Kabuki Plus

by Abe Satomi

Baiko and Kikugoro styles


There are two acting styles associated with the role of Kasane created by Onoe Baiko VI and Onoe Kikugoro VI. The main differences are the costumes and the main character’s first appearance. In the Baiko style, Kasane wears a light purple long-sleeved kimono with a palace motif and an arrow-patterned obi belt. Her young and elegant costume is in dark contrast with the subsequent tragedy. Yoemon appears with a black chiffon kimono with family crest and a Hakata-style kenjo-patterned obi. In contrast, the Kikugoro Kasane wears a kimono with an arrow pattern, while Yoemon has the triple-square pattern of the Danjuro family. As for Kasane’s entrance, the Baiko school has the couple come in separately on parallel hanamichi (a temporary walkway is set up to the right of the audience) in a visual representation of the lyric, which explicitly refers to them taking two different paths. In the former Kikugoro version, Yoemon runs first down the hanamichi, and Kasane subsequently pursues him. The standard at present is for Yoemon to appear from Stage Left through a grass dune while Kasane comes down the hanamichi.

Folklore tale of Kasane

Among the many stories of Kasane, the most notable is a 1690 preaching book by the monk Yuten (“Story of the Dead Spirit that Achieves Enlightenment”). A mother kills her son Suke, and her child Kasane is born with a resemblance to Suke but having only one eye and one crippled leg. Kasane grows up, only to be killed by her husband Yoemon while she is cropping beans. She becomes a ghost and haunts and kills his subsequent six wives. Kiku, the daughter of the sixth wife, attacks Yoemon, but is exorcised by the powers of the monk Yuten. After this, Suke comes back to haunt Kiku, who is again saved by the monk. This story is believed to be based on an actual incident in the early Edo Period in Hanyu Town in present Ibaragi Prefecture, where Kasane’s grave today rests at a temple. There is also a memorial to Kasane in Yutenji Temple in Tokyo’s Meguro Prefecture.

Kasane stories

The Kabuki adaptation embellishes the legend of Kasane with various folkloric religious stories. In Kabuki, Kasane is a beautiful woman who is possessed by a dead spirit due to some karma and turns into an ugly woman with a disabled eye and leg. Furthermore, she is killed by Yoemon with a sickle due to her jealousy. That subsequently became the standard pattern for Kasane stories.

Couple with age gap


There is an 18-year age gap between Kasane and Yoemon. When Yoemon went by the name Kubota Kingoro, he had an affair with Kiku, the wife of the farmer Suke in the village of Hanyu. When Suke discovers them, the wife stabs him in the eye with a chopstick, and Yoemon slashes his leg with a knife. The lovers then escape. Kiku later dies from illness. At her memorial service, her widower Suke arrives with their daughter, and has a fight with Kingoro. Kingoro murders Suke with a sickle and throws the daughter into the river. Kingoro was around 20 at the time, and the daughter Kasane, who survives the ordeal, is 2. The Kabuki story opens fifteen years later.