Message from Danjuro Profile NARITAYA Compendium Links
The 64th

November 2009 Kabuki Performance

at : The National Theatre Tokyo - Large Theatre
2009.11.03 - 2009.11.26
Uiro Uri (“The Medicine Peddler”)
DanjuroSoga no Goro Tokimune 
      First performed by Ichikawa Danjuro II in 1716.
      Kabuki Juhachiban – One of the "Eighteen favourite plays" of the Ichikawa acting line.
      Traditionally some Kabuki plays are set in so-called sekai or worlds, taking as their themes stories from Japan's real or legendary past. Uiro Uri – "The Medicine Peddler" is set in the world of the famous story of the Soga brothers, the main source of which was the Soga Monogatari – "The Tale of the Soga Brothers", written in Japan around the fourteenth century.
The incident which led to the tale took place in 1193, soon after the establishment of the shogunate in Kamakura after the destructive civil war between the rival clans, the Heike and the Genji, who emerged as the victors. Soga no Juro Sukenari and his younger brother Soga no Goro Tokimune waited eighteen years to carry out a vendetta on the high-ranking lord, Kudo Suketsune to avenge their father who had been killed by Kudo's men. They carried out their vendetta during a hunting party arranged by Kudo for the Shogun at the foot of Mt. Fuji. Juro was, however, killed in the attack and Goro later executed. Their deed became legendary and they were even revered as demigods.  
      A group of footmen speak of the good fortune of their lord, Kudo Suketsune. He has been placed in charged of a great hunt, to be held here, in the countryside near Mt. Fuji. - an honour bestowed upon him by the shogun.
The temporary curtain drops to reveal Suketsune and his retinue. They are in celebratory mood because of the honour shown to their lord. Suketsune quotes an auspicious poem which reflects the rise in his status. "Morning sun shines down. Fading away the clouds of white. The mists of spring part. The view before us is splendid indeed."
       The samurai Asahina hopes that the hunting party will be successful and says how pleased he is that Suketsune has been honoured in this way.
      The female warrior, Maizuru says that even the mountains seem to smile on them as the flowers bloom in spring time.
      Two courtesans also attend Suketsune. They are, in fact, the secret lovers of Juro and Goro.
      They insist that Suketsune assume the place of honour on the raised dais.
      Just then they hear the voice of a peddler selling uiro – a Chinese medicine, particularly good for the stomach and throat. They are interested in this peddler as these vendors were famous for their fast-talking sales patter and so they decide to call him. In fact, the peddler is the younger of the two brothers, Soga no Goro, in disguise.
      They wish to hear his tongue-twisting sales patter.  
      He says that between the city of old Edo and the Kamigata region of Kyoto and Osaka, Uiro, is produced here in Odawara. The singers tell of the origins of the famous medicine, Uiro and how it was first imported from China.
      One tablet of the drug is to be placed beneath the tongue. When it enters the stomach it will cure all manner of ailments and especially make the throat feel smooth and refreshed. It can be taken with all fish, fowl or mushrooms and he concludes that this medicine is like a blessing from heaven.
       The speed of the tongue-twisters will be faster than a wheel rolling down a mountain path – even faster than a spinning top – with the energy of a barefoot man running for his life.
He says that his tongue too is beginning to roll along and that he is now ready to start his speech which begins with a series of syllabic games. This tongue-twisting speech, for which the whole audience has been waiting, is one of the longest and most complex in Kabuki. It is a mark of the actor's skill to deliver it with speed and clarity.
      A comic retainer of Suketsune's praises the peddler's whirling tongue, asking how he manages such a difficult speech. Such a skill would surely impress the women, he says, and so he too would like to try. The peddler offers him one of the tablets but he fails miserably.
       Suddenly the peddler, who is clearly not who he seems, makes to confront Suketsune.
As the singers tell of the produce of Odawara and of a samurai lord's process through the town, the peddler disappears from view in order for the actor to change his costume and wig. While this takes place the courtesans and Maizuru dance.
      Soga no Goro reappears, having thrown off his disguise. He calls on Suketsune to give himself up. Eighteen years he has waited for this moment and this good fortune is like witnessing the bloom of the Udonge flower which only blooms once in three thousand years.
      They call on the footmen to attack this uncouth brat and a stylised Kabuki fight known as a tachimawari begins.
      Suketsune orders them to desist, realising that this must be the child of the man he killed eighteen years ago.
      Asahina warns Goro not to be so impatient in trying to act alone. He should wait for his brother and so, together, they can formally declare their vendetta.
      Telling Goro that he and his brother must honour their parents and act in accordance with the law, Suketsune tosses him a wooden pass of the hunting ground. By this act, Suketsune signifies that he is giving them the opportunity to find him and, if they can, carry out their vendetta at the time of the hunt. For now they agree to part and meet again at the hunting ground.
Keisei Hangon Ko (“Shogen Villa Scene”)
DanjuroMatahei, later Tosa  Mitsuoki 
      It was written by the great playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon and first staged as a puppet play in 1708. Part of a much longer play, the "Shogen Villa Scene" is often performed independently.
      The scene depicts a struggling artist named Matahei who, because of his stutter, is unable to receive a professional name from his master. In contrast to her husband who has a speech impediment, his wife Otoku is a talkative woman and the role is famous as one of the three most difficult nyobo or "wife roles" in Kabuki.

      Matahei is an impoverished artist who is one of the disciples of the former court artist Tosa Mitsunobu, or Tosa Shogen. He is hoping to receive a Tosa professional name from his master but his request has been refused. He comes again with his wife Otoku to meet his master.
      Meanwhile, a group of peasants come to Shogen's villa armed with bamboo spears, saying that there is a tiger loose in the area. Obviously there are no tigers in Japan, and Shogen refuses to believe them.
      However, they find a tiger in a nearby bamboo grove. Shogen inspects it carefully and announces that it is not an ordinary tiger, but the product of an artist of the Tosa School.
Actually, the tiger has been painted by Tosa Motonobu, who has been accused by his rival of plotting against the house which he was serving. He had painted a tiger with his own blood, and the painting was such a masterpiece that the tiger came to life and walked out of the picture to help Motonobu and his lover Ichinomae to make their escape from their enemies.
      Unaware of Motonobu's circumstances, Shogen orders his young disciple, Shurinosuke to "erase" the tiger with his brush. Shurinosuke succeeds and the tiger disappears. Shogen awards him the name of Tosa Mitsuzumi.
      Matahei is chagrined at the younger disciple but his master insists that Shurinosuke has proven his ability as an artist while Matahei has yet to do so.
      A young artist of the Kano school named Utanosuke comes running in to inform Shogen that Motonobu and Ichinomae have escaped from the master's mansion, and are in need of help. Utanosuke himself will hurry to Motonobu's aid, but he asks Shogen to send someone else to rescue Ichinomae. Shogen orders Shurinosuke to go and Matahei is forced to bear the humiliation of seeing the younger disciple being favoured yet again. He begs Shurinosuke to allow him to go but Shogen forces him to give up the idea.
      Matahei and his wife realize that there is no chance of him being granted the Tosa name. Otoku tells her husband that there is no choice left for them but death. She is willing to accompany him to the other world, but before they take their lives, she wants him to draw a picture of himself on the side of a stone water basin in the garden as a memorial.
      As Matahei begins to draw on the side of the water basin, the strokes of his brush begin to penetrate through the stone to the other side. When they notice that his drawing has appeared on the opposite side of the basin they are struck dumb with amazement.
      Shogen has been observing this from inside the house and comes out to praise Matahei for his accomplishment. This feat was the result of Matahei's artistic passion and so, as a reward, he confers on him the name of Tosa Mitsuoki.
      Having been finally recognized as a Tosa artist, Shogen dispatches Matahei to rescue Ichinomae. Matahei changes into a formal costume more suited to his new name and, first performing a dance of joy, rushes off on his mission.
Otsue Dojoji

NARITAYA Japanese Home Site map