|SAIGO NO DAIHYďJď
|Saigo no Daihy˘j˘
The Last Great Council
"Saigo no Daihy˘j˘" is made up of two acts, 6 scenes.
Act I, scene 1: Ak˘ ďishi Yashiki Gengan
We are in the morning of the morning of the 14th day of the 4th lunar month of 1701  at the entrance of the ďishi Mansion in Ak˘ in the province of Banshű. ďishi Kuranosuke, the kar˘ of the Ak˘ Domain, suddenly finds himself faced with great responsibility after the lord's seppuku and confiscation of the fief. Retainers and other members of the household will become homeless and unemployed as a result, and steps must be taken to divide funds available as fairly as possible. In the meantime, Kuranosuke has taken no obvious steps to avenge the lord's humiliation, much to the dissatisfaction of many members of the clan. Kuranosuke's elder son Matsunoj˘  is aware of the criticism directed against his father and is uncomfortable, particularly when even the uneducated manservant Yasuke speaks up about it.
One month has passed since that fateful day, and Kuranosuke's cousin Oyű has started out from the mansion with Kuranosuke's two younger children to pay their respects at the family temple. But she and the children return in flustered haste to the mansion. It seems that just outside the mansion they have seen a stranger with his young son, and the two children have pointed in curiosity at the unfamiliar crest mark on the stranger's kimono. The stranger was been Izeki Tokubŕ, a former retainer of Lord Asano Naganori  and a childhood playmate of Kuranosuke. However, about twenty years previously, he committed bad deeds for which he was punished and banished from the Asano household. He is now a complete stranger in Ak˘. However, having heard of Lord Asano's tragic fate, he has hastened to the Asano castle, expecting that Kuranosuke would take some retaliatory act and that he too might be able to participate in the planned revenge. Learning of Kuranosuke's silence on the matter, he has been bitterly disappointed, and in his frustration, he has turned acrimoniously against Kuranosuke's children when they have remarked on his unusual crest.
Oyű, unable to handle the situation, has been forced to return to the mansion with the children, followed by the persistent Tokubŕ. His young son Monzaemon tries in vain to prevent Tokubŕ from making an embarrassing scene, but Tokubŕ refuses to retire peaceably and demands to meet Kuranosuke.
Act I, scene 2: Ak˘ ďishi Yashiki Okuzashiki
ďno Kurobŕ is a senior retainer of questionable integrity who is opposed to Kuranosuke's policy of dividing available funds in a manner that would provide sufficiently for the lower ranks even at the expense of the major retainers. Now that the Asano lordship has been abolished, Kurobŕ is interested only in Okajima Yasoemon Tsuneshige guaranteeing his own security.
On the other hand, impetuous Yasoemon is worried that Kurobŕ will win over the quiet-natured Kuranosuke to his policy of appeasement. Knowing that Kuranosuke is in conference with Kurobŕ, he comes dashing into the mansion to demand a meeting with Kuranosuke. He is stopped, however, by Kuranosuke's wife Oriku, who is under orders from her husband not to allow anyone to enter while he is in conference. The two young children come with Oyű to report their return to their mother Oriku. Oyű and Oriku discuss Kuranosuke's attitude, both beings unable to figure out what he is planning to do. But Oriku remarks that Kuranosuke seems to be waiting impatiently for some word from Edo concerning the physical condition of Kira Yoshihisa , before deciding definitely whether to submit to the Shogunate's demand of handing over the Ak˘ castle.
Kuranosuke comes out with Kurobŕ, who learns from Oriku that Yasoemon is waiting for him. He quickly slinks away by a side door in order to avoid a confrontation with him. Not only Oyű and Oriku and the major retainers but even Kuranosuke's elder son Matsunoj˘, is left in the dark as to Kuranosuke's real intentions. The kar˘ retains a blandly unconcerned attitude.
Act I, scene 3: Ak˘ ďishi Yashiki Moto no Genkan
In the meantime Izeki Tokubŕ is heartily partaking some sake with Yasuke in a room near the ďishi Mansion entrance. He is drinking quite a bit, much to the anxiety of his young son Izeki Monzaemon. Tokubŕ says that he used to be a playmate of Kuranosuke's from childhood, but has not once seen Kuranosuke lose his temper. This evenness of temperament has always disturbed the tempestuous Tokubŕ, and, many times, he went to great lengths to provoke Kuranosuke to anger. However, he has never succeeded. Now, although he has been banished from the household, he has come to join Kuranosuke in defending the castle against the Shogunate soldiers.
Kuranosuke comes by on his way out of the mansion. Tokubŕ calls out to him, and they regard each other in mutual nostalgic fondness. But true to character, Kuranosuke puts his old friend off, hiding his tears. He says that it is too late as there is no longer any Asano household to come back to. Although he understands Izeki Tokubŕ's desire to fight for his dead lord, he says that even if he were to plan to defend the castle, he could not allow a banished former retainer into the group of defenders. He also admonishes Tokubŕ's son to forget about becoming a samurai, because the era is changing, and it is becoming an increasingly difficult world for the samurai. Honor is dying away, and integrity is now rare. Tokubŕ tries to force his way into the castle in spite of Kuranosuke's refusal. But Kuranosuke pushes out on his way, leaving Tokubŕ and his son weeping at the entrance.
Act II, scene 1: Ak˘-j˘nai Omote Zashiki Take-no-Ma
Act II, scene 2: Ak˘-j˘nai Kuro Shoin
It is exactly one month from the death of Lord Asano, and the Shogunate representative and other lords are due to arrive at Ak˘ Castle soon for the official ceremony of confiscation. In the meantime, there is dissent among the retainers of Ak˘ Castle: should the Shogunate order be complied with and the castle abandoned? Should the retainers insist on the lordship's rights and defend it? Kuranosuke himself cannot offer a quick answer because he is taking into account much more than just the straightforward aspect, weighing the problem from any angles, morally, socially and politically.
It is with things in this state that Kuranosuke is seen discussing the matter with an important visitor, Toda Masazumi, lord of ďgaki Domain, who is the cousin of Lord Asano. He has come on special orders from the Shogunate to urge Kuranosuke to end the matter amicably by relinquishing the castle without a fight. The truth is that self-seeking relatives, afraid that the reprisal will affect them, are clinging to the Shogunate promise that they will be retained, just so long as Ak˘ Castle is delivered up promptly without resistance.
As this point, a boy samurai enters to announce another guest, Koyama Magoroku, who has come as envoy from Asano Daigaku, Lord Asano's brother. The young samurai is unfamiliar so Kuranosuke looks at him closely and recognizes him as the grandson of an elderly loyal retainer, who has sent his grandson in his place because he himself is ailing. Kuranosuke asks him how many retainers have assembled for the final conference to be held that day, and the boy hesitates to answer because the number is so few. He sheds tears and says he did not count, but that those who are there have come with their finest swords and wearing their best, resolved to die defending the castle.
The envoy Koyama enters, and there are greetings of mutual recognition between Koyama and Toda. Both have come on an identical mission - to urge Kuranosuke to give up the castle in peace. They say that when it is learned that only forty or fifty retainers remained to defend the Asano Castle, then they will become the laughing stock of the era. But Kuranosuke says that it will not be the forty or fifty that will be scoffed at, but self-seeking people like Koyama and Toda.
He voices his dissatisfaction at their less than frank attitude, in which they have purposely prevented word of Kira Yoshihisa's condition from reaching him. Whether Kira lives or dies is the key to Kuranosuke's decision, and they are withholding the information from him. Now Yasoemon comes with word that ďno Kurobŕ and his family have absconded, a situation already foreseen by Kuranosuke. Senior retainer Okuno Sadayoshi comes to say it is time for the conference to start, so Koyama and Toda withdraw.
Before the final conference, Kuranosuke meets three retainers who have just returned to Ak˘ from Edo where they had been lingering after Lord Asano's death, to spy on Kira Yoshihisa's condition. They have learned that Kira has almost completely recovered from his wounds, a situation that makes Asano's arbitrary death sentence seem even more unjust than before. They report, moreover, that popular sentiment is turning overwhelmingly against the harsh Shogunate reprisal against Lord Asano, causing the Shogunate to take a policy of secrecy to hide Kira from the public.
Kuranosuke listens to the three men, Horibe Yasubŕ Taketsune, Kataoka Gengoemon Takafusa and Isogai Jűr˘zaemon Masahisa, making no sign of where he himself stands on the issue, but barely able to conceal his secret joy at their insistence that their dead lord's will remains unaccomplished so long as Kira lives. The disposition of the castle and the position of related lords are secondary.
At the ensuing conference, Kuranosuke asks the assembled group to sign a blood pact to the effect that they will bide unconditionally by Kuranosuke's decision for better or for worse. He has taken his time before revealing his true purpose so that the decision on the disposal of the castle has been delayed, dividing the house in two. In the meantime, the opportunists or the egoists in the group have faded away, leaving only this small group whom he can be sure will stick with him to the end. He thanks them for their trust in him, and asks them for still another difficult favor: to withdraw without resistance from the castle, to not say a word in criticism against the Shogunate, and to put themselves completely in his hands. A single question is asked by Yasubŕ: What is happening regarding the matter of Kira? For the first time, Kuranosuke makes himself clear on the point, saying that he will never rest at ease so long as this infamous Kira lives. Yasubŕ signs the pact. In the meantime the others confer, and they all agree too, weeping at the thought of abandoning the Asano Castle, their dear home for so many generations.
Act II, scene 3: Ak˘-j˘nai ďte Gomon Soto
Outside the castle, Izeki Tokubŕ, in a farewell with the familiar castle, is pointing out well-remembered sites to his young son Monzaemon, who follows him around quietly, regretting that he will never have a chance to serve in that castle. Father and son have taken the decision to commit seppuku.
A couple of Shogunate spies who have been observing events in the castle for signs of possible resistance pass by, looking at the pair in curiosity. A while later ďishi Kuranosuke emerges from the deserted castle. He sends his attendants on ahead, saying he wishes to make his final farewell to the castle alone. He notices the departing spies, and realizing what they are, he laughs silently to himself, knowing they have been fooled into believing in his complete compliance with the Shogunate demand, as he has indeed intended.
As he walks away from the castle, he comes across a figure weeping in the dark, leaning against the case carrying his armor. It is Izeki Tokubŕ. Beside him lies his son Monzaemon, already dead. Tokubŕ too, has already committed seppuku and is on the verge of death. Kuranosuke recognizes Tokubŕ in consternation and grief. Tokubŕ appeals to him, asking him to say that Tokubŕ as usual has acted too hastily, that Kuranosuke has not just relinquished the castle out of weakness, but has a greater plot in mind. Kuranosuke hesitates to reveal the great, dangerous secret, but Tokubŕ insists in the name of their childhood friendship and because he is now a dying man. Kuranosuke, drawing near the dying man, says that he has decided to defy the Shogunate authority for the sake of justice. He will revenge the unjust death of his master.
This summary would have not been possible without the help of Sekidobashi Sakura!
 The 14th day of the 4th lunar month of the 14th year of the Genroku era was the 21st of May 1701 in the western calendar.
The actors Nakamura Shikaku II (left), Ichikawa Ennosuke II (center) and Ichikawa Sadanji II (right) playing the roles of Izeki Monzaemon, Izeki Tokubŕ and ďishi Kuranosuke in the drama "Saigo no Daihy˘j˘", which was staged in April 1935 at the T˘ky˘ Gekij˘
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