Play titles Fune-he Uchikomu Hashima no Shiranami  In Japanese
Fuji to Mimasu Suehiro Soga  In Japanese
Common title Ikake Matsu  In Japanese
Author Kawatake Shinshichi II [1]

Kawatake Shinshichi II's drama "Fune-he Uchikomu Hashima no Shiranami", commonly called "Ikake Matsu", was premiered in the 2nd lunar month of 1866 at the Moritaza, which was staged within the new year sogamono drama "Fuji to Mimasu Suehiro Soga" [more details]. This was the last play of Kawatake Shinshichi II with the actor Ichikawa Kodanji IV, who died a few months after the premiere of "Ikake Matsu", the 8th day of the 5th lunar month of 1866 [2].


"Ikake Matsu" is made up of 3 acts (5 scenes):

Act Scene In Japanese In English
I 1 両国橋橋詰 Ry˘gokubashi Hashizume
At the Bridge Guard of the Ry˘goku Bridge
  2 近江屋土蔵前 ďmiya Doz˘ Mae
In Front of the ďmiya Warehouse
II 1 森戸屋見世先 Moritoya Mise Saki
In Front of the Moritoya
III 1 妾宅座敷 Sh˘taku Zashiki
In the Reception Room of the Mistress's House
  2 妾宅裏手 Sh˘taku Urate
At the Back of the Mistress's House
You need a Japanese Language Kit installed within your system in order to be able to read the characters
Key words Bakumatsu

Act I, scene 1: Ry˘gokubashi Hashizume
At the Bridge Guard of the Ry˘goku Bridge

The act opens on the Ry˘goku Bridge across the Sumida River in the last decade of the Edo period (Bakumatsu). On the waters below is floating a roofed pleasure boat (yakatabune), its occupants, a rich man named Shimaya Bunz˘ and his mekake Osaki, leisurely enjoying the time by drinking some sake.

Meanwhile, on the bridge, a man named Matsugor˘, who is making a meager living as a humble ikakeya, meets the kamikuzuya Guzuhachi, an equally lowly rag picker. They complain to each other about the hardships of their impoverished living, for they are the victims of a lavish age whose gayness is only skin deep over the sores of a disintegrating culture and morale.

The kamikuzuya goes on his way, leaving Matsugor˘ the tinker brooding over his hard lot. Just then, he happens to notice the pleasure-ship below the bridge. In the boat, Bunz˘ and Osaki, are sipping sake together. This glimpse into a world so far removed from his own, and so unattainable, moves Matsugor˘ to bitterness and a sudden fateful decision.

Matsugor˘ tells himself that the man on the yakatabune does not look like an edokko. He is most likely a merchant from J˘shű, who can do as he pleases with the women because he very rich. Matsugor˘ tells himself that every man has only one life and, therefore, why not spending it in a life of pleasures like this man in the boat? Why should this rich man be any different, since he has only one life too? Matsugor˘ suddenly throws away his tinker's tools over the bridge into the Sumida River, resolved to change his way of making a living. From now on, he will be an Edo thief, calling himself Ikake Matsu [3].

Act I, scene 2: ďmiya Doz˘ Mae
In Front of the ďmiya Warehouse

Soon Ikake Matsu becomes a full-fledged thief. One night, he sneaks into the doz˘ of the ďmiya, an important shop on the main street of this part of Edo. He can make away with a lot of money. Meanwhile, an old man called Hanaya Sagobŕ has wandered to the vicinity of the same. The doz˘ is under repair at the time, and amid the disorder, Hanaya Sagobŕ finds a rope and prepares to hang himself. The reason for his despair is that he has just lost a large amount of money stolen by a thief.

Just then, Ikake Matsu, having finished his own burglary inside, comes by and saves the would-be suicide's life. Hearing the circumstances, he gives Hanaya Sagobŕ the money that he himself has just stolen from the doz˘ of the ďmiya. This is a generous way to show his proclivity for 'helping the oppressed'.

Act II, scene 1: Moritoya Mise Saki
In Front of the Moritoya

It is early morning and in front of the Moritoya shop, a sword dealer, the bant˘ Gorobŕ is brushing his teeth, when Osaki passes by on her way to the bathhouse. Osaki is known as the mekake of Shimaya Bunz˘ and she lives nearby. The Moritoya bant˘ Gorobŕ is secretly in love with Osaki, so when she passes by, he always starts a conversation with her and shower her with ingratiating words of flattery.

Meanwhile, not far from the Moritoya, a storyteller named Hanashiya Enpachi is sleeping by a pile of lumber. Ikake Matsu appears and makes off with the sleeping man's jacket and headgear. Enpachi sleeps through the proceedings blissfully unaware. Ikake Matsu runs away and a stray dog comes near Enpachi. He licks Enpachi's face, waking him up. Suddenly Enpachi realizes the theft of his belongings and jumps up in dismay, only to be attacked by the dog. The unfortunate Enpachi makes a hurried and undignified exit.

Wearing the Enpachi's garbs, Ikake Matsu comes to the Moritoya, where he purchases a sword, meanwhile engaging in conversation with the bant˘ Gorobŕ. Osaki passes by the shop again as the transaction is going on, and Ikake Matsu takes the opportunity to enquire about her. From unsuspecting Gorobŕ, he obtains the valuable information that Osaki's patron Shimaya Bunz˘ is currently away on a trip and that she is alone in her house.

After Ikake Matsu's departure, Osen, a friend of Osaki and a master (shish˘) of the Kiyomoto School, passes by. The Moritoya bant˘ Gorobŕ stops her and asks her to help arrange a meeting between himself and Osaki. Osen leaves the Moritoya puzzled, as she does not known how to handle this unexpected request to act as a go-between.

Act III, scene 1: Sh˘taku Zashiki
In the Reception Room of the Mistress's House

The scene opens in the zashiki of Osaki's house (sh˘taku). She is alone in her room sipping sake when a caller comes to the door. It is Ikake Matsu. Taking advantage of his knowledge that Shimaya Bunz˘ is away on a rest trip to the hot springs, he has come to the house disguised as a messenger bringing a letter from Bunz˘. Actually, he has come to spy out the situation in preparation for burglarizing the house later that night. Leaving a faked letter and saying that he will be back for the answer later, he takes his departure.

Not much later, another caller comes. This time it is Osaki's foster mother Otora, who has come to extort some money from Osaki. Osaki does not have much money on hand of course, but Otora leaves demanding that she obtain the sum of 20 ry˘ before the night is over. Not having any means of meeting this demand, Osaki is sitting in dejection when her friend Osen comes in.

She has brought Gorobŕ's message asking for a rendezvous. Hearing of Osaki's need for immediate cash, she hits upon the 'wonderful' idea of demanding the 20 ry˘ from Gorobŕ is return for the granting of his wish. Osaki is not particularly happy over the arrangement, but passively gives in and decides to do as suggested.

Act III, scene 2: Sh˘taku Urate
At the Back of the Mistress's House

The scene opens outside Osaki's house. Osen having duly delivered the message, Gorobŕ now arrives in a great deal of excitement and anticipation, bringing the requested 20 ry˘. He is greeted at the door by Osen and escorted within for his evening meeting with Osaki. Meanwhile. Ikake Matsu who has been furtively spying from nearby, advances out from the shadows, and sneaks into the house.

Within, Gorobŕ is finally face to face with Osaki, and thoroughly excited by the prospect, is fumblingly preparing to take advantage of the situation. However, just at this moment, in comes Ikake Matsu. He not only snatches away Gorobŕ's money, but with direly threatening gestures, he succeeds in frightening away the terrified bant˘. Now, alone with Osaki, it is his turn to try to play the game of seduction with her. He approaches the frightened Osaki to grasp her, but as they look into each other's face, they gasp in astonishment. Five years ago, these two have met and had one-night stand while crossing on a ferryboat.

Overjoyed at the unexpected reunion, the two prepare to spend a night of passion together again. However, just as they are beginning to enjoy their evening, they are interrupted by the unexpected return of Shimaya Bunz˘. The two culprits, caught entirely unawares, can find no suitable subterfuge. Helpless, they surrender themselves to the mercy of Shimaya Bunz˘, hardly expecting any lenience in a time of hopeless moral laxity and conflicting moral intolerance.

However, the situation takes an unexpected turn as Shimaya Bunz˘ reveals that he is in reality Osaki's blood brother, and that he has installed Osaki in her position as his mekake in order to allow her to live in ease and without anxiety. This of course leaves Osaki happily free to marry her lover Ikake Matsu, and the wedding nuptials are immediately carried out with Bunz˘'s blessings.

However, Bunz˘ has another revelation to make. It turns out that he is in reality a past master in the same profession that Ikake Matsu has recently taken upon himself ... in other words, he used to be the legendary thief known as Bonji no Shingor˘. Shingor˘ and Ikake Matsu drink some sake to their new double brotherhood, being now not only brothers-in-law but also brothers-in-thievery.

However, Bonji no Shingor˘'s evil deeds are beginning to catch up with him. The authorities are on his tail, and now a group of torite who have followed him rush on the house. The three slip together out of Osaki's house and can make their escape.


[1] The others sakusha were Ky˘gend˘ Sak˘ II, Sakurada Jisuke IV, Umezawa Manji, Umezawa Seiji, Umezawa ďji, Matsumoto Kisanji, Matsushima Sensuke, Matsushima Bunsuke and Takeshiba T˘ji.

[2] The 8th day of the 5th lunar month of the 2nd year of the Kei˘ era was the 20th of June 1866 in the western calendar.

[3] Literally 'Matsu the Tinker'.

The actor Ichikawa Kodanji IV playing the role of the ikakeya Matsugor˘ in the drama "Fune-he Uchikomu Hashima no Shiranami" staged within the new year sogamono drama "Fuji to Mimasu Suehiro Soga", which was staged in the 2nd lunar month of 1866 at the Moritaza (print made by Utagawa Yoshiiku)

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