Play title Shinjû Ten no Amijima  In Japanese
Author Chikamatsu Monzaemon

The play "Shinjû Ten no Amijima" was originally written for the puppet theater (Bunraku) and staged for the first time in Ôsaka at the Takemotoza in the 12th lunar month of 1720. It was based on a real event that happened in Ôsaka the 14th day of the 10th lunar month of 1720: the double suicide in Amijima in the precinct of the Daichôji Temple of Kamiya Jihê (a paper merchant from the Tenma district) and the courtesan Kinokuniya Koharu (from the Kita-Shinchi pleasure quarter). "Shinjû Ten no Amijima" was adapted for Kabuki the following year and staged for the first time in Edo at the Moritaza. The roles of Kamiya Jihê and Koharu were played by Ichikawa Ebizô II and Sodesaki Miwano I.


The original play is in 3 acts. The "Kawashô" act is the first one.

Key words Gidayû Kyôgen
Ganjirô Jûnikyoku

The play "Kawashô" is set in the Tennôji entertainment district of Ôsaka and is the tale of a courtesan, Koharu, and Jihê, a paper seller and married man, who is her lover. They have agreed to commit love suicide, but a letter arrives for Koharu from his wife pleading with her to spare Jihê's life for the sake of his children. She is so moved by the letter that she resorts to telling lies to a visiting samurai (actually Jihê's brother in disguise, wanting to see what kind of woman has hooked Jihê so badly) that she never really wanted to die with Jihê, but just went along with it, and begging him to help her. Jihê happens to be hanging around the brothel hoping to escape with her to die that very day. He overhears her story and becomes enraged at having been duped for the past three years, even to the extent of exchanging 29 love pledges with each other sealed with their blood. He now thinks these are sham and wants to take revenge on Koharu. However, his brother inadvertently finds the letter from Jihê's wife, and realizes that Koharu is lying to preserve Jihê's life and so she must love him desperately. He stops Jihê from doing his worst, but the play ends with an ominous sense that the two will eventually die anyway, which is the outcome in the full-length production of the play.

Text courtesy of Jean Wilson (November 1997)

The actor Nakamura Ganjirô II playing the role of Kamiya Jihê in the "Kawashô" scene of the drama "Shinjû Ten no Amijima" (print made by Natori Shunsen in 1952)

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