Play titles Ryû to Mimasu Takane no Kumokiri  In Japanese
Imashime-gusa Koi ha Kusemono  In Japanese
Imashime-gusa Susuki no Nozarashi  In Japanese
Common titles Inga Kozô  In Japanese
Inga Kozô Rokunosuke  In Japanese
Osono Rokunosuke  In Japanese
Authors Kawatake Shinshichi II
Kimura Enji II
Shinoda Kinji III
Matsushima Kumesuke
Matsushima Shôsaku
Shimizu Bunji
Umezawa Gorobei
Matsushima Kisôji
Matsushima Reiji
Umezawa Manji

Kawatake Shinshichi II's drama "Ryû to Mimasu Takane no Kumokiri" was premiered in the 5th lunar month of 1861 at the Moritaza [more details]. It was written for the Edo star Ichikawa Kodanji IV. The story was about the larger-than-life thief Kumokiri Nizaemon and his group of thieves (Kumokiri Gonin Otoko). The production was a failure and Kawatake Shinshichi II turned the two last acts, the part focusing on Nozarashi Kobę and his son Inga Kozô Rokunosuke, into an independent drama entitled "Imashime-gusa Koi ha Kusemono", which was staged in March 1875 at the Nakamuraza with Nakamura Nakazô III, Nakamura Tokizô I and Iwai Hanshirô VIII in the roles of Nozarashi Kobę, Inga Kozô Rokunosuke and Fukushimaya Osono. In 1915, Kawatake Shinshichi II's drama was revived and revised, under the new title of "Imashime-gusa Susuki no Nozarashi" and it was staged in November 1915 at the Ichimuraza with Onoe Matsusuke IV, Onoe Kikugorô VI and Onoe Kikujirô III in the roles of Nozarashi Kobę, Inga Kozô Rokunosuke and Fukushimaya Osono. This version became the standard for "Inga Kozô".


The original drama was in 6 acts. The current version of "Inga Kozô" in the Kabuki repertoire is made up of 2 acts (4 scenes).

Key words Danmari
Inga Kozô Rokunosuke
Kumokiri Gonin Otoko
Kumokiri Nizaemon
Osaraba Denji
Tori Musume

Act I, scene 1: Shinagawa Fukushimaya
At the Fukushimaya House of Assignation in Shinagawa

The first scene unfolds within the confines of a thriving house of assignation nestled in the coastal ambiance of Shinagawa. During the Edo period, this locale held a distinct allure, situated not within the bounds of Edo itself, but rather being the first station along the Tôkaidô Highway, linking Edo to Kyôto.

Here, we find Kyûsuke, an unassuming tedai at the Ômiya, whose pockets brim with an unusual wealth. His heart, however, is captivated by Fukushimaya Osono, a yûjo working at the Fukushimaya. Despite Kyûsuke's extravagant offerings, her affection remains tepid, leaving him on the precipice of departing in frustration. Only the combined persuasions of Osono and a man known as Mitekure Gonji [1] deter him from storming away.

Gonji, a hannin, occupies a significant role in the Edo period's pleasure quarters. As a hannin, he serves as an intermediary, facilitating the entry of women into the houses of assignation. Simply said, he is a provider of human flesh. In this capacity, he commands a profound authority and garners respect within the Shinagawa pleasure quarter.

Enter Rokunosuke, a dashing and fashionable young man, his arrival heralded by a palanquin (kago). He bears the title of Osono's paramour. Even as the palanquin bearers (kagokaki) privately identify him as a wanted murderer, their lips remain sealed, reluctant to embroil themselves in the machinations of justice. However, their hushed deliberations do not escape the astute ears of Gonji, who opts to maintain a vigilant watch over this enigmatic customer.

Act I, scene 2: Dô Mawashibeya
Same site; in a Guest Room

Fukushimaya Osono hopes for Rokunosuke to stay the night, but he remains coy. A servant arrives bearing a gift for Osono from another customer, a first-time visitor to the house of assignation. Suddenly, the jealous Kyûsuke bursts in as Osono showers her attentions on Rokunosuke instead of himself. Despite Kyûsuke's many generous gifts, it is obvious that he is on the losing side of this love triangle. He demands the return of everything he gave her. Rokunosuke swiftly resolves the matter by tossing a bundle of ryô to Kyûsuke and instructing him to depart. Soon, the customer who brought the initial gift reappears. Osono extends a polite greeting before being called away. Alone, Rokunosuke and the other man reveal their identities: Rokunosuke is none other than the notorious tôzoku Inga Kozô Rokunosuke, a member of the Kumokiri Gonin Otoko gang and the other man, Osaraba Denji [2], is also a member of this gang. Denji has observed Rokunosuke exiting the palanquin and entering the Fukushimaya as a customer. They share an amused moment at how they have deceived everyone around them, appearing to be nothing more than well-to-do young men rather than the criminals they are. However, Denji delivers graver news: he overheard Kyûsuke mentioning that the coins bear a seal confirming them as stolen, and he intends to report it to the authorities. Denji offers to eliminate Kyûsuke, as things are heating up in Edo, and he plans to escape to Kamigata. Rokunosuke discloses his original intention to hide in Ôshû and give the money to Osono as a farewell gift, though he ultimately threw it to Kyûsuke instead. Both men understand that retribution for their crimes is getting closer.

As Fukushimaya Osono returns, she expresses her gratitude to Denji for keeping her lover company. Rokunosuke announces his imminent journey but assures Osono that he will return soon. To his surprise, Osono reveals her awareness of his destination (Ôshû). She confesses that she has known his identity for some time. After a few visits, she discerned that he was not just a wealthy merchant seeking pleasure but a thief luxuriating in his last moments of opulence before his inevitable reckoning. She is willing to risk her life for him and pleads to accompany him. Rokunosuke admires her audacity, and they prepare to flee together.

Act I, scene 3: Takanawa Yatsuyama Shita
Below the Yatsuyama Area in Takanawa

Kyûsuke finds himself pursued by Osaraba Denji below Yatsuyama in Takanawa, who eventually chokes him to death with a tenugui. Nearby, in the shadows of a dimly lit tea stall, an elderly man named Nozarashi Kobę happens to be observing the grim scene. He advises Denji to take the tenugui with him, and their familiarity suggests a shared history. Nozarashi Kobę is none other than Rokunosuke's father. Once a thief himself, Kobę has since turned his focus to producing freak shows (ingamono). Seeking refuge from the rain, he reflects on his past misdeeds, praying over the lifeless body of Kyûsuke. To distance himself from his son's criminal pursuits, Kobę has formally disowned Rokunosuke, but as a parent, he remains deeply concerned.

Denji, however, offers Kobę reassuring lies, assuring him that Rokunosuke has long departed Edo. As a final gesture of purification, Kobę strikes sparks at Denji and extends well wishes for a safe escape. Alone, Kobę contemplates how even Denji may have been ensnared by an unfortunate destiny, and he prays once more.

The scene concludes with a danmari, a silent struggle in the darkness, during which the characters fumble in the obscurity, inadvertently dropping significant objects that will play pivotal roles in the unfolding narrative. Rokunosuke and Osono make their appearance, fleeing from the Fukushimaya, closely pursued by Mitekure Gonji. In the chaotic encounter, they collide with one another, resulting in Kobę acquiring Osono's ornate hairpin while Gonji secures Kobę's tobacco pouch. Amidst the confusion, Rokunosuke and Osono manage to slip away.

Act II, scene 1: Ingamonoshi Kobę Uchi
At the Home of Kobę the Freak Show Producer

The scene unfolds in Honjo, amidst a heated dispute at Nozarashi Kobę's home over money, punctuated by the persistent cries of a chicken girl (tori musume). None of them possesses any fund, and their struggle is compounded by Kobę's ailment, who suffers from crippling chills and fever. The yanushi Shôbę arrives, demanding overdue rent payment, but Kobę staunchly refuses. Shôbę questions how Kobę could afford to buy fish for breakfast yet neglect his rent obligations. In a calm but defiant tone, Kobę suggests that he may not live through the day, and thus, he opts to savor what remains of his life with a modest indulgence in fresh fish. He jests that if he does not survive the day and fails to pay his rent, he'll die a little bit wealthier! Enraged, Shôbę attempts to evict them all, but Kobę's son, Shichinosuke, intervenes, offering money to the yanushi. Kobę, frustrated at having the situation almost under control, is vexed by this sudden payment. Shichinosuke has obtained the money by selling an ornamental hairpin that Kobę has recently picked up. Okichi, a young woman residing next door, arrives to visit and assist the ailing Kobę. Shichinosuke and Okichi share a fondness for each other but engage in a minor quarrel fueled by jealousy. Kobę inquires about Okichi's marital intentions, to which she adamantly expresses her refusal to marry. Kobę playfully suggests the idea of Okichi marrying Shichinosuke, though it is clear that such an idea is out of the question. Amidst the confusion, Okichi attempts to convey her willingness to marry Shichinosuke.

Mitekure Gonji makes an appearance, accusing Kobę of sheltering the escaped courtesan Fukushimaya Osono. Kobę pleads ignorance, but Gonji presents the recently sold hairpin, marked with a distinct crest, as incriminating evidence, accompanied by a witness, the dôguya Kahę who made the purchase. Furthermore, Gonji presents Kobę's tobacco pouch, which Shichinosuke inadvertently identifies as his father's. Gonji accuses Kobę of murder, asserting that the tobacco pouch was found near Kyûsuke's lifeless body. Kobę persists in his claims of innocence, but Gonji threatens to report him to the authorities. Then, Gonji leaves Kobę's home.

Kobę laments that Shichinosuke's careless words have turned his tobacco pouch into potential evidence of murder. He acknowledges that Rokunosuke may be a notorious thief, but his brother is an unfortunate failure who may starve upon Kobę's passing. Deciding to take a nap, Kobę resigns himself to his fate. Determined to atone for his mistake, Shichinosuke is resolved to die. Okichi pleads to join him in death by committing shinjû. She also reveals that she carries Shichinosuke's child. They hastily depart before Kobę awakens.

Rokunosuke and Osono arrive at Kobę's home, seeking a final meeting with the old man before their escape from Edo. Kobę's fever worsens, accompanied by violent chills. He implores them to care for Shichinosuke. Unfortunately, they receive news that Shichinosuke and Okichi have tragically ended their lives by jumping into the nearby river. Kobę laments having scolded Shichinosuke out of his own frustration. He intends to take the blame for Rokunosuke's crimes and Denji's killing, but the two lovers adamantly refuse. Osono resolves to return to the Fukushimaya, while Rokunosuke will claim that he has received the tobacco pouch from his father and willingly turn himself in. Kobę, a man with an unyielding determination, is unwilling to allow them to sacrifice themselves. He reveals the tattoo of a weather-beaten skull (nozarashi) on his body, which explains the origin of his nickname, "Nozarashi Kobę."

Osono is startled by the tattoo, prompting Kobę to tell them an old story: thirty-five years ago, he stole a huge amount of money, but the benevolence of the Hatsuneya [3] master saved his life. As a token of gratitude, he tattooed the nozarashi, vowing never to forget this merciful master, even if he were reduced to bones. Although he has not heard from this master in years, he hopes for the master's well-being and instructs Rokunosuke never to forget the debt they owe. It is revealed that Osono is aware of the nozarashi tattoo because she is the daughter of the Hatsuneya. The master has since passed away, and Osono's hardships have led her to a life of prostitution. Kobę notes her striking resemblance to the late master's wife. Realizing that this is his chance to repay his debt to the late master by saving Osono's life, Kobę produces a dagger, compelling Rokunosuke and Osono to escape while he takes the blame for their crimes. He ensures they have food for their desperate journey. Although Kobę has disowned Rokunosuke, his paternal instincts remain unwavering. As Mitekure Gonji and a group of torite arrive to arrest Kobę, Rokunosuke and Osono escape, their hearts heavy with the knowledge of the sacrifice Kobę has made on their behalf.


[1] Literally 'Look at Me' Gonji.

[2] Literally 'Farewell' Denji.

[3] Hatsuneya is literally the Hatsune House, a shop operating in an unspecified field of activity. Was the Hatsuneya an ageya? A sushiya ? A sakanaya ? Nobody knows.

The actor Ichikawa Ichizô III playing the role of the tôzoku Inga Kozô Rokunosuke in the drama "Ryû to Mimasu Takane no Kumokiri", which was staged in the 5th lunar month of 1861 at the Moritaza (print made by Utagawa Toyokuni III)

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