Invitation to Kabuki - Guidance for Kabuki appreciation
Kabuki repertoire
"Meiboku sendaihagi"
Introduction of work
This is based on the troubles in the Date family of the Sendai clan in the Edo period. It tells the story of Nikki Danjo, the regent for the Ashikaga family in Oshu, who conspires with his younger sister Yashio to take over the Ashikaga family.
The main scenes performed today are: the one commonly called 'Goten,' in which the wet nurse Masaoka protects her young lord Tsuruchiyo from a party of villains by sacrificing her own son; commonly called 'Yukashita' in which Arajishi Otokonosuke who was on guard under the floor of the goten (palace) is overcome by Nikki Danjo's rat magic, then Nikki Danjo calmly escapes; and commonly called 'Taiketsu' and 'Ninjo' in which Nikki Danjo loses his legal case due to the judgment by Hosokawa Katsumoto, and resists but is executed.
Masaoka is the leading role in the 'Goten' scene, and is considered one of the important goten jochu (high-ranking lady-in-waiting in a palace) roles called Katahazushi. Nikki Danjo's role is famous as that of a major villain type called Kunikuzushi (person attempting to take over the country) and shows how fascinating a villain can be.
Nishikie print showing 'Goten' and 'Yukashita' scenes From left, Nikki Danjo, Masaoka, Tsuruchiyo, Semmatsu and Otokonosuke
Distinctive expressions
Kudoki (Lamentation)
Semmatsu, the son of Masaoka, has been following her daily instructions to protect Tsuruchiyo. When Sakae Gozen of Danjo's group brings suspicious confectionery for Tsuruchiyo, Semmatsu grabs it and eats it first. This confectionery contains poison, so Yashio, who does not want this to be known, stabs Semmatsu to death in front of Masaoka. But Masaoka does not show any sign whatsoever of being upset while she holds Tsuruchiyo inside her uchikake (long outer garment) to protect him.
Masaoka first reveals her sorrow at losing Semmatsu, after everyone has gone away, and she is left alone. This scene in which Masaoka says "Dekashatta" (You have done well) to dead Semmatsu and praises Semmatsu's loyalty, is for the audience the best part of the Takemoto recitation, a lament called Kudoki. The highlights of this scene are Masaoka's expression of her true feelings by her musical speech and her gestures perfectly synchronized with the shamisen accompaniment.
In the 'Yukashita' scene, Nikki Danjo appears on the Seri (lift) on the Hanamichi. This particular Seri, called Suppon, is used for entrances and exits by actors playing unreal role such as ninja, apparitions or ghosts. Because Nikki Danjo uses rat magic, he appears from the Suppon. At this time, the lighting in the theater is dimmed, and Danjo is highlighted by old-fashioned lighting device Sashidashi [or Tsura-akari] (candle at the ends of long pole). This type of lighting emphasizes the mysterious feeling surrounding Nikki Danjo.

Nikki Danjo appears from Suppon. Nikki Danjo played by Matsumoto Koshiro 9th, "Meiboku sendaihagi" 'Ashikagake yukashita' scene, November 1998
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