INVITATION TO KABUKI Guide to Japanese Traditional Performing Arts KabukiINVITATION TO KABUKI Guide to Japanese Traditional Performing Arts Kabuki

PlaysLeading Plays

Sannin Kichisa Kuruwa no Hatsugai ( The Thieves Named Kichisa )

Sewa-mono / Common name: Sannin Kichisa Tomoe no Shiranami


This play was written by Kawatake Mokuami, a playwright famed for his shiranami-mono (plays featuring thieves as the main characters). It is a tale of the karma of three thieves with the same first name, Kichisa, that involves money 100 ryo in cash and a precious sword called Koshinmaru.

The performance normally begins with a chance meeting in ‘Okawabata’ (By a Koshin Shrine on the Bank of the Sumida River) scene between Osho Kichisa (originally a Buddhist priest), Ojo Kichisa (raised as a woman, and clad in female clothing) and Obo Kichisa (the scion of a direct retainer to the shogun). They pledge to become blood brothers and engage in various crimes. In the final scene of ‘Hongo Hinomi Yagura’ (A Fire Watchtower in the Hongo District), the three Kichisa are pursued for these bad deeds and eventually arrested in the midst of a snowfall.


December 2001
National Theatre, Large Theatre
“Sannin Kichisa Kuruwa no Hatsugai” ‘Okawabata Koshinzuka’ scene
Ojo Kichisa: Ichikawa Somegoro VII (Matsumoto Koshiro X)

The opening of ‘Okawabata’ scene is set around the time of the last day of winter under the old lunar calendar (in early February). Ojo Kichisa has stolen money 100 ryo in cash from a prostitute named Otose. He climbs up onto a post, strikes a dramatic pose and delivers a famous speech in the traditional style of seven-and-five syllable meter.

Style of seven-and-five syllable dialogue usually includes words describing images of the season, a touch was a major specialty of Mokuami. The actor in this role speaks in a song-like pattern.