|Wakaba no Ume Ukina no Yokogushi
Musume Gonomi Ukina no Yokogushi
A Female Version of the Boxwood Comb Lover's Scandal*
|Kawatake Shinshichi II
Kawatake Shinshichi II's drama "Wakaba no Ume Ukina no Yokogushi" was premiered in the 4th lunar month of 1864 at the Moritaza [casting]. The premiere happened the 21st of 4th lunar month of 1864. The following day after the premiere of "Wakaba no Ume Ukina no Yokogushi", the 22nd of the 4th lunar month of 1864, a fire broke out in a Moritaza's shibai jaya; it quickly spread and burned the Moritaza, the Ichimuraza and the Nakamuraza. The rebuilt Moritaza reopened with a program which was entitled "Chigusa Hana Masago no Shinbutai". Kawatake Shinshichi II's "Kirare Otomi" was staged with the same casting within this program, in a slightly revised version which was entitled "Musume Gonomi Ukina no Yokogushi" [more details].
The original drama was in 3 acts (9 scenes). Nowadays, a standard production is made up of 2 acts (4 scenes), starting at the "Satta T˘ge Hitotsuya" scene and ending at the "Kitsune-ga-Saki Chikush˘zuka" scene. The opening scene is occasionally "Hase-k˘ji Akama Sh˘taku".
Hase-k˘ji Akama Sh˘taku
Otomi is the mistress of the gang boss Akama Genzaemon. She has met up and fell in love along the Nameri river with another man, the young and beautiful Izutsu Yosabur˘. It was a mutual love at first sight. Tonight, Yosabur˘ came directly the nice sh˘taku on Hase-k˘ji in Kamakura, which was given by Genzaemon to his mistress, to make love with Otomi. Holding her hand, he notices that her left little finger is missing. Otomi shows him a small box, which contains the missing finger. She tells her lover that she cut it off as proof of her true love for him. They are about to make love when the stage is darkened. When the lights go up again, Genzaemon is blaming the unfortunate Otomi for her infidelity. She tries desperately to deny Genzaemon's accusation but he says that the missing finger is the proof. He cruelly stabs at her fingers with his sword in order to get Otomi's confession. She finally pleads Genzaemon to kill her at once. Genzaemon answers that she will not die alone because he has sent his faithful henchman Yasuz˘ in the trails of Yosabur˘, with the order to bring him back his mansion to receive his due punishment.
Yasuz˘'s mission has failed; he returns empty-handed for Yosabur˘ has succeeded in escaping him. Genzaemon's anger reaches its climax and he starts to slowly cut Otomi with his sword; then he orders Yasuz˘ and his others henchmen to cut her body and her face, especially her face, in turns. This is a slow and savage torture scene. The fatal blow is stricken by Genzaemon. Genzaemon orders Yasuz˘ to dispose of the body by using a wicker basket (tsuzura). The three henchmen bring the basket and put Otomi's body inside it. Then the stage is darkened again, leaving only Yasuz˘ in the spotlight. He comes on to the hanamichi carrying the wicker basket. He lowers it, opens the lid and tells Otomi to bear her suffering a little longer. He will take good care of her from now on. Then, he closes the basket lid.
Satta T˘ge Hitotsuya
Otomi, who has survived this horrible night at Genzaemon's mansion, is now called Kirare Otomi (literally "scarface Otomi"). She generally tries to hid her scarred face by covering her head and cheeks with a towel. She is managing a small tea shop for travelers on the T˘kaid˘ road, at the Pass of Satta. Yasuz˘ is now called K˘mori Yasu ("Yasu the bat", because he has the tattoo of a bat (k˘mori in Japanese) on his cheek. He is a highway robber.
One evening, a lone traveler stops at the tea shop and asks for some help to light his lantern. Otomi kindly lights his candle ů and they recognize each other. It is their first meeting after the horror night at Genzaemon's mansion. Yosabur˘ did not know what subsequently happened to Otomi. They start a casual discussion, talking about Otomi's father, an old masseur called J˘ga. He used to be in the service of Izutsu Yozaemon, a retainer of a famous daimyo in the Shim˘sa Province. This is a big surprise for Yosabur˘ because late Yozaemon was none other than his own father. He committed suicide because of his responsibility in the loss of a valuable sword entrusted to him by his daimy˘. Yosabur˘ has finally succeeded in locating the sword at a shichiya. He has to retrieve it in order to posthumously regain Yozaemon's honor but he need a huge amount of money, 200 ry˘. Moreover, time is running out as he must pay the pawn shop owner tomorrow.
Otomi, bounded to Yosabur˘ by both her love and her family relationship, promises that she will do her best to obtain the 200 ry˘ for him. They agree to meet tomorrow in a temple located on the outskirts of the city of Ch˘fu. Yosabur˘ leaves the tea shop. Otomi is unaware that K˘mori Yasu has returned and has been eavesdropping their conversation.
Two palanquin bearers stop at the tea shop. They are the kagokaki Iwa and Matsu. They talk about the Akamaya, a new brothel in Miroku-ch˘, which is very prosperous. Otomi questions them about its owner and, from what she learns, is quickly convinced that the Akamaya master is none other than Genzaemon. Here is Otomi's only chance to quickly and easily acquire, through extortion, the 200 ry˘ for her former lover Yosabur˘. She is quite sure that Genzaemon will agree to pay a lot of money to buy her silence. Yasu comes out, pretending he had just come home. Otomi tells him everything about her extortion plan and asks him whether or not he would be interested in joining her. It goes without saying that she hides the paramount fact that the money is to be given to Yosabur˘, not to Yasu or herself. The clever robber hides his knowledge and agrees to go with her.
Miroku-ch˘ Akamaya Misesaki
The Akamaya is bustling with guests and courtesans looking for customers. The two palanquin bearers of the previous scene come, bringing Otomi in their palanquin, accompanied on foot by Yasu. They come to the brothel entrance and Yasu asks for Genzaemon while Otomi stays hidden in the palanquin. The Akamaya master recognizes immediately his former henchman and is not too pleased to have to meet him here. Yasu congratulates Genzaemon on the prosperity of his pleasure house. He also adds that he is himself a zegen and will be pleased to provide him with plenty of sex slaves. Yasu says he has just brought a fine one with him. Otomi comes out from the palanquin and presents herself before Genzaemon who is shocked when he recognizes her. The Akamaya master notes that Yasu's slave is not beautiful and has too many scars on her face, which make her unsalable. Otomi insists heavily to be purchased on the spot. As the negotiation is a little too embarrassing to be handled in front of the customers, Genzaemon is forced to suggest the racketeer couple to come inside with him. They go together to the private quarters of the Akamaya.
Miroku-ch˘ Akamaya Okuzashiki
Genzaemon expresses his surprise at seeing Otomi well and alive. She was supposed to be dead long time ago. He offers Otomi 100 ry˘. Yasu is quite pleased with the sum but Otomi wants more. Genzaemon strongly refuses. Now Otaki, Genzaemon's wife, makes her stage entrance. She is explained by a lying Genzaemon that Otomi has visited him to become an Akamaya courtesan, but the clever Otaki has already understood that the couple has come here to extort money from her husband. She is against paying anything to these two suspicious people. Otomi and Yasu start hinting around that Otaki is not aware of her husband's past deeds. They threaten to tarnish the reputation of Genzaemon, who used to be a gang boss. Genzaemon can't afford to risk any smear campaign directed against him. He orders the reluctant Otaki to bring out the additional 100 ry˘. With the wanted money in their hands, Otomi and Yasu can leave the Akamaya. Yasu insists to get the 200 ry˘ under the pretext of safekeeping it. In fact, knowing that Otomi plans to give the money to Yosabur˘, Yasu prefers to leave definitively Otomi and run away in a different province. Yasu can't fool Otomi but she prefers to keep silent and hand over the money. She has guessed his obvious intention to make off with it.
Meanwhile, Hozumi K˘jűr˘, a former retainer of the Lord of Shim˘sa, who has disguised himself as an Akamaya customer, has secretly witnessed the extortion scene. He has also understood, through some hints, that this Akamaya Genzaemon is most likely the thief who stole the precious missing sword of his former clan. He finally confronts the unfortunate Genzaemon and the scene ends with the beginning of a fight, which Genzaemon will surely lose.
Otomi, who knows the road used by Yasu, has come in the dark woods of Kitsune-ga-Saki (literally the promontory of the Fox ) ahead of him, in a frightening place called the Mound of Beasts (Chikush˘zuka). She has a knife with her and she plans to settle the matter in blood. Yasu enters the stage, soliloquizing about his intention of running far away with the money. Otomi appears before him and demands the return of the money. Yasu resists and they fight for the 200 ry˘. Otomi is stronger and stabs Yasu with the knife. Taking the coveted money, she hurries off to the place where she will meet Yosabur˘.
This summary would have not been possible without the help of Sekidobashi Sakura!
(*) the title "A Female Version of the Boxwood Comb Lover's Scandal" comes from the 3rd volume of "Kabuki Plays On Stage".
The actors Ichikawa Kuz˘ III and Sawamura Tanosuke III playing the roles of K˘mori Yasu and Otomi in the drama "Musume Gonomi Ukina no Yokogushi", which was staged in the 7th lunar month of 1864 at the Moritaza (print made by Utagawa Yoshifuji)
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