The police has found that the two fresh severed heads were fakes, and Osh˘ Kichisa has been arrested. Ob˘ Kichisa and Oj˘ Kichisa are being chased. The gate of the town in Hong˘ is closed, and it can't be opened unless the drum of the fire-watching tower is beaten. They are on opposite sides of the gate. Oj˘ Kichisa climbs to the top of the fire-watching tower, while Ob˘ Kichisa fights with cops. Oj˘ Kichisa beats the drum and the gate is opened. Osh˘ Kichisa suddenly appears on top of a roof, having escaped from prison. Kyűbŕ comes by to the tower. Oj˘ Kichisa hands to Kyűbŕ the 100 ry˘. Ob˘ Kichisa hands to him the sword K˘shinmaru because he is the greengrocer of the Yasumori family. His mission is to deliver everything to their rightful owners. Therefore, there is a chance to restore the Yasumori clan. Kyűbŕ blows out his lantern and goes away. The three Kichisa fight with cops under the falling snow. Their final pose brings the play to a close. The three blood brothers have decided to kill themselves here together.

This summary has been written by Sekidobashi Sakura (February 2004) and edited by Sh˘riya Aragor˘

The actors Iwai Kumesabur˘ III, Ichikawa Kodanji IV and Kawarasaki Gonjűr˘ I playing the roles of Oj˘ Kichisa, Osh˘ Kichisa and Ob˘ Kichisa in the drama "Sannin Kichisa Kuruwa no Hatsugai", which was staged in the 1st lunar month of 1860 at the Ichimuraza (print made by Utagawa Toyokuni III)

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