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The 45th Annual Kaomise 'Face-Showing' Performance

Kanadehon Chushingura ("The Treasury of Loyal Retainers")

at : Misonoza
(The kaomise, or "face-showing" performances take place in October at Nagoya's Misono-za, in November at Tokyo's Kabuki-za, and in December at Kyoto's Minami-za  the actors names are painted on long vertical signboards that are displayed on the front of the theater)
2009.10.01 - 2009.10.25
      Written for the puppets by Takeda Izumo II, Miyoshi Shoraku and Namiki Senryu.
      First performed in 1748 at Takemoto-za, Osaka.
      First staged as Kabuki the same year at Arashi-za, Osaka.

      Kanadehon Chushingura is based on a true incident which took place between 1701 and 1703. To avoid censorship by the ruling shogunate government, the authors set the play in the earlier Muromachi period (1336-1573) and the names of the characters were altered.
      The central story concerns the daimyo Enya Hangan, who is goaded into drawing his sword and striking a senior lord, Ko no Morono. Drawing one's sword in the shogun's palace was a capital offence and so Hangan is ordered to commit seppuku, or ritual suicide by disembowelment. The ceremony is carried out with great formality and, with his dying breath, he makes clear to his chief retainer, Oboshi Yuranosuke, that he wishes to be avenged upon Morono.
      Forty-seven of Hangan's now masterless samurai or ronin bide their time. Yuranosuke in particular, appears to give himself over to a life of debauchery in Kyoto's Gion pleasure quarters in order to put the enemy off their guard. In fact, they make stealthy but meticulous preparations and, in the depths of winter, storm Morono's Edo mansion and kill him. Aware, however, that this deed is itself an offence, the retainers then carry Morono's head to the grave of their lord at Sengaku-ji temple in Edo, where they all commit seppuku.
<< The October performance at Misono-za will present Act I, III, IV, Interact-Michiyuki scene, V, VI, VII and XI>>
Act I - Tsurugaoka kabuto aratame (“The Helmet Selection at Hachiman Shrine”)
      Various officials have gathered at the Tsurugaoka Shrine in Kamakura to present a special helmet at the shrine. It is clear from the outset that Morono is hostile to the younger, inexperienced lords. The helmet, taken in battle, can only be identified by Hangan's wife, Kaoyo. She is called to identify it. When the ceremony is over and he is eventually left alone with Kaoyo, Morono propositions her but she rejects his amorous advances.
Act II – Momonoi yakata no ba (“The Momonoi Mansion”)
      The act takes place in the mansion of the young daimyo, Momonoi Wakasanosuke. His chief retainer, Kakogawa Honzo, admonishes the servants for gossiping about the humiliation of their master by Morono at the previous day's ceremony at the Tsurugaoka shrine. Even Honzo's wife, Tonase, and daughter, Konami, speak of it.
 Oboshi Rikiya, Konami's betrothed and the son of Enya Hangan's chief retainer, Oboshi Yuranosuke, arrives with a message that Morono has commanded that both Hangan and Wakasanosuke appear at the palace by four in the morning in order to prepare the ceremonies for the Shogun's younger brother whom they are to entertain.  
 Wakasanosuke hears the message and dismisses them all apart from Honzo. He speaks of the insults which he suffered and his determination to take his revenge. He decides to kill Morono tomorrow even if such a rash and illegal act brings about the eradication of his household.
 Surprisingly, the older and wiser Honzo sympathises with him and, as a symbol that Wakasanosuke should go through with the attack, he cuts off the branch of a bonsai pine tree. It is one o'clock in the morning and Wakasanosuke goes off to bid farewell to his wife for the last time.
 As soon as his master leaves Honzo calls urgently for his horse. Forbidding his wife and daughter from disclosing his intentions, he gallops off to Morono's mansion to prevent what would be a disaster both for his master and his master's house.
 When Act II is performed as Kabuki it is often given in a later version, first performed by Ichikawa Danjuro VII (1791-1859), and entitled  "The Scriptorium of the Kenchoji Temple". This version consists solely of the conversation between Wakasanosuke and Honzo about the former's decision to attack Morono. There is no hint that Honzo will attempt to avert the disaster which would result from his lord's intended action.
Act III - Matsu no roka (“The Pine Corridor in the Shogun's Palace")
      This is the scene which seals Hangan's fate. Offended by Kaoyo's rebuff, Morono hurls insults at Hangan, accusing him of incompetence and of being late for his duties. Hangan, he says, is like a little fish: he is adequate within the safe confines of a well (his own little domain), but put him in the great river (the shogun's mansion in the capital) and he soon hits his nose against the pillar of a bridge and dies. Unable to bear the insults any longer, Hangan strikes Morono but, to his chagrin, is restrained from killing him by Kakogawa Honzo.
Act IV, Scene 1 - Enya yakata no ba (“Enya Hangan's Seppuku”)
DanjuroOboshi  Yuranosuke 
      Hangan is ordered to commit seppuku and his castle is confiscated. The emotional highlight of this scene is Hangan's death. The preparations for the ceremony are elaborate and formal. Hangan delays as long as he can, however, for he is anxious to have one last word with his chief retainer, Yuranosuke. At the last moment, Yuranosuke rushes in to hear his lord's dying wish to be avenged on Morono. Hangan is left to despatch himself by cutting his own jugular vein.
Act IV, Scene 2 - Uramon  (“The Rear Gate of the Mansion”)
DanjuroOboshi Yuranosuke 
      Night has fallen and Yuranosuke, left alone, bids a sad farewell to their mansion. He holds the bloody dagger with which his lord killed himself and licks it as an oath to carry out his lord's dying wish. The curtain closes and a lone shamisen player enters to the side of the stage, accompanying Yuranosuke's desolate exit along the hanamichi.
Interact - Michiyuki tabiji no hanamuko (Ochiudo) (“The Fugitives”)
      This michiyuki or "travel-dance" was added to the play in 1833 and is very often performed separately. The dance depicts the lovers Okaru and Kanpei journeying to the home of Okaru's parents in the country after Hangan's death. Kanpei was the retainer who accompanied Hangan to the shogun's mansion and he is now guilt ridden at his failure to protect his lord. He would take his own life to atone for his sin, but Okaru persuades him to wait. The couple are waylaid by the comical Sagisaki Bannai and his foolish men. They are working for Lord Morono but Kanpei easily defeats them and they continue on their way.
Act V - Yamazaki kaido teppo watashi no ba (“The Offer of the Musket on the Yamazaki Highway")
      Kanpei is now living with Okaru's parents and is desperate to join the vendetta. On a dark, rainy night we see him out hunting wild boar.
 Meanwhile, Okaru has agreed that her father, Yoichibei, sell her into prostitution in Kyoto to raise money for the vendetta. On his way home from the Gion pleasure quarter with half the cash as a down payment, Yoichibei is, however, murdered and robbed by Sadakuro, the wicked son of Kudayu, one of Hangan's retainers. Sadakuro is dressed in a stark black kimono, and though brief, this role is famous for its sinister and blood curdling appeal.
 Kanpei shoots at a wild boar but misses. Instead, the shot hits Sadakuro. Kanpei finds the body but, in the darkness, cannot see who it is. Hardly believing his luck, he discovers the money on the body, and decides to take it to give to the vendetta.
Act VI - Kanpei seppuku no ba (“Kanpei's Seppuku”)
      Yoichibei's murder is discovered and Kanpei, believing mistakenly that he is responsible, commits seppuku. The truth, however, is revealed before he draws his last breath and, in his own blood, Kanpei is permitted to add his name to the vendetta list.
Act VII - Gion Ichiriki no ba (“The Ichiriki Teahouse at Gion")
DanjuroOboshi Yuranosuke 
      Yuranosuke is feigning a life of debauchery at the same teahouse to which Okaru has been indentured. Kudayu, the father of Sadakuro, arrives. He is now working for Morono and his purpose is to discover whether Yuranosuke still plans revenge or not. He tests Yuranosuke's resolve by offering him food on the anniversary of their lord's death when he should be fasting. Yuranosuke is forced to accept. Yuranosuke's sword – the revered symbol of a samurai – is also found to be covered in rust. It would appear that Yuranosuke has no thoughts of revenge. But still unsure, Kudayu hides under the veranda.
 Now believing himself alone, Yuranosuke begins to read a secret letter scroll about preparations for the vendetta. On a higher balcony Okaru comes out to cool herself in the evening breeze and, noticing Yuranosuke close by, she also reads the letter reflected in her mirror. As Yuranosuke unrolls the scroll, Kudayu, too, examines the end which trails below the veranda. Suddenly, one of Okaru's hairpins drops to the floor and a shocked Yuranosuke quickly rolls up the scroll. Finding the end of the letter torn off, he realises that yet another person knows his secret and he must silence them both. Feigning merriment, he calls Okaru to come down and offers to buy out her contract. He goes off supposedly to fix the deal. Then Okaru's brother Heiemon enters and, hearing what has just happened, realises that Yuranosuke actually intends to keep her quiet by killing her. He persuades Okaru to let him kill her instead so as to save their honour and she agrees. Overhearing everything, Yuranosuke is now convinced of the pair's loyalty and stops them. He gives Okaru a sword and, guiding her hand, thrusts it through the floorboards to kill Kudayu.
Act VIII - Michiyuki tabiji no yomeiri (“The Bride's Journey”)
      When Enya Hangan drew his sword against the evil Morono within the shogun's palace, it was Kakogawa Honzo who held him back, preventing him from killing the older lord. Honzo's daughter, Konami, is betrothed to Yuranosuke's son, Rikiya, but since that fateful event the marriage arrangements have been stalled, causing much embarrassment to the girl. Not prepared to leave things as they are, Honzo's wife, Tonase, resolves to deliver Konami to Yuranosuke's home in order to force the marriage.
 This act takes the form of a michiyuki dance in which Tonase leads her step-daughter along the great Tokaido Highway, the main thoroughfare linking Edo in the east with Kyoto in the west. On the way, they pass a number of famous sites such as Mt. Fuji and, as a marriage procession passes by, Konami watches enviously, thinking that in better times she herself would have ridden in just such a grand palanquin. Tonase encourages her daughter, telling her of the happiness to come once she is wed.
Act IX - Yamashina kankyo no ba ("The Retreat at Yamashina")
      Set in the depths of winter, Kakogawa Honzo's wife Tonase, and daughter Konami, arrive at Yuranosuke's home in Yamashina near Kyoto. Yuranosuke's wife is adamant that after all that has happened there can be no possibility of marriage between Konami and Rikiya. In despair, Tonase and Konami decide to take their own lives. Just then, Honzo arrives disguised as a wandering priest. To atone for his part in restraining Hangan from killing Morono, he deliberately pulls Rikiya's spear into his own stomach and, dying, gives Yuranosuke and Rikiya a plan of Morono's mansion in Edo.
Act X – Amakawaya Gihei Uchi no ba ("The House Amakawaya Gihei")
      The action takes place at the premises of Amakawaya Gihei, a merchant who lives in the port of Sakai, near Osaka. Yuranosuke has entrusted Gihei with the purchase and shipment to Kamakura of all the weapons, armour and other equipment which they will need for the vendetta. Knowing that he may be linked to the vendetta, Gihei has been preparing by dismissing his staff so that they would not be aware of what he was doing. He has even sent his wife, Osono, to her father's so that she would be out of the way.
 Some of the boatmen discuss the loading of the chests and the weather and, as they go off, Gihei's father-in-law, Ryochiku, comes, demanding a letter of divorce so that he can marry Osono off to another man. Gihei agrees, thinking that his wife has betrayed him.
 After Ryochiku's departure, law officers arrive and accuse Gihei of being in league with Hangan's former retainers. Gihei refuses to allow them to open one of the chests of weapons and armour, even threatening to kill his own son to allay their suspicions. Suddenly Yuranosuke himself appears and confesses that the law officers are, in fact, members of the vendetta and that he sent them to test Gihei's loyalty. He praises Gihei's resolution and commitment to their cause.
 As they all go off to a back room for a celebratory drink of sake, Gihei's wife, Osono arrives, wishing both to return the letter of divorce, which she has stolen from her father, and to see their child.
 Gihei, however, torn between his love for his wife and his duty to Yuranosuke reluctantly forces her to leave. Shut outside, she is attacked in the dark by two men who steal her hair pins and combs and cut off her hair.
 Yuranosuke and his men reappear and, about to depart, place some gifts for Gihei on an open fan. The gifts turn out to be Osono's shorn hair and ornaments. Yuranosuke had his men attack her and cut her hair so that her father would be unable to marry her off. No one would take a wife with hair as short as a nun's. In hundred days, he says, her hair will grow back and she can be reconciled with her husband, Gihei. By then, Yuranosuke and his men will also have achieved their goal. Gihei and Osono, overawed by his kindness, offer their deepest thanks. Yuranosuke and his men depart for their ship.
Act XI - Morono uchiiri no ba (“The Attack on Morono's Mansion”)
DanjuroOboshi Yuranosuke 
       The final act takes place at Morono's mansion on a snowy night. The attack is presented in a series of tachimawari fight scenes before Morono is finally captured and killed.

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