Play title Shibaraku  In Japanese

The bombastic "Shibaraku" scene was staged for the first time in the 1st lunar month of 1697 at the Nakamuraza, within the drama "Daifukuchô Sankai Nagoya". Ichikawa Danjûrô I played the superhero role and his stage partners were Ogino Sawanojô and Yamanaka Heikurô I (the villain). This scene was a huge success and it quickly became a custom to include it within the kaomise programs of the three Edo theater during the eighteenth century. The name of the superhero or the context of the scene depended on the sekai selected by the producers of the program but it was always the same pattern: an evil plotter about to kill some innocent people, who were rescued by a superhero acting in the aragoto style. The superhero was usually played by actors belonging or related to the Ichikawa Danjûrô line. The current version of "Shibaraku" was designed by Ichikawa Danjûrô IX during the Meiji era.

Key words Aragoto
Kabuki Jûhachiban
Kamakura Gongorô Kagemasa

The scene is the inner yard of the famous Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine shrine in Kamakura. The evil lord Kiyohara no Takehira has usurped the power and taken imperial loyalists prisoner, including their leader Prince Kamo Jirô Yoshitsuna and Yoshitsuna's betrothed Princess Katsura-no-Mae. He plans to execute them. The henchmen of Takehira are a bunch of four red-faced warriors, a priest called the nyûdô Kashima Shinsai and the mysterious lady Teruha. The execution is about to start but Teruha persuades Takehira that a bloodbath in the precinct of the shrine would easily anger the Gods. Takehira does not listen to her and he summons a more powerful warrior, who comes along the hanamichi. His name is Narita Gorô (an allusion to the Naritaya guild) and he seems fearless and pitiless. The four henchmen perform a haradashi short dance while Takehira drinks some sake. A loud, chilling and angry-voiced "shibaraku" ("Wait a minute!") is heard from the other side of the agemaku at the end of the hanamichi. The situation gets confused. An imposing super-warrior named Kamakura Gongorô Kagemasa appears on the hanamichi, coming to the rescue of the prisoners. Takehira orders his henchmen to get rid of this mysterious intruder but they are no match for our superhero. Gongorô accuses Takehira of power usurpation and strongly requests him to return the stolen imperial sword (a magnificent sword named Tomokirimaru) and seal. Teruha, who is in fact Gongorô's cousin, gives the seal back to Yoshitsuna and the sword to Gongorô, who offers it to Yoshitsuna. The prisoners are free to leave the shrine. Takehira's low-ranking soldiers try a last attack against Gongorô, who beheads them all in a single strike with his giant sword. Takehira is definitively defeated. Gongorô strikes his final mie and victoriously leaves the theater through the hanamichi.

The actors Ichikawa Danjûrô IX, Ichikawa Sadanji I and Onoe Kikugorô V playing the roles of Kongômaru Terutada (the superhero), Mikuriya Saburô Masayori (the equivalent of Narita Gorô) and Taira no Masakado (the equivalent of Kiyohara no Takehira) in the "Shibaraku" scene of the drama "Azuma no Hana Ichiza no Kaomise", which was staged at the Shintomiza in November 1878 (print made by Toyohara Kunichika)

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