Play title Onna Goroshi Abura no Jigoku
Author Chikamatsu Monzaemon

"Onna Goroshi Abura no Jigoku" was premiered in the 7th lunar month of 1721 in saka at the Takemotoza. It was not a hit and quickly went into oblivion. It was adapted for Kabuki for the very first time by Takeshiba Manji in October 1907 at the Misakiza, where it was staged by a troupe of female Kabuki. A new script was written by Watanabe Katei for the actor Jitsukawa Enjir I. It was successfully staged in November 1909 in saka at the Asahiza [casting], in January 1910 in Kyto at the Minamiza [casting] and in Tky at the Shintomiza [casting].


"Onna Goroshi Abura no Jigoku" was originally divided into 3 acts (6 scenes). The current Kabuki version is made up of 3 acts (3 or 4 scenes). The second scene of act III is often omitted.

Act In Japanese In English
I 徳庵堤 At the Tokuan Embankment
II 河内屋与兵衛内 At Kawachiya Yoh's home
III/1 豊嶋屋油店 At the Teshimaya Oil Shop
III/2 豊島屋逮夜供養 The Memorial Service at the Teshimaya Oil Shop
Key words Giday Kygen

At the Tokuan Embankment

Kawachiya Yoh, a delinquent stepson of Tokub, an oil merchant in saka, happens to learn that Kogiku, a courtesan with whom he is in love, is going to visit the Nozaki Kannon Temple escorted by a rich merchant. So he waylays them on the riverbank leading to the temple and fights with his rival in love. When Yoh throws a handful of mud at his adversary it accidentally hits a high-ranking samurai and soils his garment. His chief retainer, who happens to be Yoh's uncle Yamamoto Moriemon, is upset and tries to kill Yoh but is persuaded by his master to pardon him, Okichi, wife of Teshimaya Shichizaemon, an oil merchant in Yoh's neighborhood, who has come to pay a visit to the Nozaki Kannon Temple, together with her daughter Okiyo, offers to wash Yoh's soiled kimono in a tea stall nearby. Soon after they enter the stall Okichi's husband comes and, after warning her not to be too kind to Yoh, takes Okichi and Okiyo to the Nozaki Kannon Temple.

At Kawachiya Yoh's home

A few days later Tahei, Yoh's elder brother and Tokub's stepson, who is in business in another house, comes to Tokub's oil store to tell him that he has received a letter from his uncle Moriemon saying that he has resigned from his master's service because of Yoh's misconduct. He advises Tokub to strictly discipline Yoh though he used to be an employee of Yoh's father and married Yoh's mother after his death. After he has gone a priest comes to offer a prayer for the recovery from illness of Okachi, Yoh's half-sister and Tokub's daughter.

As soon as the priest starts praying Okachi sits up on her bed and, declaring that she is possessed by the spirit of Yoh's late father, advises Tokub in the deceased's words to allow Yoh to marry whomever he wants to and succeed to Tokub's oil business. Tokub refuses as Yoh is not at all trustworthy.

Yoh, getting angry, throws Tokub to the tatami floor and beats him. Yoh's mother Osawa pulls Yoh by the hair and beats him. At last Tokub and Osawa drive Yoh out of the house.

At the Teshimaya Oil Shop

As Yoh in utter distress comes to the front of the Teshimaya oil store he is called from behind by Kohei, a moneylender, who demands that Yoh repay the money he has secretly borrowed in his father's name, reminding him of the time limit which is the daybreak of the following day. Yoh promises to do so though actually he has no money.

Noticing the approach of his stepfather, Tokub, Yoh hides himself. Tokub enters the oil store and hands to Okichi some money, asking her to give it to Yoh when he comes. Tokub has come to the Teshimaya without his wife's knowledge lest she should know that he is so kind to Yoh. Before he can leave, his wife also comes and inadvertently lets coins fall from the fold of her kimono. She admits to her husband that she wanted, without his knowledge, to give the money to Yoh through Okichi.

As soon as his parents are gone, Yoh enters the store and, after receiving the money entrusted to her by his parents, says that the money is not enough and asks Okichi to lend him more money to repay his debt. Okichi refuses, saying that she cannot lend money without her husband's consent. Yoh then asks Okichi to lend him some oil. This she reluctantly agrees to do. While Okichi is pouring oil into his cask, Yoh creeps up to her from behind with a drawn dagger. He slashes at her and, after a fierce struggle on the slippery floor covered with oil, finally kills her. He then takes money out of the chest of drawers and flees.

The Memorial Service at the Teshimaya Oil Shop

On the occasion of the memorial service (taiya kuy) for Okichi 35 days after her death a rat running on the ceiling causes a sheet of blood-stained paper to fall on the tatami floor. Written on the paper by Yoh are the names of three men including Yoh and the amount of money each person paid to share the expense of their visit to the Nozaki Kannon Temple on the very day of Okichi's death. Thus there is no denying that Yoh killed Okichi. But Yoh, pretending to be innocent, comes to attend the service and is immediately arrested by those present including a policeman.

Illustration made by Uno Shin'ya

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