Play title Shinpan Utazaimon  In Japanese
A Newly-Published Ballad
Author Chikamatsu Hanji

The play "Shinpan Utazaimon" was originally written for the puppet theater (Bunraku) and staged for the first time in the 9th lunar month of 1780 in Ôsaka at the Takemotoza. It was adapted for Kabuki a few years later, in the 5th lunar month of 1785 in Ôsaka at the Naka no Shibai [casting].


The original story was in 2 volumes. Only one scene survived, the "Nozaki-mura" scene, which ended the first volume.

Key words Decchi
Gidayû Kyôgen
Miyaji Shibai
Zama Jinja

Volume I, scene 1: Zama Yashiro
At the Zama Shrine [1]

Yamagaya Sashirô, a rich merchant, is offering a prayer at the Zama Shrine for his success in winning the heart of Osome, the daughter of the proprietress of the Aburaya, a famous pawnbroker (shichiya), which is located near the Kawaraya Bridge in Ôsaka. Unfortunately for Sashirô, Osome is deeply in love with Hisamatsu, a decchi at the Aburaya. Hisamatsu happens to pass by the Zama Shrine while making a round of calls on customers with the Aburaya tedai Kosuke. Kosuke suddenly pretends illness after having spotted Sashirô. Unsuspecting Hisamatsu hurries away to buy medicine for him.

As soon as Hisamatsu is gone, Kosuke approaches Sashirô to offer his assistance in Sashirô's plan to conquer Osome. Taking out what he calls Osome's letter to Sashirô, Kosuke reads it for him and receives a few coins for his service. Then he brings Sashirô to a fortune teller's stall in the shrine precincts for consultation about his love. To clear the way for his intended marriage, the fortune teller, a man named Myôsai, proposes to bring about the death of Hisamatsu with the magic power of his prayer. Glad of this proposition Sashirô takes him to a restaurant to treat him to sake. Kosuke then calls his two co-plotters, Suzuki Yachûta and Narazumono Kanroku, who have been hiding nearby to consult with them about his plan to deprive Hisamatsu of the money he is carrying with him on business.

As soon as they leave the shrine, Osome appears. She is accompanied by her maid Oden, and is soon joined by Hisamatsu, who has apparently made an arrangement to meet her at the shrine. With Oden taking leave to visit a miyaji shibai in the precincts of the Zama Shrine, the lovers enter the fortune teller's stall, whose owner is conveniently absent at the moment. Presently the fortune teller comes back and is surprised to spot the two lovers inside his stall. While the embarrassed Myôsai is standing in front of his stall, he is approached by Sashirô's servant, who has come to look for his master. Meanwhile, Hisamatsu and Osome sneak out of the stall. Sashirô goes off with the fortune teller to hold a prayer meeting at his house.

Yachûta and Kanroku are now respectively disguised as a samurai and a merchant. They pretend to quarrel in loud voices and come near Hisamatsu. Pretending to be acting at the spur of the moment, Yachûta snatches Hisamatsu's purse and throws it at Kanroku. When Kosuke, who is also present at the scene of the false quarrel, protests to Kanroku, he brushes the dirt off the purse and returns it to Hisamatsu. Actually, however, the purse is not the one Hisamatsu originally had. Yachûta has stealthily exchanged Hisamatsu's purse with one looking exactly the same. Unaware of the deception, Hisamatsu takes the wrong purse and hurries his way home with Osome. Kosuke and his fellow conspirators examine Hisamatsu's purse and find that it contains many coins, which they decide to divide among themselves.

Volume I, scene 2: Nozaki-mura
At the Village of Nozaki
--> A dedicated summary: "Nozaki-mura"

Because of his loss of the Aburaya's money in the previous scene, Hisamatsu has been suspended from work. He returns to the house of his foster father, an old man named Kyûsaku, who lives in the village of Nozaki in the province of Kawachi. Taking advantage of his temporary stay, Kyûsaku asks him to marry his daughter Omitsu, to whom Hisamatsu was betrothed in his childhood. Omitsu is busy preparing for her wedding when the elegant and beautiful Osome appears at the house desperately seeking Hisamatsu. Osome has rejected the proposal of marriage made to her by Yamagaya Sashirô and has come to beg Hisamatsu to be faithful to his vows. Osome accuses Hisamatsu of concealing his betrothal to Omitsu and she attempts to commit suicide with a razor. Hisamatsu catches her hand and swears that he will never marry Omitsu and, if he cannot find any other way out of the dilemma, will die with Osome.

Kyûsaku then reveals that Hisamatsu is in reality the son of a samurai and that Kyûsaku took charge of Hisamatsu when Hisamatsu's father committed seppuku, taking responsibility for the loss of his master's precious sword. Deeply moved by Kyûsaku's story, Hisamatsu cannot but promise that he will marry Omitsu. Osome too declares that she is prepared to give up Hisamatsu and marry Sashirô. But unnoticed by Kyûsaku, the lovers look into each other's eyes as they speak and make a secret visual and mental vow.

Omitsu enters an inner room and reappears wearing a formal bridal head-dress. Kyûsaku takes off Omitsu's head-dress to find that she has shaved her head to show her determination to give up Hisamatsu and enter the Buddhist priesthood. Okatsu, Osome's mother, arrives in a palanquin (kago) to fetch her daughter [2]. She thanks Kyûsaku and Omitsu and takes her daughter back to her home by a boat. Hisamatsu also returns to the Aburaya in Ôsaka by Okatsu's palanquin.

Volume II, scene 1: Nagamachi
In Nagamachi
This scene is no more part of the current Kabuki repertoire

Passing in front of a mochi shop in Nagamachi in Ôsaka, Kosuke finds Kanroku working in the shop as a temporary employee. Kosuke tells him that he is going to a tea house to meet his sweetheart and invites Kanroku to join him.

After Kosuke and Kanroku have gone, Hisamatsu comes along on his way back to the Aburaya. He happens to meet Oshô, his former wet nurse. Oshô tells him that he will be recognized as a samurai succeeding his late father if he can find his father's master's missing sword. She says she has found a lead and is trying hard to locate the sword. Hisamatsu gives her some money to thank for her efforts. While giving the money, he unwittingly let Osome's written pledge of love fall to the ground. Oshô picks it up and keeps it instead of returning it to Hisamatsu, saying that such an important document must be closely guarded and that it is safer if she keeps it. While talking further with Hisamatsu, however, three pickpockets stealthily take it away from her.

Soon after parting with Hisamatsu, Oshô comes across Yachûta. She suspects that he has stolen the precious sword she is looking for. Yachûta does not precisely answer her questions about the sword and he goes away. Meanwhile, Oshô notices the loss of Osome's written pledge of love. So she hurries away to look for it. The written pledge passes from the pickpockets to Kanroku, who, with the help of Yachûta, take it from them by force.

Volume II, scene 2: Aburaya
At the Aburaya
This scene is no more part of the current Kabuki repertoire

Okatsu proposes to find out the truth by questioning her employees when Yachûta, disguising himself as a rônin, comes to the door to sell the written pledge of love given by Osome to Hisamatsu. Oshô, Hisamatsu's former wet nurse, who happens to be visiting the house, proposes to buy it and pays a part of the price. Okatsu then offers to pay the entire sum at once and asks the rônin to return Oshô's payment to her. When he returns the money Okatsu examines it and finds that it is counterfeit. She identifies the unemployed samurai as Suzuki Yachûta, who has stolen Hisamatsu's Aburaya's money. At this moment Kanroku, who also had a hand in the swindle, snatches the written pledge of love from Yachûta and tears it up. He also throws to the floor a rice bowl in which Kosuke has hidden his share of the stolen money.

Kanroku reveals that he is in fact Oshô's son and that his late father was a retainer of Hisamatsu's late father, who had to kill himself due to the loss of his master's sword. Okatsu also reveals that the sword given to her by Sashirô as his betrothal present is the very sword in question. She hands it to Hisamatsu and advises him to use it for the recovery of his family's honor. Glad of her kindness, Hisamatsu leaves the Aburaya to become a samurai. Okatsu persuades the sorrow-stricken Osome to marry Yamagaya Sashirô and Osome gives her consent in tears. Then, Hisamatsu comes back, wishing to meet Osome once more, and he hides himself in the storehouse (kura) of the Aburaya. Kosuke locks the door of the storehouse to confine him. Hisamatsu and Osome, despairing of their future, commit suicide (shinjû) respectively inside and outside the storehouse.


[1] This scene was revived only twice since the end of WWII, in January 1979 at the National Theatre and in April 2019 at the Kabukiza.

[2] The end of the "Nozaki-mura" scene, in which the two lovers go back to Ôsaka by separate routes, is very spectacular with the use of the mawari-butai to reveal the back of Kyûsaku's house and the river. Then, Osome and her mother go by boat along the hanamichi (representing the river) while Hisamatsu goes by palanquin along the kari-hanamichi, a secondary (and temporary) hanamichi (representing the bank of the river).

Illustration from a 1908 Nagoya tsuji banzuke

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