Play title Sono Mukashi Koi no Edo-zome  In Japanese
Sh˘chikubai Yuki no Akebono  In Japanese
Sh˘chikubai Yushima no Kakegaku  In Japanese
Author Fukumori Kyűsuke I ("Sono Mukashi Koi no Edo-zome")
Kawatake Shinshichi II, Shinoda Sasuke ("Sh˘chikubai Yuki no Akebono")
Takeshiba Ginz˘ ("Sh˘chikubai Yushima no Kakegaku")

The play is made up of two acts:

  • "Kissh˘in Odosha": the first act of a drama written by Fukumori Kyűsuke I, entitled "Sono Mukashi Koi no Edo-zome" and first performed in the 3rd lunar month of 1809 at the Moritaza [casting]. This first act is commonly called "Odosha" (the Holy Sand) or "Bench˘" (Bench˘ being the nickname of Beniya Ch˘bŕ).
  • "Yagura no Oshichi": a dance drama that was part of a puppet play first staged in 1773, and later adapted for Kabuki.
  • They were joined together by Kawatake Shinshichi II in the 11th lunar month of 1856, in a drama which was entitled "Sh˘chikubai Yuki no Akebono" and was premiered in the 11th lunar month of 1856 at the Ichimuraza [casting]. The title "Sh˘chikubai Yushima no Kakegaku" was created by Takeshiba Ginz˘ and used for the first time in September 1882 at the Harukiza.

    This history was written by Marion Hudson and Sh˘riya Aragor˘.


    The historical Oshichi was the daughter of a greengrocer who fell in love with a temple page called Kichisabur˘. In order to be with him, she started a fire, which burnt down a substantial part of the city. She was burnt at the stake in punishment.

    This note was written by Marion Hudson (March 2011).

    Key words Yaoya Oshichi
    Kamakura Jidai

    The play is set during the Kamakura period, and forms two very distinct acts, which are totally different in feel. The first act is comic, and involves many visual gags and general improvisation, whilst the second is more serious, and involves a long spell of ningy˘buri acting, in which a great deal of play is made of the fact that female Bunraku puppets do not have legs (since the kimono hides them).

    Kissh˘in Odosha
    The Holy Sand of the Kissh˘in Temple

    The first act takes place in the main hall of the Kissh˘in Temple in Edo. The city is under attack from enemy troops, and people are fleeing to the temple for shelter. Amongst them are Oshichi and her mother, accompanied by their maid, Osugi, and Ch˘bŕ, a family friend. Oshichi is a very attractive young woman, but is unbelievably spoilt, having never in her life been refused anything. Right now she is in love with Kichisabur˘ (Kichisa for short), one of the temple pages, and she asks her mother if she can marry him. Her mother tries to refuse her request, explaining that Kichisa will soon become a priest, and, furthermore, she has already lined up a husband for Oshichi - the unprepossessing Kamaya Buhŕ. The family have borrowed money from him, and one of the conditions was that if they were late in repaying the debt (which of course they were), then he would have Oshichi's hand in marriage. If they renege on the deal, their greengrocer's business will be ruined. Oshichi bursts into floods of tears, maintaining that if she can't marry Kichisa, she won't marry at all. Her mother relents, since she can't bear to see her only daughter unhappy. She is persuaded by Ch˘bŕ to tell Oshichi it was all a lie, and that she can marry Kichisa - after all, Oshichi has never been denied anything!

    After Oshichi has recovered her spirits, they play blind man's buff with some of Oshichi's friends. Ch˘bŕ promptly captures the entering Jűnai, Kichisa's retainer, who reveals that Kichisa is to return to his home, where he is to be married - and not to Oshichi. The distraught Oshichi is once again persuaded it is a lie! Her mother asks Jűnai's help in bringing Kichisa and her daughter together in marriage, but it transpires that Kichisa is the heir to a great estate, and a match with a greengrocer's daughter would be highly unsuitable. Jűnai, not being used to giving in to Oshichi's every whim, refuses to help.

    Kichisa is only serving as a page at the temple in order to attempt to retrieve a missing treasure sword, the deadline for which is fast approaching. Jűnai upbraids him with wasting time dallying with Oshichi instead of getting down to business. Kichisa denies the dallying - he knows of Oshichi's love, but has not reciprocated it because of his important quest.

    Buhŕ, Oshichi's intended, turns up. He does not, in fact, intend to marry the girl, but rather to pass her over to the leader of the forces attacking the city, as a concubine. The Chief Priest of the temple refuses to help him in locating Oshichi, who is hidden by making her take the place of a painted Buddhist angel, whilst the rest of her party pretend to be dead. Naturally, the search fails. In the midst of it Oshichi manages to find time to propose to Kichisa. Kichisa points out that if he finds the missing sword he must return home at once, and Oshichi, prompted by Ch˘bŕ, feigns to swoon. Kichisa must revive her, and expediently promises to grant her wish.

    One of the priests, suitably primed, tells the search party that Oshichi is dead, as is her mother, both having taken their own lives. Just then, two coffins containing "corpses" are brought in, and are stopped by the suspicious searchers. One contains Ch˘bŕ, masquerading as a dead body. Buhŕ is deeply suspicious. He has some odosha sand, which has magical properties, including making corpses supple again. However, Ch˘bŕ's "corpse" takes the sand from him, and tries sprinkling it on the living, starting with Buhŕ. The results are alarming, but please Ch˘bŕ so much that he sprinkles it on everyone in sight, creating chaos onstage, during which Oshichi and her maid escape. The curtain is finally pulled by Ch˘bŕ himself, as the only person left standing.

    Yagura no Oshichi
    Oshichi by the watchtower

    The second act is set at the fire watchtower. Some time has passed, and the city gates have been locked for the evening. Osugi, the maid, has discovered that the missing sword is in Buhŕ's possession. As Kichisa must commit seppuku at dawn if he has not retrieved it, Oshichi is desperate to give him the news - and preferably the sword as well. However, she cannot reach Kichisa because of the locked city gates, and all efforts to persuade the gatekeepers to open them are in vain. The only way of getting them opened is by striking the drum at the fire watchtower. The punishment for the raising of a false fire alarm is death.

    Osugi is summoned home by the master. Following her departure, Oshichi has a protracted scene of ningy˘buri acting, in which she expresses her despair at her predicament, her yearning for Kichisa, and her willingness to die in order to save him. At the end of the ningy˘buri sequence, she climbs the watchtower and strikes the drum. The gates of the city are opened, and Osugi dashes on, having laid hands on the missing treasure sword. Oshichi departs with the sword to save Kichisa's life - at the expense of her own.

    Summary written by Marion Hudson (March 2011).


    The play includes a farcical section unusual for Kabuki. As played at the Kabukiza in September 2009, when Ch˘bŕ, played by Nakamura Kichiemon, sprinkled the magic odosha sand on everyone who appeared onstage, except for the fleeing Oshichi and her faithful maid Osugi, each in turn became limp and wobbly, gyrated uncontrollably (especially in the affected area - and Ch˘bŕ sprinkled the odosha sand on some interesting places!), and finally collapsed in a heap, although to avoid too great a pile-up of bodies, some of the characters made it offstage first! This fate didn't just overtake the villains of the piece - the sand was also sprinkled on Oshichi's friends, her mother, the venerable abbot of the temple and his attendant acolytes, the little apprentice, and any "stage staff" (actually actors) who came within reach.

    In the midst of this confusion, a "member of the audience" clambered onto the hanamichi, and rushed onto the stage - hotly pursued by an usherette clutching her shoes. Yes, a real woman on the Kabukiza stage - presumably a genuine member of the Kabukiza's front of house staff! The "member of the audience" was of course another actor, but clad in a suit instead of a kimono (and most unfairly uncredited in the programme). He was so overwhelmed by Kichiemon's performance that he wanted an autograph. Unfortunately, Kichiemon was still busy acting, and when his suggestion of "later" fell on deaf ears, the "member of the audience" was also treated to a dose of odosha sand, followed by the unfortunate usherette. Kichiemon brought the act to a close by drawing the curtain himself - having sprinkled more odosha sand on the chap already pulling it (another actor!) in a vain attempt to end the chaos onstage.

    It seems to be a strange characteristic of odosha sand that although it apparently works through several layers of Japanese clothing, it had no effect at all on Ch˘bŕ's bare hands!

    The play was also notable for having Nakamura Utae as Osugi holding a conversation at the far end of the hanamichi with an invisible gatekeeper who was ostensibly behind the agemaku. A conversation here is extremely rare in Kabuki - and couldn't be seen from upstairs where I was sitting, which is perhaps the reason for its sparing use!

    Summary written by Marion Hudson (June 2011).

    "Sh˘chikubai Yushima no Kakegaku"

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