Play title Soga Moy˘ Tateshi no Goshozome  In Japanese
Author Kawatake Shinshichi II

The drama "Soga Moy˘ Tateshi no Goshozome" was premiered in October 1887 at the Ichimuraza [casting].


The drama "Soga Moy˘ Tateshi no Goshozome" was originally made up of 6 acts, divided into 12 scenes. The current version, which is made up of 3 acts (7 scenes), is divided into two different stories which are loosely related: "Hototogisu Goroshi" (the Murder of Hototogisu) and "Gosho no Goroz˘". The former is occasionnally revived as part of a t˘shi ky˘gen production of "Soga Moy˘ Tateshi no Goshozome". The latter story is extremely popular and frequently staged.

Key words Jidai-sewamono

Act I, Scene 1: Natorigawa Misome
Falling in Love by the Natori River

The Natori riverbank is a dangerous place, as evil palanquin bearers have taken to robbing travellers there. One evening a beautiful female pilgrim passes by and is set upon by the robbers, who try to force her into a palanquin in order to extract a fare. As she resolutely refuses, they attack her to get her money by force instead. At this moment, Lord Asama Tomoenoj˘ and his retinue arrive on the scene and come to her assistance, driving the palanquin bearers away. Tomoenoj˘ is Lord of Mutsu, and is on a hunting expedition. He asks the female pilgrim her name, but she says she hasn't one. She is on her way to a relative for help, as her step-mother, who hates her, has thrown her out of her home. Tomoenoj˘ suggests that she accompany him to his mansion instead, and she accepts his offer. He says that his hunting trip has resulted in the capture of a beautiful bird, "Hototogisu", which means "little cuckoo".

[In scenes no longer performed, Tomoenoj˘'s retainer, Hoshikage Doemon, who dabbles in the black arts, schemes to seize power from his master, and another of his retainers, Suzaki Kakuya, falls in love with a lady-in-waiting of the household called Tsuji. They have an affair, something which was strictly forbidden at the time, and punishable by death. Doemon, who is also in love with Tsuji, jealously denounces their affair to the authorities, but Tomoenoj˘'s mother helps the couple, and their punishment is commuted to expulsion from Mutsu. Doemon, whose other sins have found him out, is also dismissed.]

Act I, Scene 2: Ch˘fukuji Monzen
Before the Ch˘fukuji Temple

Tomoenoj˘'s mother has died, and a Buddhist memorial service is being performed at Ch˘fukuji Temple to mark the third anniversary of her death. The service is attended by Tomoenoj˘'s wife, Nadeshiko, and her mother, Yuri-no-Kata, although Tomoenoj˘ himself is not there, being at present in Edo. Kakuya and Tsuji, now married, have secretly returned to honour their late mistress's memory. They are pursued by Kinbŕ, a moneylender from whom Kakuya has been forced to borrow. Kinbŕ is demanding repayment, and as Kakuya has no money, he gives Kinbŕ his swords instead. Tsuji is astonished at this, since the sword was regarded as the soul of a Samurai. However, Kakuya announces that he is not a Samurai any more, and therefore no longer needs a sword. He and Tsuji will lead a civilian life in future. Tsuji is gratified by this, and the couple set off for Edo, where they hope to make a new life for themselves. Doemon, who is still in love with Tsuji, secretly follows them.

The Asama family doctor, Dongen, comes to receive a payment from Sashima Yakur˘, who serves Yuri-no-Kata. This is for a poison that Yuri-no-Kata ordered him to make - and which she has given to Hototogisu, who is now Tomoenoj˘'s concubine, and whom Yuri-no-Kata hates, not least because she is the rival of her daughter Nadeshiko, Tomoenoj˘'s lawful wife. Yuri-no-Kata enters from the temple, and commands Yakur˘ to pay Dongen. Dongen takes the money, and then public spiritedly tries to sell an antidote to Yuri-no-Kata as well, which she refuses. As he leaves, Yuri-no-Kata stabs him in the back with Yakur˘'s sword, killing him. She remarks that Dongen will not be able to say anything about the poison now, and that it will not be long before Hototogisu is dead as well.

Act I, Scene 3: Asameke Goroshi
Murder in the Asama Household

Hototogisu has a detached room in Tomoenoj˘'s mansion. She is now ill in bed as a result of the poison Yuri-no-Kata has given her, and her face has become disfigured. She prays to Buddha and, as if in response to her prayer, the ghost of Dongen appears. The ghost tells her of the plot to kill her, and has brought along Yuri-no-Kata's letter, ordering him to make the poison, as evidence - together with the antidote that Yuri-no-Kata refused. The ghost vanishes, and Hototogisu, although unnerved, takes the antidote. At once, she becomes well again, and her beauty returns.

Two of Nadeshiko's ladies-in-waiting sneak in, and attack Hototogisu. They are followed by Yuri-no-Kata who, in a scene of what has been termed Kabuki's "beautiful cruelty", inflicts prolonged torture on the already injured girl, kicking, hitting and slashing her until she finally dies. Yuri-no-Kata orders the ladies-in-waiting to sink the body in the garden pond, and pronounces that it was wrong that Hototogisu was born so beautiful.

[In further scenes no longer performed, Tomoenoj˘ is shown becoming infatuated with an Edo courtesan named ďshű, who much resembles his late mistress, and who is in reality her sister, a fact which has been revealed to Tomoenoj˘ by the spirit of the dead Hototogisu.]

Summary written by Sekidobashi Sakura (June 2002), edited by Sh˘riya Aragor˘ (December 2006) and revised by Marion Hudson (January 2010)

The actors Ichikawa Kodanji IV (left) and Ichimura Kakitsu IV (right) playing the roles of Yuri-no-Kata and Hototogisu in the drama "Soga Moy˘ Tateshi no Goshozome", which was staged in the 2nd lunar month of 1864 at the Ichimuraza (print made by Toyohara Kunichika)

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