This play is a sewa-mono (contemporary, domestic plays) based on a gidayu-kyogen transferred from Ningyo-joruri (Japanese puppet theatre).
It is the story of the love suicide of Chubei—the young master of a family that runs an Osaka delivery service—and the courtesan Umegawa.
Two scenes from the play that are typically performed today are commonly known as ‘Fuinkiri’ and ‘Ninokuchimura’. In the first scene, Chubei, a regular customer of Umegawa’s, takes money entrusted to his family’s delivery company after being provoked by his friend Hachiemon. He ends up using that money to free Umegawa from her service agreement at a teahouse. In ‘Ninokuchimura’, Chubei—now a wanted criminal because he stole the money—visits his family home in Yamato (present-day Nara) with Umegawa, meeting with his father Magoemon one last time.
The highlight of the ‘Fuinkiri’ scene is when Chubei breaks the seal on the package of gold coins. In front of a large group of people at the teahouse, Hachiemon declares that the coins are fake. Losing his temper at the claim, Chubei accidentally breaks the seal on the package of money. The takemoto musicians then play a shamisen at a rapid tempo, and their music effectively expresses Chubei’s deep regret.
This play was primarily performed in Kyoto and Osaka area. The role of Chubei is a typical wagoto—a softer, more realistic style of Kabuki developed in Kyoto and Osaka area. While Chubei is a handsome young man, the role is also performed with considerable humor. In one typical scene, Chubei appears on the hanamichi (walkway) stage and comically declares, “Kajiwara Genda looked just like me!” This is a reference to Kajiwara Genda, a military commander of the Kamakura Period (12th to 14th centuries) famous for his fine looks.