Play title Isshin Gokai no Tama  In Japanese
Common titles Uwanari  In Japanese
Author Mimasuya Hy˘go (1699)
Yamazaki Shik˘ (1936)

The first version of "Uwanari" was staged in the 7th lunar month of 1699, in Edo at the Nakamuraza. This drama was entitled "Isshin Gokai no Tama" and the story was created by Mimasuya Hy˘go, who played under his famous stage name of Ichikawa Danjűr˘ I the leading role of Ichikawa Danjűr˘ I. It went to oblivion and the original script was lost but it was nevertheless added to the Kabuki Jűhachiban collection of drama in 1840 by Ichikawa Ebiz˘ V. It was revived in April 1936, in T˘ky˘ at the Kabukiza [more details]. The new script was written by Yamazaki Shik˘. It was revived a second time almost 50 years later, in January 1986 at the National Theatre [more details].

Key words Aragoto
Hannya no Men
Kabuki Jűhachiban
K˘ga Sabur˘
Meifu no Kuni

Act I

At the opening of the play, Tokiwazu musicians describe the wanderings of the yamabushi K˘ga no Sabur˘ Kaneie who has been searching for five precious jewels, a lost family heirloom. These jewels represent the five Buddhist precepts against murder, stealing, lying, hedonism and lust. He has found four (indicating that he has overcome those desires in himself) but not the fifth jewel, the one for lust. He asks for the permission to spend one night at the mansion which used to be the mansion of the K˘ga clan. A girl appears at the entrance and explains that Lord Araki, the new owner of this mansion, has ordered that yamabushi must be turned away. She says that it might be possible to negotiate an exception and she asks him to tell his story. He explains that he is the second son of Lord K˘ga, the original owner of this mansion. He and his elder brother K˘ga no Tar˘ became enamoured of the same young woman, a koshimoto named Minazuki. Sabur˘ eventually divorced his wife Kasuga to marry Minazuki. Unfortunately, burning with hate and jealousy, Kasuga assassinated the mekake Minazuki and then committed suicide. Out of remorse, Sabur˘ became a yamabushi and headed out for the search of the five jewels. He has heard that, in his absence, his family has been ruined and his property was seized by the evil Lord Araki. He would like to understand the situation and he also hopes, to find the fifth jewel. The girl tells him that it is said that such a jewel can be found at the bottom of a nearby well. Sabur˘ looks over the well and she pushes him down [1]. This fall leads Sabur˘ to the Netherworld (meifu no kuni), a strange land where the spirits of the dead exist for a while before being sent either to heaven or to hell, depending on the deeds they did in the world of the living.

A kanjo appears on stage and tells the audience that, after death, K˘ga no Tar˘ Kanetsura has rebuilt his mansion in the Netherworld. He devotes himself to lascivious pleasures with concubines just as he used to do in the real world. Tar˘, himself, appears together with the spirits of the mekake Minazuki, Wakaba and Shinobu. Sabur˘ arrives and is flabbergasted to find himself in the K˘ga mansion in the Netherworld. He is even more surprised when he is in front of his late brother. Sabur˘ rebukes Tar˘ for having given himself wholly to lust during his lifetime. This was the root cause of the disgrace and the downfall of the K˘ga clan. He orders Tar˘ to hand him over the fifth jewel so that he can return to the real world and restore the honour of the clan. Tar˘ orders Kuretake to bring forth the fifth jewel. The other women are presented to Sabur˘ and they turn out to be in reality his sisters. Sabur˘ curses those who have killed them but Tar˘ rebukes him since it was Sabur˘ who was responsible, through his love affair, for the death of Minazuki. Sabur˘ would like to meet also his first wife Kasuga but she will not appear in front of him. Tar˘ offers the jewel to Sabur˘ but he suggests he resumes his relationship with Minazuki. The temptation is strong for Sabur˘ but Kuretake urges him to remember his duty and return to the real world with the jewel. Sabur˘ cannot make up his mind so the tsubone Kűen suggests they dance to decide. The dance is an imitation of the dance-drama "Koi no Odamaki" in which two young women fight for the affection of a young man.

After the dance, Sabur˘ withdraws with Minazuki. The vengeful spirit of Kasuga, Sabur˘'s first wife, suddenly appears. Her face is masked with an hannya no men. She also carries a stick. She drags Minazuki out and starts to beat her. Sabur˘ intervenes and the spirit takes off the mask to reveal Kuretake again. Kuretake explains that she is in reality Sabur˘'s daughter and that her mother is none other than the love-betrayed Kasuga. She rebukes her father for lingering in the Netherworld with his second woman instead of going back in the real world to restore the honour of the K˘ga clan. Sabur˘ agrees but says he must have the fifth jewel, which Kuretake finally gives him. But Kuretake is possessed again by the vengeful spirit of Kasuga, who curses Sabur˘ for the love suffering he inflicted on her when she was alive. She vows to eternally torment him. Sabur˘ apologizes as best he can before seizing the jewel and rushing off out of the Netherworld with the spirit of Kasuga incarnated in her daughter in pursuit.

Act II

ďzatsuma musicians are on stage to open the scene. Kasuga reappears in the real world. She symbolizes the utter terror born from the jealousy of a betrayed woman (shittogoto). She is about to ruin the ďmi province but Sabur˘, transformed as a mighty warrior, repulses her in a stylized confrontation (oshimodoshi) performed in the spectacular aragoto style. The five jewels in his possession, he subdues her and poses triumphantly.


[1] as this part of the drama is performed in a style similar to the theatre, the fall in the well is symbolized by the exit from stage; no keren is used on stage.

The actors Ichikawa Ebiz˘ V (left) and his son Ichikawa Danjűr˘ VIII (right) playing the main roles of the drama "Uwanari" in a mitate-e print made in 1852 by Utagawa Toyokuni III

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