Mt Imo and Mt Se: A Tale of Womanly Virtue

妹背山婦女庭訓

Imoseyama Onna Teikin

Destiny of a love born amid political turmoil

The evil Soga no Iruka overthrows the emperor and takes the throne for himself. Fujiwara and his followers, hoping to resurrect the emperor, pretend to serve but wait for their moment to take revenge. The story combines a number of myths and legends from ancient dynasties into a grand Edo romance.

Synopsis

by Iizuka Misa

Whispering bamboo of Komatsubara

Komatsubara overlooking Mt Kasuga in Nara. Koganosuke, the son of Judge Kiyozumi, meets Dazai Shoni’s daughter Hinadori while out. They instantly fall in love. They are too shy even to look at one another, but their servants arrange communications via a bamboo blowgun. Miyakoshi Genba, Soga no Iruka’s retainer, appears. The two families are in dispute over territory and are virtually enemies, and the disappointed Hinadori returns home. Uneme, head of the servants and a favorite of the emperor, escapes from Iruka. Koganosuke, Uneme’s attendant, pretends to drown herself and goes into hiding.

[from left]Hinadori(Nakamura Kaishun)、Koganosuke Kiyofune(Nakamura Baigyoku) June 2007 Kabukiza Theatre

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Presenting flower at Dazai Mansion

The Dazai household is now headed by Sadaka, widow of Shoni. Iruka arrives and orders her daughter Hinadori to become his wife. He also calls Daihanji and demands that his son serve him. He threatens to scatter them like flowers if they do not obey and hands over fully blooming cherry blossoms.

[from left]Soga Iruka(Bando Hikosaburo)、Daihanji Kiyozumi(Matsumoto Koshiro)、Dazai Sadaka(Sakata Tojuro) June 2007 Kabukiza Theatre

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Yoshinogawa between the households

Mt Se in Kii and Mt Imo in Yamato, which stand on each side of Yoshinogawa. It is the height of the cherry blossom season. Contrary to the joyful season, Koganosuke is ordered by Iruka to stay in the villa in Mt Se, while his lover Hinadori is in the villa in Mt Imo, surrounded by the decorative dolls of the Girl’s Festival and depressed at her unfulfilled dreams. The river dividing the homes runs fast. The lovers futilely stretch out their hands but cannot bridge the distance. Their respective families then show up.

【Left】Hinadori(Nakamura Kaishun) June 2007 Kabukiza Theatre
【Right】Koganosuke Kiyofune(Nakamura Baigyoku) June 2007 Kabukiza Theatre

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Selecting husband for Hina

With cherry branch in hand, Daihanji and the widow Sadaka exchange words over the river. Though they say that their households are more important than their children, they want to help. They agree to throw the branches in the river without scattering the petals if they are able to convince their children to obey Iruka. When Sadaka arrives at her house, she persuades her daughter to marry Iruka in order to save Koganosuke’s life. Meanwhile, Daihanji allows his son to commit ritual suicide to prove his loyalty to his master.

【Left】Dazai Sadaka(Sakata Tojuro) June 2007 Kabukiza Theatre
【Right】Daihanji Kiyozumi(Matsumoto Koshiro) June 2007 Kabukiza Theatre

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At least one is rescued

At Mt Imo, Hinadori is staring at a doll whose head has fallen off. Seeing this, Sadaka makes up her mind to behead her daughter to prevent her from obeying Iruka. Unbeknownst to her, Koganosuke has stabbed himself. He asks his father to throw the cherry branch on Yoshino River so that Hinadori will not follow him. When she sees the branch in the river, Hinadori believes her lover is safe and says, “Please be safe for 10,000 years and meet me in the next life.” She prepares her head for her mother to cut off. Sadaka also throws the branch in the river and cuts off her daughter’s head.

[from left]Hinadori(Nakamura Kaishun)、Dazai Sadaka(Sakata Tojuro) June 2007 Kabukiza Theatre

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Dying wishes – baptism

Daihanji and Koganosuke are both relieved to see the cherry branches on the river. But when they hear the cries from the other side, they realize Hinadori has died. Sadaka also finds Koganosuke on the edge of death. They each tried to save the other by dying, but neither was able to save the other.
Sadaka, seeking to unite her daughter and Koganosuke in death, sends a doll’s accessory along with her daughter’s head over the river to the other household. Daihanji receives this with his bow. This is like sending over a grave marker and lantern in a requiem service for the dead. The family dispute is resolved. The bereaved parents bless their children, and Hanji assists his son in terminating his life.

【Left】[from left]Koganosuke Kiyofune(Nakamura Baigyoku)、Daihanji Kiyozumi(Matsumoto Koshiro) June 2007 Kabukiza Theatre
【Right】[from left]Dazai Sadaka(Nakamura Shikan)、Daihanji Kiyozumi(Matsumoto Koshiro) October 1999 Kabukiza Theatre

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Love triumphs

The scene changes to Miwa Village. Omiya, the daughter of a sake shop, is in love with Motome, a former nobleman who moved recently from another village. To pray for success in love, she places red and white ornaments on the bamboo wishing tree for the Tanabata Festival in July. The spinning wheel is used to weave thread. A princess comes to see Motome, who chases after her when she leaves. Omiwa desperately follows them. She catches up with them and begins a fierce battle with the princess. Motome attaches a white thread to the princess’ sleeve, while Omiwa attaches a red thread to Motome. Each follows the thread down the mountain path.

[from left]Princess Tachibana(Nakamura Hirotaro)、Omiwa(Nakamura Fukusuke)、Motome, actually Fujiwara Tankai(Nakamura Hashinosuke) August 1994 Kabukiza Theatre

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Mikasa Palace

At the newly erected palace at Mt Mikasa, commissioned by Iruka, an inappropriately bold fisherman called Fukashiki arrives. Learning that he was sent by the arch-enemy Fujiwara Kamatari, Iruka becomes suspicious. The fearless Fukashichi drinks the sake he brought as a gift. When a spear is thrust menacingly at him, he uses the head as a pillow and falls asleep.

[from left]Soga Iruka(Ichikawa Sadanji)、Fukashichi, actually Kanawa Goro(Ichikawa Danjuro) January 2011 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre

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Return of princess

The princess who had visited Motome returns to the palace. She is in fact Iruka’s sister Tachibana. As the sister of a rebel, she hides her status and secretly seeks Motome. Soon Motome, having followed the thread, arrives as well. He is actually the son of Fujiwara Kamatari, Iruka’s arch-rival, but has disguised himself in order to find the opportunity to attack Iruka. The chambermaids receive them and take them into the back chamber. Omiwa now arrives, intimidated by the splendor of the palace. The chambermaids notice that she is the princess’ love rival and surround her in a large group. Promised that she will be taken to her love, she is forced to follow a palace ritual, sing songs and otherwise abused.

【Left】[from left]Princess Tachibana(Onoe Ukon)、Motome, actually Fujiwara Tankai(Bando Kamesaburo) March 2013 Shinbashi Enbujo
【Center】Omiwa(Nakamura Fukusuke) January 2011 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre
【Right】Omiwa(Nakamura Fukusuke) January 2011 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre

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Jealous flames rescue a lover

When Omiwa realizes she’s being toyed with, she is about to leave disappointedly when she hears voices celebrating the engagement of Motome and Tachibana. Losing her senses and fueled by jealousy, Omiwa furiously tries to rush in. She is then stabbed by Funashichi. He is actually the retainer of Fujiwara Kamatari. He has been looking for the blood of an angry woman, which is needed to defeat Iruka. When she hears she has contributed to Motome’s cause, she dies happily, praying that they can meet again in the next life.

【Left】[from left]Fukashichi, actually Kanawa Goro(Ichikawa Danjuro)、Omiwa(Nakamura Fukusuke) January 2011 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre
【Right】[from left]Fukashichi, actually Kanawa Goro(Onoe Shoroku)、Omiwa(Bando Tamasaburo) January 2012 Le Theatre GINZA

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