Play title Katsuragawa Renri no Shigarami  In Japanese
Author Suga Sensuke (original drama)
Namiki Gohŕ (1784 revision)

The play "Katsuragawa Renri no Shigarami" was originally written for the puppet theater (Bunraku) and staged for the first time in the 10th lunar month of 1776 in ďsaka. It was adapted for Kabuki several years later and staged for the first time in the 5th lunar month of 1784 in ďsaka at the Naka no Shibai, in a version revised by the playwright Namiki Gohŕ [casting].

This drama is based on a real event, which happened in Ky˘to during the Ky˘h˘ era: the discovery of two dead bodies in the Katsuragawa river, the body of a 50 year old man and the body of a 14 or 15 year old girl.


The original drama was in two acts. The "Obiya" scene is at the end of the second act. A michiyuki was added later on.

Key words Sewamono
Gidayű Ky˘gen


The Obiya is a business, which is specialized in obi, the traditional kimono belt. It is located in Ky˘to in the district of Toraishi-ch˘. Hansai, the Obiya master, had adopted a man named Ch˘emon in order to have a heir. After the death of his first wife, he got married with Otose, a widow like him, who brought her son Gihŕ at the Obiya. Otose and Gihŕ are two greedy good-for-nothing who plot to get rid of Ch˘emon, the only legitimate heir, and take over the Obiya house after the death of Hansai.

Things are getting more complicated as Ch˘emon had an affair with the 14 year old Ohan, the girl of the Shinanoya store, which is located next door to the Obiya. She went with a few people from the Shinanoya House on a pilgrimage to the great Shrine of Ise. One night, on their way back to ďsaka, the pilgrims stopped in Ishibe in the same inn as Ch˘emon, who was back from a business trip to Hamamatsu. Ch˘kichi, the decchi of the Shinanoya house, who had a crush on Ohan, relentlessly ran after her during that night. In order to escape from Ch˘kichi, Ohan had to enter Ch˘emon's room, where she fell in love with this man in his forties. This night was the beginning of their unfortunate love story. Okinu was secretly aware of this love affair but she preferred to keep it for her in order to protect her unfaithful husband. She has also decided to bribe Ch˘kichi, who is now supposed to play on demand the role of the one who made love with Ohan during this night at the inn.

At the Obiya

At the beginning of the play, Otose is talking about Ch˘emon in very bad terms to his wife Okinu, who can't answer back because of her inferior situation in this household. Hansai comes out to stand up for the unfortunate Okinu against the evil Otose, but this old man is reluctant to add too much fuel to the flames, as he fears the collapse of the Obiya household. He leaves the room with Okinu. Gihŕ, who has just returned from an errand, tells his mother that he has learned something interesting for their project: Ch˘emon had cashed a note for 100 ry˘ yesterday, but had not given the money back. They decide to steal 50 ry˘ from the shop safe and they plan to accuse Ch˘emon of stealing a total of 150 ry˘.

Ch˘emon comes home and is immediately accused by Otose and Gihŕ of having stolen a huge amount of money from the Obiya safe. The store cash box is opened in front of everybody and Otose pretends to discover the loss of 50 ry˘. Hansai stands up for Ch˘emon. He tell them that Ch˘emon is the heir of the Obiya, which means is that he is the master of the house and everything within it, including the safe box and its money. Therefore, it is impossible to accuse him of stealing something, which already belongs to him. Gihŕ has got something up his sleeve, a letter addressed to Ch˘emon, written by Shinanoya Ohan. The letter makes a reference to the night Ohan and a man called "Mister Ch˘" has spent together at an inn, when both were on their way back from Ise. The girl desires to meet "Mister Ch˘" one more time. Otose can exploit this dangerous letter because Hansai can't defend Ch˘emon anymore. Ch˘emon is temporarily saved by the sudden intervention of his wife Okinu, who tell everybody that the "Mister Ch˘" is this letter is not Ch˘emon but the decchi Ch˘kichi of the Shinanoya House.

Ch˘kichi is called in the Obiya. He tells everybody that indeed he has a love affair with Ohan in the inn. This is a story difficult to believe for Otose and Gihŕ but they can't go any further with the letter. They accuse Ch˘kichi of the stealing of the Obiya money. They are about to beat the "truth" out of him but are stopped by Hansai. They can't take their frustration out on anybody in this room and prefer to leave it, bringing with them the stolen 50 ry˘.

Okinu and Ch˘emon are now alone in the main room. She tells him that she knows everything. She is not burning with jealousy and she only longs for the happiness of her husband. She did her best to prevent Otose and Gihŕ from hearing the story. Ch˘emon begs forgiveness, confessing everything to Okinu, who kindly accept his apologies. She hurries out to prepare some sake to celebrate one more time their wedding pledge.

Ch˘emon is alone on stage. He has lost his heart for there are too many troubles and he can't face up things: the missing money, his love affair with Ohan, who could be her daughter, and another new trouble, which he has recently discovered: his valuable sword has been replaced by someone with a fake. Ch˘emon feels that he unfortunately can't any longer face either Hansai or Okinu. He writes a farewell note, for he has finally decided to commit suicide to atone for all his mistakes. The beautiful Ohan suddenly enters the Obiya. She says that she has received Ch˘emon's letter asking her to forget him. Her attitude is quite strange for she only says that she has come to say goodbye to him. After she has left the shop, Ch˘emon finds a letter, which Ohan has accidentally (on purpose ?) dropped on the floor. Ch˘emon reads it and realizes that she is now pregnant and will die tonight by drowning herself in Katsuragawa River. The situation is so hopeless that Ch˘emon decide that a shinjűmono is the only way out for them.

As Ch˘emon leaves the Obiya, Gihŕ assaults him. He is not too strong for Ch˘emon, who easily defeats him and runs after Ohan. His final intention is to die with her in the Katsuragawa.

The actors Nakamura Shikan V, Ichimura Kakitsu VI, Onoe Eizabur˘ V and Ichikawa Yaoz˘ VII playing the roles of Shinanoya Ohan, the decchi Ch˘kichi, Ch˘emon's wife Okinu and Obiya Ch˘emon in the drama "Katsuragawa Renri no Shigarami", which was staged in March 1902 at the Kabukiza (print made by K˘ch˘r˘ H˘sai)

Prints & Illustrations

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