Two Wankyus


Ninin Wankyu

“If we could meet in a dream, I would bring our joyful hearts together and dance.” The dream world of a man driven mad by love.

Wankyu dreams of dancing under the cherry blossoms with his lover, the courtesan Matsuyama, but that illusion proves fleeting. A beautiful pas de deux, full of sweetness and melancholy.


by Abe Satomi

Wandering Wankyu

The stage is an unspecified shore with a large pine tree. A man walks alone along a dimly moonlit road. He is the Osaka merchant Wanya Kyubei, known widely as Wankyu. He has fallen deeply in love with the courtesan Matsuyama and has spent a fortune on her. He is thus disowned by his parents, who shave his hair and throw him into a detention home. Still, his love for Matsuyama drives him crazy, and he escapes from prison and wanders aimlessly. He remembers how he ignored the advice of his parents in his desperation for love, and wishes fervently that he can meet Matsuyama. He dozes off.

Wanya Kyubei(Ichikawa Somegoro) March 2013 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre


Dream of Matsuyama

Matsuyama appears out of nowhere and speaks to Wankyu. We notice that cherry blossoms are now in bloom. Matsuyama reveals that for all her popularity as a courtesan, she is like a bird in a cage and cannot move freely. She laments that she cannot see him as much as she likes. She wears the kimono overcoat that Wankyu used to wear, and gazes at the sleeve as if Wankyu were putting his arm around her.

【Left】Matsuyama(Bando Tamasaburo) December 2014 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】[From above]Matsuyama(Kataoka Takataro)、Wanya Kyubei(Kataoka Nizaemon) February 2005 Kabukiza Theatre


Days of passion

The scene brightens, and the couple reenact their happy memories. They depict their sweet relationship, such as how they used to exchange cups of sake and had little arguments. When Wankyu says he likes the darkness, Matsuyama argues playfully that she prefers a moonlit night. Eventually the couple dance to an emotional piece based on a story of famous lovers from The Tales of Ise.


Climax of dance

As their emotions swell, the beat peaks up in the highlight of the piece. They wave their hands, swap positions and dance rhythmically in a heart-lifting scene. The music includes popular songs of the day and lyrics showing gratitude to the Edo audience. The shamisen melody lightens, and the audience can enjoy the combination of bright dance and music.

【Left】[from left]Matsuyama(Nakamura Jakuemon)、Wanya Kyubei(Nakamura Tomijuro) September 2000 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】[from left]Matsuyama(Nakamura Jakuemon)、Wanya Kyubei(Nakamura Tomijuro) September 2000 Kabukiza Theatre



As they dance joyfully, Matsuyama’s figure fades. Wankyu reaches out and tries to hold her, but he cannot reach her. She disappears. There is only the sound of the wind through the pines, and Wankyu, left alone, falls to the ground in deep sorrow.