Dance title Haru no Shirabe Musume Nanakusa
Author Kadota Sorobŕ (lyrics)
Kineya Rokusabur˘ II (music)

The dance "Haru no Shirabe Musume Nanakusa", commonly called "Musume Nanakusa", was staged for the first time in the 1st lunar month of 1767, at the Nakamuraza, within the new year drama "Hatsu Akinai ďmise Soga". The roles of Soga Gor˘ Tokimune, Soga Jűr˘ Sukenari and Shizuka Gozen were played by Ichikawa Benz˘ I, Ichikawa Komaz˘ II and Nakamura Matsue I.

Key words Shosagoto

This dance was originally performed as part of a much longer play which had its premiere in the first month of 1767. By that time in Edo, it was customary to open the New Year's performances with a play about the Soga brothers revenge and this dance is an interesting example of that tradition. With each succeeding year the playwrights were forced to come up with fresh ideas based on the old theme, so that in this case, not only do we have the brothers Gor˘ and Jűr˘ themselves, but we see them dancing with the beautiful Shizuka Gozen, a character from a completely different romance which has nothing at all to do with the Soga story. The only logical excuse for Shizuka's inclusion here might have been that she lived in the same country at about the same time, but then "logic" in an auspicious Kabuki dance of this kind was hardly the point and it was undoubtably sufficient that the character provided a delightful surprise for the audience of the day.

The dance apparently came before a confrontation scene between the brothers and their enemy similar to that in the famous play, "Kotobuki Soga no Taimen", and it is therefore set within the mansion of that enemy, Kud˘ Suketsune. The brothers are anxious to meet Kud˘ at once but, advising greater caution, Shizuka holds them back.

Courtesy of Paul M. Griffith


The real point of the dance however, is a celebration of the New Year and the coming spring. Hence the reference to nanakusa, the "seven herbs" of spring in the dance's title. It is still traditional to eat these herbs chopped up in rice porridge on the seventh day of the New Year and it is for this same reason that Shizuka enters carrying a basket of herbs, and that during the course of the dance all three characters begin chopping them in rhythm to the music. It is the Nagauta music that's the best thing about this dance. For example, after the opening lyrics (which are chanted in the solemn style of the theatre called "Utai gakari"), the musicians break into a lively passage accompanied by the hip and shoulder drums that brilliantly set the mood of celebration and gaiety. The drums remain a pronounced feature of much of the music for the rest of the dance.

The dance "Musume Nanakusa" has come to be associated with the Kataoka family and has often been performed by Nizaemon's brothers Gat˘ (Gor˘) and Hidetar˘ (Shizuka Gozen).

Courtesy of Paul M. Griffith

Ichikawa Komaz˘ II playing the role of Soga Jűr˘ Sukenari in the new year drama "Hatsu Akinai ďmise Soga", which was staged in the 1st lunar month of 1767 at the Nakamuraza (print made by Ippitsusai Bunch˘)

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