"Banchô Sarayashiki" was premiered at the Hongôza in February 1916, starring Ichikawa Sadanji II and Ichikawa Shôchô II in the roles of Lord Harima and Okiku [casting]. It was a modern version of the classic ghost story "Banshû Sarayashiki", in which the horror tale was replaced by a deep psychological study of the 2 characters' motivations.
"Banchô Sarayashiki" is made up of 2 scenes.
The year is 1655, the place is Edo (modern day Tôkyô), and it is the cherry blossom season. Aoyama Harima is a member of the Shiratsuka Group, an elite band of young vassals of Shôgun Tokugawa Ietsuna (1641-1680). He leads a rambunctious, flamboyant life and is quarreling every day with a group of chivalrous gangsters in town. Harima has secretly fallen deeply in love with Okiku. He is Okiku's very first lover, and she is as much in love with him as he is with her. They promise each other that they will be married.
One day Harima receives a proposal of marriage by way of his aunt. Knowing this, Okiku gets carried away by her imagination and cannot sit still. Wild fantasies, one after another, occur to her. In order to ascertain Harima's true mind, she finally breaks one of ten precious plates, heirlooms which have been handed down through many generations of the Aoyama family. In those days, whoever broke such an heirloom, whether on purpose or by mistake, would be beheaded without fail. Yet Okiku dared to commit just such an unpardonable act. Consequently, the whole house is thrown into great confusion. When Harima first hears of the incident and is told that Okiku has mistakenly broken a plate, he pardons her. Vowing that his love towards her hasn't change in the least, he insists that she is his only sweetheart. Later, however, when he comes to know all the facts, and she has confessed directly to him, his mind suddenly changes. He flies into a rage and castigates her, saying, "You may be satisfied to have confirmed my devotion, but I am chagrined that you suspected the purity of my heart." Finally, he breaks the nine remaining plates, kills her, and throws the body down a well.
This summary has been written by Watanabe Hisao and edited by Jeff Blair [website]
A modern illustration for "Banchô Sarayashiki"
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