Play title Kanjin Kanmon Tekuda no Hajimari  In Japanese
The Han Chinese and Korean Letters, the Beginning of their Tricks [1]
Common titles T˘jin Goroshi [2]  In Japanese
T˘jin Banashi [3]  In Japanese
Authors Namiki Gohei I, Chikamatsu Tokus˘ (1789)
Namiki Gohei I, Fukumori Kyűsuke I, Matsui K˘z˘ I, Sawai Chűz˘ (1804)

Namiki Gohei I's drama "Kanjin Kanmon Tekuda no Hajimari" was premiered in the 7th lunar month of 1789 in ďsaka at the Kado no Shibai, where it was produced by the zamoto Nakayama Fukuz˘ [more details]. The theme of the play "Kanjin Kanmon Tekuda no Hajimari" was based on an actual incident, the murder of an emissary from Korea by the Japanese interpreter, which occurred in 1764 [4]. There were several plays treating with the same theme, including Namiki Gohei I's "Kanjin Kanmon Tekuda no Hajimari" which was premiered in the 7th lunar month of 1789. However, at that time, perhaps due to the Shogunate censorship, the characters were changed so that the emissary and the interpreter were not openly visible. However, in a later adaptation of the play to the puppet theater in 1802, a version closer to the actual incident was put on, perhaps because with the passage of time, the censorship was less touchy about the matter than previously. Subsequently, Namiki Gohei I's "Kanjin Kanmon Tekuda no Hajimari" has come to be performed in this later version, not with the original story. This newly-revised version of "Kanjin Kanmon Tekuda no Hajimari" was staged for the first time in the 6th lunar month of 1803, in Ky˘to at the Kitagawa no Shibai with Ichikawa Danz˘ IV and Arashi Kichisabur˘ II. It was staged for the first time in Edo the following year, in the 9th lunar month of 1804 at the Ichimuraza [more details]. The setting of "Kanjin Kanmon Tekuda no Hajimari" in the exotic city of Nagasaki, which was Japan's doorway to the outside world during the Edo period, and its use of strange and colorful foreign costumes, added to the play's popularity.

"Kanjin Kanmon Tekuda no Hajimari" was staged only 4 times during the second half of the 20th century, the 2000s and the 2010s:

Date Theater Denshichi Tenz˘ Takao Meizan
1952/08 ďsaka Kabukiza Nakamura Ganjir˘ II Band˘ Minosuke VI Arashi Hinasuke X Nakamura Senjaku II
1968/12 National Theatre Morita Kan'ya XIV Band˘ Mitsugor˘ VIII Nakamura Jakuemon IV Sawamura Tossh˘ V
1994/10 Kabukiza Nakamura Ganjir˘ III Nakamura Tomijűr˘ V Nakamura Tokiz˘ V Kataoka Takatar˘
2017/10 Kabukiza Nakamura Ganjir˘ IV Nakamura Shikan VIII Nakamura Shichinosuke II Nakamura Yonekichi V

The original drama was in 4 acts. It was revived at the National Theatre in December 1968 as a t˘shi ky˘gen in 4 acts (9 scenes).

Key words Ageya
Kamigata Ky˘gen

Act I, scene 1: Nagasaki Yoriaimachi Sakaeya
At the Sakaeya House of Assignation in Yoriaimachi, Nagasaki

The Sagara Clan in Hizen is endangered by the conspiracy of Sagara Danj˘, who plans to take over the clan after bringing about the downfall of the current daimy˘ through his son, the wakadono Sagara Izuminosuke, who spends all his time and all his money in Nagasaki kuruwa. With this in mind, the evil Sagara Danj˘ has succeeded in stealing a prized spearhead of a treasured spear (yari) which is a clan heirloom. This spear is expected to be presented as part of a diplomatic ceremony honoring visiting emissaries from Morokoshi. The loss of the spearhead is a serious matter, which is causing the faithful Sagara retainers including a man named Tsuzuki Denshichi considerable anxiety.

On this particular day, the two emissaries from Morokoshi, Go Saikan and Chin Kakei, are the guests of honor of a party at the Sakaeya, a prestigious ageya in the pleasure quarter of Yoriaimachi. There are several courtesans, including the keisei Takao, who is Denshichi's lover. Denshichi comes to pay his respects to the company and is immediately accosted by Takao, who complains to him, as he does not come to see her oftener.

In the meantime, the emissary Go Saikan is asking the tsűji (interpreter) K˘sai Tenz˘ to acquire for him the tayű Meizan. Tenz˘ agrees. Actually, these two men, K˘sai Tenz˘ and Go Saikan, are scoundrels who are engaged in stealing goods from the emissary ship, and are utilizing their respective positions to their own personal advantage.

Denshichi is having trouble getting rid of the tedai Rikichi, who is demanding the reimbursement of a loan of 40 ry˘. Denshichi, who has been using the money in the pleasure quarters to visit the keisei Takao, has no means of returning it. At this point, Tenz˘ comes out and hands over a packet of 50 ry˘, telling Denshichi to use it to take care of his debt. Denshichi is highly gratified at Tenz˘'s generosity, and accepts the offer. Tenz˘ makes a fine show of being sympathetic to Denshichi, and tells him not to hesitate to mention any request he might have. Denshichi promptly takes advantage of the offer, and mentions the matter of the missing spearhead. The emissaries will leave in two or three days, and he has not been able to locate the spearhead yet. Tenz˘ understands the situation at once, and says that if a substitute spear is presented, Tenz˘, in his official capacity, will pass it off as the real thing. Denshichi is tremendously relieved. Tenz˘ also tells Denshichi that the emissaries' ship will leave two nights hence, and warns Denshichi to make the necessary preparations, as his master Sagara Izuminosuke is in charge of the diplomatic protocol and the ceremony for the departure of the emissaries. Denshichi is afraid because the hope of the conspirator Sagara Danj˘, Izuminosuke's uncle, is to discredit Izuminosuke by having him fail his diplomatic mission. When Denshichi shows his anxiety about being able to prepare the ceremony in time, Tenz˘ offers to delay the departure in order to grant him leeway.

Now Takao comes to the scene, protesting that she does not want to be purchased (miuke) by a prospective patron. The owner of her contract, an oyakata named Saibŕ, then demands that she pays off her ransom herself. Tenz˘ steps out and says he will put up the necessary money. Takao is overjoyed and Denshichi feels himself even more indebted to Tenz˘.

Act I, scene 2: Ageya Urate
At the Back of the House of Assignation

Numazu Chishima-no-Kami is sympathetic to the Sagara Clan and is aware of the turmoil in which it is embroiled. He is attacked by a couple of ruffians hired by the conspirators, but quickly throws them off.

Tsuzuki Denshichi comes by and recognizes him. It has been through his intervention that the day for the presentation of the missing spear has been postponed several days, allowing Denshichi time to search thoroughly for it. Denshichi informs Numazu of Tenz˘'s offer to permit a substitute spearhead for the presentation ceremony.

Act II, scene 1: Nagasaki Maruyama Fuy˘ya
At the Fuy˘ya in House of Assignation Maruyamamachi, Nagasaki

There is another big party for the t˘jin emissaries Go Saikan and Chin Kakei. This time, the party is held in the pleasure quarter of Maruyamamachi at the ageya Fuy˘ya, with the wakadono Sagara Izuminosuke acting as the host. Izuminosuke, a gutless and spineless playboy, is hardly to be trusted with such a job, and Denshichi is on hand to keep watch over the proceedings.

The emissary Go Saikan behaving too familiarly towards the tayű Meizan, Izuminosuke, whose lover is Meizan, has to intervene by showing his displeasure with a sullen expression. In the meantime, Ok˘, Denshichi's sister who is the wife of Hamada T˘jűr˘ [5], comes to the site. She has come all the way from the province of Muko to the city of Nagasaki, having been sent by their uncle Ky˘zen, the jűji of a temple in Muko to check and report on Denshichi's rumored love affair with a courtesan, as well as on the pleasure quarters affairs of the young lord Sagara Izuminosuke. Denshichi inquires after the health of his uncle Ky˘zen, who has brought up the two who were orphaned in childhood.

At this inopportune moment, the keisei Takao comes to the scene. It is immediately apparent to Ok˘ that Takao is the cause of the rumors of Denshichi's affair, and she chastises her brother. Denshichi, however, explains that Takao is the daughter of his former fencing master, who has confided to him that when he fell into poverty, he had to sell his daughter to a house of assignation in Nagasaki. Ok˘, on hearing this, is all apology. She returns to her lodging to wait for Denshichi to visit her there.

Now Sagara Izuminosuke comes, protesting to the oyakata Saibŕ against the relinquishing of the tayű Meizan to an unknown samurai who has offered to pay her ransom. As they are quarreling as to which one should have Meizan, the emissary Go Saikan steps out and says he will ransom Meizan, making it three-way fight for her possession. The unknown samurai says the first to pay is the winner and hands over 500 ry˘. The oyakata Saibŕ accepts the money, which is marked with the seal of Numazu Chishima-no-Kami.

Suddenly, a fourth contender steps out in the ring. It is K˘sai Tenz˘. Tenz˘ orders Meizan to his side. Then he orders Saibŕ to hand him the 500 ry˘ he has just received from the unknown samurai. Saibŕ does so. Tenz˘ looks at the money with its seal marks, then returns it to Saibŕ, saying it is his payment for Meizan. The unknown samurai protests but Tenz˘ silences him by saying the seal marks reveal their source, which means that it is money which could be in the possession only of members of Numazu Chishima-no-Kami's household, or someone who has been handed the money to be used in the party for the emissaries. The unknown samurai starts to say he was given the money and ordered to purchase the tayű Meizan by the t˘jin emissary Go Saikan. The emissary stops him with a gesture. Tenz˘ silences them both in their objections by saying that robbers have stolen money and goods from the ship from China, hinting that he suspects that they are members of the robber gang.

Tenz˘ takes the miuke paper freeing Meizan and puts it away. Then he pulls Izuminosuke and Meizan together and tells them that they are free to claim each other. The lovers are very happy and, once again, Denshichi feels obligated to Tenz˘. Unfortunately, Tenz˘'s generosity has not been without reason. Tenz˘ says he has a favor to ask of Denshichi, but he seems rather embarrassed about mentioning the matter outright. He finally hands Denshichi a fan, and tells him to look at it and decipher the message. Afterwards Denshichi examines the fan's design and muses about what Tenz˘ might be after. After a series of random guesses, he realizes that the fan's design is that of autumn foliage, and that the site known as Mt. Takao is famous for its beautiful autumn foliage. Suddenly, he realizes that Tenz˘ had been asking him to act as go-between for the miuke of the keisei Takao. Evidently, Tenz˘ is not aware that Takao is Denshichi's lover. Denshichi is taken aback by the realization, but thinking of the successive favors he has received from Tenz˘, he feels that he must relinquish Takao to his benefactor.

Act II, scene 2: Nagasaki Maruyama Fuy˘ya Okuzashiki
In the Inner room of the Fuy˘ya in Maruyama, Nagasaki

K˘sai Tenz˘ is waiting in an inner room at the Fuy˘ya, wondering whether Denshichi has understood his message, and whether Takao will be sent to him soon. As it is, Takao happens to come in by chance, somewhat under the influence of sake. She thanks him for having brought such happiness to Sagara Izuminosuke and to Meizan as well, and then asks Tenz˘ to do her a favor too, by allowing her to be united with the one she loves. Tenz˘ leans forward eagerly, thinking it might be himself she is referring to, and is thoroughly beside himself of learning that her lover is none other than Tsuzuki Denshichi.

Feeling that Denshichi and Takao have collaborated to deceive and ridicule him, Tenz˘ burns with anger. Takao leaves in search of Denshichi. The emissary Go Saikan enters the room, saying he has overheard all. He and his companions feed fuel to Tenz˘'s anger. Tenz˘ decides to take his revenge. He suddenly steps up the day for the ship's departure to the next day, and says the ceremony for the presentation of the gifts, including the missing spearhead, is to be held immediately at the Kokubunji Temple of the province of Hizen.

Sagara Izuminosuke, in the midst of enjoying himself with Meizan, is informed of the sudden call for the presentation ceremony, and is shocked. He calls for Denshichi, who on hearing the news, tries to bolster Izuminosuke's confidence by repeating that he has Tenz˘'s assurance that the fake spearhead will be passed off as the real one at the ceremony.

Act III, scene 1: Kokubunji Kyakuden
In the Guest Hall of the Kokubunji Temple

The Kokubunji Temple for the province of Hizen was the place where the visiting t˘jin emissaries have been quartered. Due to the sudden announcement that the presentation ceremony is to be held right away in the guest hall (kyakuden) of the temple, the daimy˘ Akizuki Uky˘noshin, Matsuura Chikara, Kikuchi Gonnokami, ďmura Mondo, Hirado Jűdayű and Tamashima Saemon have assembled hurriedly at the temple, each bearing treasures to be presented to the t˘jin emissaries.

Sagara Izuminosuke comes too, a little late, bringing the spear with the fake spearhead, and obviously quite unsure of himself. When he presents the spear out of its box, Tenz˘ immediately denounces it as a fake, leaving Izuminosuke completely flustered. Helplessly he calls for Denshichi, who because of his low rank, is not with the daimy˘.

Denshichi arrives near his master and he pushes Izuminosuke forward to present the spear again, asking Tenz˘ to check it one more time. Tenz˘ looks coldly at Denshichi and makes no sign of recognition, demanding who this trouble-making intruder is. Denshichi cannot understand the sudden change in Tenz˘'s attitude.

The daimy˘ withdraw to make preparations concerning the ship's impending departure. Denshichi is disturbed again at the apparent sudden change in the time of the ship's departure, which will not allow him time to make the necessary preparations.

Now the t˘jin emissary Go Saikan arrives in the temple, bringing the tayű Meizan with him. Izuminosuke protests, saying that Meizan belongs to him. Tenz˘, who has not yet handed over Meizan's miuke papers to Izuminosuke, says that he has presented Meizan to Go Saikan instead of Izuminosuke. Denshichi realizes that Tenz˘ has repealed all the favors he has so far given to him for no apparent reason.

It is not until the courtesan Takao comes to the temple and tells him about her talk with Tenz˘ in which she has revealed her love for Denshichi, that Denshichi realizes why Tenz˘ has so abruptly changed his entire attitude toward him.

Act III, scene 2: Kokubunji Heisoto
The Outer Wall of the Kokubunji Temple

As Meizan is being taken away in a palanquin (kago), the yakko Shizuhei [6], a faithful servant of the Sagara clan, comes running from behind, and chases away the palanquin bearers (kagokaki), rescuing Meizan. He sends her off to meet Izuminosuke, who is waiting for her.

Act III, scene 3: Kokubunji Okuniwa
In the Inner Garden of the Kokubunji Temple

Denshichi slips into the garden of the Kokubunji Temple in an attempt to approach K˘sai Tenz˘. He would like to ask him once more to reconsider his attitude. However, Tenz˘'s anger has not abated. Denshichi humbly begs him to hold off the departure of the ship of the emissaries a little longer, but Tenz˘ strongly refuses. Then, he reveals that, as he has been betrayed in love, his intention is to take his revenge by playing an important role in the downfall of the Sagara Clan.

Finally, due to Tenz˘'s insufferable attitude, Denshichi takes the spear, which he has brought with him, and lethally stabs Tenz˘. Then he prepares to kill himself too. Numazu Chishima-no-Kami comes out holding a lantern, and quickly analyzing the situation, he hurriedly stops Denshichi from killing himself, telling him to make his escape from the scene of the crime.

Act IV, scene 1: Muko Seitokuji
The Seitokuji Temple in Muko

The murder of the emissaries' interpreter K˘sai Tenz˘, caused a tremendous sensation in Nagasaki. In the meantime, Tsuzuki Denshichi has fled from Nagasaki and headed for Muko, where his uncle Ky˘zen is jűji of the Seitokuji Temple. Ky˘zen hides him in the space behind the altar. In the meantime, the temple servant Kyűroku secretly brings Takao to the temple and hides her in a space under the floor matting, telling her that Denshichi is sure to come to the temple to meet his uncle, so she should wait for him there.

After Kyűroku has left the room, Ky˘zen comes and furtively lets Denshichi out of his hiding place. Ky˘zen advises his nephew not to act hastily and to be sure to accomplish his mission of seeking out the missing spearhead before thinking of taking his own life.

Voices of tera-otoko calling Ky˘zen can be heard, so Ky˘zen hastily hides Denshichi again. The tera-otoko are making a fuss because they have discovered that a donation to the temple, which Kyűroku has just brought with him, is missing. Ky˘zen hurries off. A bad tera-otoko named Kaiden, the one who has stolen the money, slips into the room looking for a place to hide the money. He puts it into an incense burner, but when he notices that Ky˘shin, another tera-otoko, has been watching him, he takes the money back out to look for another hiding place. He finally puts it into Kyűroku's folded umbrella, and then slips away.

Denshichi peers furtively out from his hiding place. At the same time, Takao too looks out from under the floor matting. They notice each other in amazement. Coming out of their respective hiding place, they clasp their hands in joy. Denshichi hides Takao in his own hiding place behind the altar, and slips in after her. At that moment, Kyűroku comes back to the room, just in time to see Denshichi's disappearing figure. He is perplexed.

Ky˘zen and the tera-otoko enter into the room, looking for the missing money. Ky˘shin says he saw Kaiden hiding it in the incense burner. Kaiden puts on a show of indignation, and easily proves that there is no money in the incense burner. He turns on Ky˘shin and tries to make him say that someone else has told him to denounce him as the culprit. Kyűroku sees Kaiden bullying Ky˘shin and feels sorry for the boy. He says that he knows where the culprit is hiding, and heads for the site where Denshichi is hiding. Ky˘zen is alarmed, and forcefully prevents him from doing so, insisting there is no one there. He suggests instead that the culprit's hiding place might be under the tatami mat. Now it is Kyűroku's turn to be alarmed. When Kaiden tries to look under the mat, Kyűroku prevents him. They push each other around for a while, until each finally accomplishes his purpose. Kyűroku is relieved to find that the space under the mat is empty when Kaiden opens it. When Kyűroku pulls someone out from under the altar and finds that it is none other than Takao, he is not sure how to react. Kaiden is surprised as well, but he thinks that Takao is the Ky˘zen's secret lover and starts to deride the old priest. Ky˘zen is annoyed but can't say anything. Kyűroku comes at his rescue by saying that Takao is in reality his own lover. Ky˘zen by now realizes that the woman must be Takao. Kaiden accuses Kyűroku of being the culprit who has stolen the donation money. Kyűroku, in order to divert further trouble, says that indeed he is the culprit. To keep up the pretense, Ky˘zen orders that Kyűroku and Takao have to be temporarily handed over to the local authorities.

Later, Hamada T˘jűr˘, the husband of Denshichi's sister Ok˘, comes to the temple to ask Ky˘zen to hand over the fugitive Tsuzuki Denshichi, who is unmistakably hiding at the Seitokuji Temple. Ky˘zen answers that Denshichi has not come. T˘jűr˘, who is sure that Denshichi is within hearing distance, says that the interpreter K˘sai Tenz˘'s father has vowed revenge for his son's murder. He will have Denshichi crucified upside down. T˘jűr˘, in order to save his brother-in-law from such a shameful death, has come to arrest him before he falls into the avenger's hands. Ky˘zen still insists that Denshichi is not there, T˘jűr˘ then plays his trump card, ordering that the captive be brought forth. To Ky˘zen's dismay, the prisoner is none other than Hamada's wife and Denshichi's sister Ok˘. T˘jűr˘ says that he has been ordered by Numazu Chishima-no-Kami to torture Ok˘ to push Ky˘zen to reveal the truth. Ky˘zen still stubbornly insists that he does not know Denshichi's whereabouts, so T˘jűr˘ says that Ky˘zen too must then be taken prisoner. Denshichi wants to come out and give himself up but hesitates to do so because of the grief it would cause Ky˘zen. However, taking advantage of the fact that Ky˘zen cannot see after dusk due to an eye ailment, Denshichi silently slips out and offers himself for arrest. T˘jűr˘ binds his arms behind him in spite of Ok˘'s pleas to let him go. Ky˘zen, unable to see what is going on, strains to hear some noise but he cannot understand the situation. After having bound Denshichi, T˘jűr˘ suddenly relinquishes the rope to Ok˘ and leaves the room, hinting to her that they should urge Denshichi to ponder the situation and take the best course. In this way, he allows them a meeting in privacy after his departure.

For the first time, Ky˘zen realizes that Denshichi has come out of his hiding place. Denshichi says that he has remained in hiding because of Ky˘zen's desire, but now after hearing T˘jűr˘'s admonitions, he is too ashamed to continue to live. He is about to commit suicide, but both Ok˘ and Ky˘zen stop him, saying that T˘jűr˘ has spared him so that he could accomplish his mission of saving the Sagara Clan by finding the missing spearhead.

Denshichi prepares to take his leave, accompanied by Takao and the faithful servant Kyűroku. Kaiden tries to prevent Denshichi's departure, attacking him with Kyűroku's umbrella. The packet of donation money falls out from the umbrella. Kaiden tries to prevent it from falling into Kyűroku's hands, but he is shoved off. Ky˘zen gives the money to Denshichi to take with him.

Act V, scene 1 [7]: Banshű Kaid˘ Matsubara
On the Sea Road in Matsubara, Banshű

Denshichi and Takao, thoroughly discouraged and disheartened because they have been unable achieve their goal, come by the seaside road at Matsubara in the province of Banshű. Denshichi is tempted to give himself up, but the weeping Takao dissuades him, saying she cannot live without him. They slip to the side to rest, just as a group of three merry villagers pass by. The villagers are dressed in their best and are on their way back from a wedding party. The happiness of the villagers is a huge contrast with Denshichi and Takao in a mood of total discouragement.

Hamada T˘jűr˘ and Ok˘ come by. Looking through the dark, they can spot Denshichi and Takao. They have brought good pieces of news. They say that due to efforts by Numazu Chishima-no-Kami, the conspiracy of Sagara Danj˘ has failed and the missing spearhead has finally been retrieved. Moreover, it has become known that Go Saikan and K˘sai Tenz˘ were involved in the robbery of goods from the emissaries' ship. As a consequence, Go Saikan has been sent back to Morokoshi under arrest. Regarding Tenz˘'s murder, there is no charge against Denshichi for having killed him a criminal. Everything has turned out well. Denshichi and Takao can let their joy rise!


"Denshichi is an example of the difficult-to-act pintokona type of tachiyaku, while Izuminosuke fits the tsukkorobashi category." (Samuel Leiter in "New Kabuki Encyclopedia")


[1] This title came from "The Making of T˘jin Construction of the Other in Early Modern Japan", an article written by Suzuki Keiko in Asian Folklore Studies Vol. 66 published by Nanzan University.

[2] Literally 'Murder of a Chinese' or 'Murder of a Foreigner'. This common title was a reference to the 1764 real history event as in the play the Japanese tsűji K˘sai Tenz˘ was killed by a fellow Japanese. No Chinese or Foreigner was assasinated in "T˘jin Goroshi" but K˘sai Tenz˘ dresses like a Korean on stage.

[3] Literally 'A Chinese Story' or 'A Foreigner Story'.

[4] An ambassador from Korea arrived in Japan in the 12th lunar month of the 13th year of the H˘reki era (1763). In the 4th lunar month of the the 14th year of the H˘reki era (1764), one member of the staff of the Korean ambassador, a man named Sai Tens˘, was killed in ďsaka by Suzuki Denz˘, the Japanese interpreter. The interpreter was arrested and decapitated.

[5] Hamada K˘jűr˘ in the 1789 version of "Kanjin Kanmon Tekuda no Hajimari".

[6] This yakko is also sometimes called Mitsuhei.

[7] This last act was revived at the National Theatre in December 1968 and it was staged as a michiyuki with a Gidayű musical ensemble.

The cover of the ezukushi banzuke for the staging of the drama "Kanjin Kanmon Tekuda no Hajimari" in the 7th lunar month of 1789 in ďsaka at the Kado no Shibai

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