Play title Ise Ondo Koi no Netaba  In Japanese
The Ise Dances and Love's Dull Blade*
Author Chikamatsu Tokuz˘
Tatsuoka Mansaku
Namiki Sh˘z˘ II

The drama "Ise Ondo Koi no Netaba" was premiered in the 7th lunar month of 1796 in ďsaka, produced at the Kado no Shibai by the zamoto Fujikawa Hachiz˘ III [casting]. It was based on a real savage mass murder, which happened the same year in Ise.


"Ise Ondo Koi no Netaba" is made up of 4 acts, divided in 7 scenes. The third act, made up of two scenes, "Aburaya" (at the Aburaya, a Geisha House in Ise Furuichi) and "Okuniwa" (in the inner Garden of the Aburaya), is often staged nowadays.

Key words Aburaya S˘d˘
Ise Jingű
Ise Ondo


The plot concerns a valuable sword made by the smith Shimosaka and possessed by a bloodthirsty spirit. The daimy˘ of Awa had in his service a samurai to whom he entrusted the precious Shimosaka sword. This sword caused the death of the samurai and also that of his son, who inherited the trust. The son left an only child, a little boy, whose mother was already dead. The boy's aunt, terrified of the evil sword, disposed of the weapon secretly and fled from Awa with her little nephew under an assumed name in the Ise district. The boy, Fukuoka Mitsugi (who is the hero of the play), was adopted by a priest of the Grand Shrines and grew up in the service of the Shrines, but he never forgot that his first allegiance was to the daimy˘ of Awa and more especially to the daimy˘'s Chief Counsellor, who had been his father's immediate superior. Meanwhile, the daimy˘ of Awa died and was succeeded by a child. This boy's uncle, Kajikawa Daigaku, plotted to usurp the power, but was thwarted in his plans by the loyalty of the Chief Counsellor. Daigaku therefore determined to discredit him and one of the several plots he devised concerned the Shimosaka sword. Word came to the Chief Counsellor that this sword, his lord's heirloom, was for sale in the town of Furuichi in Ise. He therefore sent his son, Imada Manjir˘, to buy it and bring it back to Awa. Manjir˘ was a charming youth of weak character. He bought the sword, but then fell victim to the attractions of Okishi, a courtesan of Furuichi. Instead of returning home he remained with his love and to pay his debts was forced to pawn the Shimosaka sword, although retaining the certificate which proved its authenticity. The spies of the wicked Daigaku were watching Manjir˘. The chief of these, a samurai named Tokushima Iwaji, plotted to secure both the sword and the certificate so that Manjir˘ would be unable to fulfil his mission and his father would be disgraced through him. Iwaji succeeded by a trick in stealing the certificate from Manjir˘, but could not lay his hands on the sword because both the pawnbroker and the weapon had disappeared. At this point Fukuoka Mitsugi enters the story. As has been said, he was by birth the retainer of the Chief Counsellor of Awa. He learned of Manjir˘'s predicament and received permission from his present master, who was a friend of Manjir˘'s father, to go to the youth's assistance. Mitsugi decided that the first thing was to get Manjir˘ out of harm's way; then he could hunt for the sword and the certificate.

Act III, Scene 1: at the Aburaya, a Geisha House in Ise Furuichi

Imada Manjir˘ comes to the geisha house Aburaya to meet his sweetheart Okishi. Although Okishi is overjoyed to meet him, she has no time to spend with Manjir˘ because there is a party going on at the Aburaya. Manjir˘ says that he will come again to meet Mitsugi and leaves the pleasure house. Just after that, Mitsugi arrives at the Aburaya, and he is told by Okishi about Manjir˘'s message. Mitsugi is going to follow to Manjir˘, but Okishi tells him to wait for Manjir˘ here. Mitsugi accepts her invitation, and he asks her to bring his sweetheart, the courtesan Okon, here. Okishi said that Okon is attending the party and that she has also to go back there as soon as possible. Okishi says that there is a wealthy customer who intends to buy both of her and Okon, and she asks Mitsugi how she should do. Mitsugi has no idea, but it is a big problem for him, too. Okishi rushes to the room of the party. Mitsugi has finally found the sword in a previous scene, and he has decided to come to the Aburaya to hand it to Manjir˘ today.

Manno, the chief maid of the Aburaya, an evil woman on Tokushima Iwaji's payroll, comes to the waiting room. She tells Mitsugi that he can wait for Manjir˘ here, only on the condition that he chooses another courtesan instead of his sweetheart Okon, who is busy with the party. Mitsugi unwillingly accepts it. Manno adds that Mitsugi has also to hand his sword to her, as it is the rule of a geisha house. Mitsugi refuses because it is the precious Shimosaka sword. The Aburaya cook Kisuke, who is indebted to Mitsugi, interrupts Manno and says he will take care of the sword. Mitsugi believes Kisuke and hands the sword to him. Manno leaves the waiting room to call another geisha for Mitsugi. Kisuke recommends Mitsugi to stop coming to the Aburaya, even if there is his sweetheart Okon, because the place is full of dangerous people. Mitsugi answers that tis sword is Shimosaka, so that he came here to meet Manjir˘, and Kisuke should not worry about him so much. Kisuke understands it and leaves the waiting room with the sword. Tokushima Iwaji has watched everything in the waiting room. He stealthily takes the Shimosaka sword from the rack and exchanges the blade of his own sword. Kisuke is secretly watching Iwaji but decides not to intervene now.

The fat, ugly and stupid courtesan Oshika comes to the waiting room. She was chosen by Manno as a substitute of Okon. Mitsugi is disappointed to see Oshika, who is very friendly to him. Oshika says that she is very glad that Mitsugi has written many love letters to her. Mitsugi is very much surprised because he didn't write any letter to her. Moreover Oshika says that she also has lent even money to him. Mitsugi understands there is something rather fishy involving Manno. Many guests and courtesans come into the waiting room, including Manno and Okon. Although it is obvious that Manno wrote the love letters to Oshika, and also stole money from Oshika in the name of Mitsugi, she swears she has given the money to Mitsugi. Mitsugi tries to deny it but the pieces of evidence are too cleverly arranged. Okon gets angry with Mitsugi, so that she refuses to continue their love relationship. Mitsugi has no way to prove his innocence. Cornered and under the fire of the accusations from Manno, Oshika and Okon, the insulted Mitsugi decides to leave the Aburaya. Kisuke intentionally hands him Iwaji's sword, which has the blade of the Shimosaka sword. Nobody notices it, especially the silent and heartbroken Mitsugi.

Iwaji tells Okon that she had a good attitude when she turned Mitsugi away. Iwaji intends to buy out both Okon and Okishi contracts and he will take them to Awa. Okon answers that she won't go anywhere with a man who has a love letter hidden inside his kimono. This is not a love letter and Iwaji shows to Okon the thing, which is wrapped with a cloth. It is the precious certificate for the Shimosaka sword! Okon accepts to go to Awa with Iwaji and, tonight, to go to bed with him. Manno comes with a sword in her hands. She tells everybody that Kisuke gave the wrong sword to Mitsugi, so that the Shimosaka sword is now in their hands! Unfortunately for these evil people, Iwaji tells them that he has exchanged the blade. This means that Mitsugi has walked off with the right sword. Kisuke pretends to be shocked and rushes after Mitsugi. Manno suspects him and runs after Kisuke.

It is dark and there is nobody in the waiting room. Okon is in a sleeping room with Iwaji. Mitsugi comes back to the Aburaya. He is now aware that he got the wrong sword, unaware that he really holds the Shimosaka sword in an unfamiliar scabbard. He starts to search in the swords rack but is interrupted by the arrival of Manno. Mitsugi orders Manno to give back his sword right away. The sheath of the sword that Mitsugi has is Iwaji's one, but the blade is the real Shimosaka sword but Mitsugi is not aware of it. While they are struggling, the sheath of the sword breaks and its blade injures Manno. Mitsugi is surprised but, possessed by the bloodthirsty spirit of the sword, he has to kill Manno. This is the beginning of a terrible bloodbath. Mitsugi kills people one after another...

Act III, Scene 2: in the inner Garden of the Aburaya

There were many geisha dancing the ise ondo on a passageway over the inner garden, but they all run away because of terrible screams. Mitsugi appears in the garden with the bloody sword. He finishes off two of his victims. Okon runs into the garden with the certificate of the Shimosaka sword and explains him that she had to unwillingly reject him in front of everybody in order to get it. Mitsugi understands that Okon still loves him but, as he has already killed many people, he decides to kill himself. Okon stops him and reminds him that he has to find the sword and bring everything to Manjir˘. The cook Kisuke comes on stage and tells them that Mitsugi has the real Shimosaka sword in his hands. Kisuke wipes the blood on the blade and Mitsugi carefully checks it, understanding that the cook told him the truth. The three actors pose as the curtain closes.

This summary has been written by Sekidobashi Sakura (May 2004) and edited by Sh˘riya Aragor˘ (September 2006)
The introduction is from Aubrey and Giovanna Halford in "The Kabuki Handbook"

(*) the title "The Ise Dances and Love's Dull Blade" comes from the 2nd volume of "Kabuki Plays On Stage".

The actors Fujikawa Tomokichi II and Onoe Matsusuke II playing the roles of the courtesan Okon and Fukuoka Mitsugi in the drama "Ise Ondo Koi no Netaba", which was staged in the 7th lunar month of 1814 at the Nakamuraza (print made by Utagawa Kunisada I)

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