Sukeroku: Flower of Edo

助六由縁江戸桜

Sukeroku Yukari no Edozakura

Edo’s most famous dandy and most beautiful courtesan

Sukeroku, a renowned dandy in Edo, is an enfant terrible who is popular in the Yoshiwara pleasure quarters but prone to picking fights. His lover, the glittering courtesan Agemaki, is equally feisty and no pushover for her admirers. The show is a virtual parade of charismatic characters on the glamorous stage of Yoshiwara.

Synopsis

by Iizuka Misa

Opening speech

At the play’s opening, an actor in formal wear greets the audience and calls for the play to begin. Behind the bamboo screen, we can hear the shamisen music after a vocal signal, marking the beginning of the story.

Kojo(Matsumoto Koshiro) June 2013 Kabukiza Theatre

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The flower of Yoshiwara

Young courtesans line up at Miuraya, the biggest teahouse in Edo’s Yoshiwara pleasure quarters, in wait of the celebrated head courtesan Agemaki. She is led in by a lantern carrier and accompanied by a large and an impressive array of servants and others. She walks in an unsteady pattern as if tipsy.

Agemaki(Bando Tamasaburo) April 2010 Kabukiza Theatre

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Repeated bad-mouthing

Agemaki receives a letter from Sukeroku’s mother, which puts her deeply in thought. Then a rich older client called Ikyu the Beard appears with the courtesan Shiratama. He is desperate to win the attention of the famous Agemaki.
Ikyu has a reputation in the district for being uncouth and ill mannered. He bad-mouths Sukeroku in front of Agemaki, who angrily slams him for his insolence. The gentle Shiratama intervenes but is unable to cool Agemaki’s fury, and the two courtesans go into the shop.

【Left】Shiratama(Nakamura Fukusuke) April 2010 Kabukiza Theatre
【Center】[from left]Sanya Yakichi(Otani Keizo)、Ikyu the Beard(Ichikawa Sadanji) January 2008  Kabukiza Theatre
【Right】Agemaki(Bando Tamasaburo) December 2009  Kyoto Minamiza Theatre

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Sukeroku’s entrance

To the sound of a shakuhachi flute, Sukeroku bounds onto the hanamichi. Handsome and flamboyant, he wears a purple headband and carries an umbrella. All the courtesans run to him and offer him tobacco pipes. Ikyu is ignored, which raises his ire. Sukeroku deliberately tries to provoke Ikyu, calling him a snake who shamelessly chases women in vain.

【Left】Hanakawado Sukeroku (actually Soga Goro)(Ichikawa Danjuro) April 2010 Kabukiza Theatre
【Right】Hanakawado Sukeroku (actually Soga Goro)(Ichikawa Danjuro) April 2010 Kabukiza Theatre

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Fights and Sukeroku’s speech

The hated Kampera Monpei emerges from the house in anger. He threatens to pull his sword and kill a passing noodle shop delivery boy who has bumped into him. Sukeroku, as if to encourage the fight, jumps in and throw noodles onto Monpei. Sukeroku then challenges Ikyu and his entire group, proclaiming himself the hero of the town and Agemaki’s true love in a famous speech. Ikyu, however, refrains from responding.

【Left】Kanpera Monbei(Nakamura Kichiemon) June 2013 Kabukiza Theatre
【Center1】[from left]Fukuyama Katsugi(Onoe Kikunosuke)、Kanpera Monbei(Nakamura Kichiemon) June 2013 Kabukiza Theatre
【Center2】Asagao Senpei(Nakamura Matagoro) June 2013 Kabukiza Theatre
【Right】[from left]Hanakawado Sukeroku (actually Soga Goro)(Ichikawa Ebizo)、Ikyu the Beard(Ichikawa Sadanji) June 2013 Kabukiza Theatre

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Sukeroku’s brother and mother

Everyone goes into the house except the confrontational Sukeroku and a gentle-looking sake seller. Sukeroku discovers that this is his older brother Juro – that is, Sukeroku is actually Soga Goro, who is seeking with his brother to avenge their father’s death. He confides to his brother that he is trying to provoke people to draw their swords so that he can identify the treasured sword stolen from their family. Juro promises to join him in the search, and Sukeroku teaches him how to provoke an argument by demanding that passing samurai crawl under his legs.
Agemaki is heard saying goodbye to a customer. When Sukeroku grabs the customer, assuming it is a samurai, he is surprised to find that it is his mother. She has come in concern over her son’s future. She hands him a fragile paper kimono, encouraging him not to fight and to come home with his older brother.

【Left】Shinbei the sake merchant (actually Soga Juro)(Onoe Kikugoro) April 2010 Kabukiza Theatre
【Center1】[from left]Shinbei the sake merchant (actually Soga Juro)(Onoe Kikugoro)、Hanakawado Sukeroku (actually Soga Goro)(Ichikawa Ebizo) June 2013 Kabukiza Theatre
【Center2】[from left]Hanakawado Sukeroku (actually Soga Goro)(Ichikawa Danjuro)、Tsujin Rigyo(Nakamura Kanzaburo) April 2010 Kabukiza Theatre
【Center3】[from left]Shinbei the sake merchant (actually Soga Juro)(Onoe Kikugoro)、Hanakawado Sukeroku (actually Soga Goro)(Ichikawa Danjuro)、Soga Manko(Nakamura Tozo)、Agemaki(Bando Tamasaburo) April 2010 Kabukiza Theatre
【Right】[from left]Soga Manko(Nakamura Tozo)、Shinbei the sake merchant (actually Soga Juro)(Onoe Kikugoro) April 2010 Kabukiza Theatre

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Discovery of treasured sword

Ikyu returns in hopes of luring Agemaki. Sukeroku hides under her kimono, but bursts out when Ikyu speaks ill of him. Ikyu tries to persuade Sukeroku and his brother to work with him to avenge their father’s death. He demonstrates by absent-mindedly taking out his sword and cutting the base of an incense burner. Sukeroku notes that this is the very sword he has been seeking. He wants to take instant action, but Agemaki convinces him to wait until Ikyu prepares to take his leave.

[from left]Hanakawado Sukeroku (actually Soga Goro)(Ichikawa Ebizo)、Agemaki(Nakamura Fukusuke)、Ikyu the Beard(Nakamura Karoku) May 2010 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre

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