Play title Igagoe Dôchű Sugoroku  In Japanese
Igagoe Norikake Gappa  In Japanese
Keisei Tonoi Zakura  In Japanese
Sono Umayaji Sagara no Kikigaki  In Japanese
Authors Chikamatsu Hanji, Chikamatsu Kasaku ("Igagoe Dôchű Sugoroku")
Nagawa Kamesuke I ("Igagoe Norikake Gappa")

During Japan's feudal period, from time to time there were people that could not be punished due to clan loyalties and highly fragmented authority. Under certain conditions, retainers and family members were empowered to take the law into their own hands and conduct an official vendetta. "Igagoe Dôchű Sugoroku" was written by Chikamatsu Hanji and first presented in the Bunraku puppet theater in the 4th lunar month of 1783 and adapted for Kabuki in the 9th lunar month of 1783 in Ôsaka at the Naka no Shibai [casting]. The authors drew their inspiration from Nagawa Kamesuke I's successful drama "Igagoe Norikake Gappa", which was directly written for Kabuki and was staged for the first time in the 12th lunar month of 1776 in Ôsaka at the Naka no Shibai [casting]. A similar drama was staged in Kyôto in the 1st lunar month of 1777 under the title "Keisei Tonoi Zakura" [casting].

"Igagoe Dôchű Sugoroku" is an epic based on a true incident in 1634 in which Watanabe Shizuma killed the murderer of his younger brother, a man named Kawai Matagorô at Iga Ueno, with the aid of Araki Mataemon. In the final fight, Mataemon killed several people, which has made him legendary as a master swordman celebrated in theatre, kôdan storytelling and popular novels. Shizuma's desperate search for Matagorô takes him throughout Japan and the success of the vendetta is due to the help he gets from others. The play focuses on the often tragic consequences of divided loyalties as people confront members of this vendetta.

When it was dramatized, the names and details, and even the era were changed because of censorship by the ruling Tokugawa Shogunate:

Real Names Theater Names
Kawai Matagorô Sawai Matagorô
Araki Mataemon Karaki Masaemon
Watanabe Yukie Wada Yukie
Watanabe Kazuma Wada Kazuma
Kawai Jinzaemon Yamada Kôbę

The play focuses on the often tragic consequences of divided loyalties as people confront members of this vendetta, and is set like a journey along the Tôkaidô highway.


"Igagoe Dôchű Sugoroku" is made up of 10 acts:

Act Scene In Japanese In English
1 1 鶴が岡 Tsura-ga-Oka
At the Tsura-ga-Oka Shrine in Kamakura
2 1 和田行家屋敷 Wada Yukie Yashiki
At the Mansion of Wada Yukie
3 1 円覚寺 Engakuji
In the Engakuji Temple
4 1 宇佐美五右衛門屋敷 Usami Goemon Yashiki
At the Mansion of Usami Goemon
5 1 唐木政右衛門屋敷 Karaki Masaemon Yashiki
At the Mansion of Karaki Masaemon
5 2 誉田家城中 Hondake Jôchű
In the Castle of Honda Dainaiki
6 1 沼津棒鼻 Numazu Bôbana
On the road at Numazu
6 2 沼津平作住居 Numazu Heisaku Sumika
At Heisaku's home in Numazu
6 3 沼津千本松原 Numazu Senbon Matsubara
In the Thousand-pine Plain in Numazu
7 1 富士川新関 Fujikawa Shinseki
At the new barrier on the Fuji River
8 1 岡崎山田幸兵衛住 Okazaki Yamada Kôbę Sumika
At Yamada Kôbę's home in Okazaki
9 1 伏見北国屋 Fushimi Hokkokuya
At the Hokkokuya Inn in Fushimi
10 1 伊賀上野仇討 Iga Ueno Adauchi
The Revenge at Iga Ueno
You need a Japanese Language Kit installed within your system in order to be able to read the characters

Act II (commonly called "Yukie Goroshi", "the Murder of Yukie"), Act V (commonly called "Manjű Musume" (scene 1) and "Hôsho Shiai" (scene 2), in English "the Sweet Cake Girl" and "Paper Duel"), Act VI (commonly called "Numazu") and Act VII/Act VIII (commonly called "Okazaki") are still part of the current Kabuki repertoire. "Numazu" is the most popular and most frequently performed-act.

Key words Gidayű Kyôgen

From Act I to Act V
--> A dedicated summary: "Engakuji" (Act III)

Wada Yukie is a senior retainer of the Uesugi clan and has two children, a daughter Otani and a son, Shizuma. Sawai Matagorô lust after Otani, the daughter of Wada Yukie, and a precious sword belonging to the family, for which he has tempted Yukie's son Shizuma into disgracing the family name. Sawai Matagorô assassinates Wada Yukie, and then flees, helped by the merchant Jűbę. In the encounter, Yukie’s son Shizuma is wounded. Shizuma would like to avenge his father’s death, but in his weakened state is unable to and his only hope is brother-in-law Karaki Masaemon who is married to his sister Otani. But legally, they cannot participate in the vendetta since Otani was disowned by her father. Moreover, Masaemon is on the verge of accepting an important post as fighting master to a samurai lord. In these scenes Masaemon decides to help Shizuma and must do it by renouncing all that is dear to him.

Act VI: Numazu
--> A dedicated summary: "Numazu"

"Numazu" is one act that tells of the sacrifices of those not directly involved in the vendetta itself but members of the same family who are indebted to the two opposing sides. The kimono merchant Jűbę meets a porter Heisaku as he travels west on business. They find that not only are they long-separated father and son, but that they also lie on opposite sides of the vendetta. Their loyalties prevent them from openly acknowledging their relationship. Heisaku sacrifices his life to get information from his son essential to his side's cause.

Acts VII and VIII
--> A dedicated summary: "Okazaki"

The plot involves the efforts of Wada Shizuma and his brother-in-law Karaki Masaemon, to pursue the villainous Matagorô, who has murdered Shizuma's father Yukie. Their pursuit takes them along the Tôkaidô Highway. In this act, Shizuma reaches the Fuji River barrier and with the help of Osode the tea-shop girl, heads towards Okazaki, with Masaemon close behind. Although Osode is betrothed to Matagorô (whom she has never seen), she falls in love with Shizuma, who passes himself off as Matagorô. They reach the house of her father, Yamada Kôbę, whom Masaemon recognizes as his old fighting teacher. Not knowing that these men are his enemies, Kôbę asks Masaemon to aid Matagorô (his daughter's betrothed). Masaemon pretends to agree. His distraught wife Otani, whom he has divorced in order to gain his master's permission to let him help Shizuma, arrives outside the house, and collapses in the snow. Not wanting distractions, Masaemon grabs the infant that she is carrying and dispatches Otani to a nearby shrine. Back at the house, the men find a note inside the child's amulet identifying him as Masaemon's son. To show his loyalty, Masaemon kills the child and asks Kôbę where Matagorô's is hiding. But Kôbę has already divined the men's identities. Realising that they are in his debt he knows that honour demands that he must break his bond with Matagorô so that their vendetta can be played out.

Act X: Iga Ueno Adauchi
The Revenge at Iga Ueno

Shizuma and Masaemon overtake Matagorô at Iga Ueno, halfway between Nara and Nagoya. They kill Matagorô and Rinzaemon to avenge the death of Shizuma's father.

Source for "Okazaki": the Fitzwilliam Museum Website
Others: Earphone Guide website


The word sugoroku in the title means a traditional Japanese game similar to "snakes and ladders". Many of these games were related to the stages of the famous Tôkaidô road. This drama is a long chase along the Tôkaidô, which includes scenes in famous stages like Numazu, Fujikawa or Okazaki

The poster of the production of "Igagoe Dôchű Sugoroku", which was staged in September 1970 at the National Theatre

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