Invitation to Kabuki - Guidance for Kabuki appreciation
Kabuki repertoire
"Tokaido yotsuya kaidan"
Introduction of work
This important play, typical of the work of Tsuruya Namboku 4th, its commonly called "Yotsuya kaidan."
This is a ghost story play about the sisters Osode and Oiwa, the daughters of Yotsuya Samon, a ronin (jobless samurai) once employed by the former Enya clan. The story advances mainly by the villainous and cruel actions of Tamiya Iemon, Oiwa's husband.
The 'Moto no iemon rotaku' scene in which Oiwa's looks are destroyed by the poison prepared by Ito Kihe, who wants to have her husband Iemon marry his granddaughter, and in which Oiwa dies cursing Iemon, is particularly famous.
After this the ghost of Oiwa torments Iemon in various scenes, and Oiwa leads Iemon's mother and other people connected with Iemon to their deaths. In the end, Iemon is killed by Sato Yomoshichi, Osode's husband.
Toitagaeshi in the 'Ombobori' scene
Iemon is described as a handsome Nimaime (actor playing a lover's part), although he is an evil man who killed both Yotsuya Samon and Kobotoke Kohei, who had been hired as a servant, and is also involved in the plan to kill Oiwa. Iemon's character is also known as a typical role called Iroaku (handsome bad man).
Also, because the background of this work is "Kanadehon chushingura," it has some connection to the world of "Kanadehon chushingura." Iemon and Oiwa's father Yotsuya Samon are both depicted as ronin, masterless samurai, who used to be employed by the former Enya clan.
Distinctive expressions
Kamisuki (hair combing)
In the 'Moto no iemon rotaku' scene, Oiwa whose face has been disfigured by poison, is coating her teeth with kane (ohaguro [tooth-black]) and combing her hair. This is sublimely sad. When she combs her hair, it falls out to the sound of Dokugin (solo singing) of Geza-ongaku (backstage music/sound effect). The very emotional Dokugin expresses not only Oiwa's resentment but also her sadness at being betrayed. This scene, also called Kamisuki, is the major highlight scene in this play.
Toitagaeshi (flipping over of a wooden door)
This work employs various mechanisms designed to show Oiwa who has become a ghost. The prop mechanism called Toitagaeshi is used in the 'Ombobori' scene.
A wooden door floats down in front of Iemon who is fishing in the Ombobori moat. The corpse of Kohei, whom Iemon murdered, and the corpse of Oiwa, are nailed onto the front and back sides of the door. The mechanism allows a single actor to portray both corpses. The costumes for the two characters are attached to the front and back of the door, and a hole is made in the door so that only the actor's face shows. Therefore, an instantaneous change of roles can be done when the door is flipped back.
Many other mechanisms such as "Chochin nuke" in which the ghost of Oiwa appears from a burning chochin (paper lantern) and "Butsudan gaeshi," pulling someone into a butsudan (Buddhist altar) are used in the 'Hebiyama anjitsu' scene.
Dammari ("in the dark" pantomime)
Near the Makugire (end of act) of 'Ombobori' scene, Iemon, Naosuke Gombe, Yomoshichi, and others are groping for each other without a word in the dark. The letter Yomoshichi drops is picked up by Naosuke, and Naosuke's unagi-kaki (eel rake) ends up with Yomoshichi.
This special type of Kabuki scene in which actors playing various roles are groping for each other "in the dark" is called Dammari.
• To download nishikie for use as a postcard. This postcard is written in Japanese.
Postcard download PDF: 3.4MB
"Adobe Reader" is needed for viewing PDF files.
Download from left icon
[Download method]
•Windows users
right click the Download button, and select "Save subject to file" from the menu.
•Macintosh users
"Control+click" the Download button, and select "Download link to disk."