The Treasury of Loyal Retainers


Kanadehon Chushingura

Kabuki’s greatest work

Chushingura is a monumental work, one of the three plays (along with Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy and Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees) considered the pinnacle of puppet-based Kabuki drama. It is ultimately a story of revenge but goes well beyond the realm of that genre, portraying a series of momentous incidents triggered by the sexual conceit of a cunning villain and encompassing masters and retainers, husbands and wives, parents and children, and brothers and sisters. Kabuki’s greatest actors have honed their craft on these roles for countless audiences over the years. A beautiful and grand masterpiece.


Prologue: Helmet authentication at Tsurugaoka Shrine

Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine, Kamakura, February 1338. Enya Hangan’s wife is called in to authenticate a special helmet dedicated by the shogun. Ko no Moronao, a senior government adviser, tries to seduce her. Momonoi Wakasanosuke intervenes, allowing the woman to escape. As tempers flair, Wakasanosuke pulls out his sword and is about to attack when he is stopped by Hangan.

【Left】Opening November 2009 Kabukiza Theatre 【Center】[from left]Kaoyo gozen(Nakamura Kaishun)、Ko no Moronao(Nakamura Tomijuro)February 2007 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】[from left]Momonoi Wakasanosuke(Nakamura Baigyoku)、Enya Hangan(Nakamura Kanzaburo)、Ko no Moronao(Nakamura Tomijuro) November 2009 Kabukiza Theatre


Act III: Bribery and Bloodshed

Wakasanosuke reveals to his senior adviser Kakogawa Honzo his determination to kill Moronao. Honzo, hoping to avert trouble, secretly convinces Moronao to apologize in exchange for a hefty bribe. Nevertheless, Moronao, still humiliated by the rejection of Hangan’s wife, directs his anger toward Hangan. The escalation of abusive words becomes too much even for the mild-hearted Hangan, and he attacks Moronao with his sword. The mere brandishing of a sword within the shogun’s palace is punishable by ritual suicide and the disbandment of the perpetrator’s household. Honzo tries to stop Hangan, thus preventing him from making the fatal thrust, but Hangan is captured nonetheless.

【Left】[from left]Kakogawa Honzo(Onoe Kikujuro)、Sagisaka Bannai(Bando Kitsutaro) November 2009 Kabukiza Theatre 【Center】[from left]Sagisaka Bannai(Bando Kitsutaro)、Momonoi Wakasanosuke(Nakamura Baigyoku)、Ko no Moronao(Nakamura Tomijuro) November 2009 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】[from left]Enya Hangan(Nakamura Kanzaburo)、Ko no Moronao(Nakamura Tomijuro) November 2009 Kabukiza Theatre


Act IV: Hangan’s Ritual Suicide

Hangan, ordered to die, accepts the ruling solemnly. He shares his regrets with his senior adviser Oboshi Yuranosuke just before killing himself. He leaves the dagger as a farewell gift. Yuranosuke is determined to avenge his master by killing Moronao. The impatient younger retainers, left without a household to serve, want to act immediately, but Yuranosuke urges them to bide their time and leave quietly.

【Left】[from left]Enya Hangan(Nakamura Kanzaburo)、Ishido Umanojo(Kataoka Nizaemon)、Yakushiji Jirozaemon(Ichikawa Danshiro) November 2009 Kabukiza Theatre 【Center1】[from left]Oboshi Yuranosuke(Matsumoto Koshiro)、Enya Hangan(Nakamura Kanzaburo) November 2009 Kabukiza Theatre 【Center2】[from left]Hara Goemon(Otani Tomoemon)、Oboshi Yuranosuke(Matsumoto Koshiro)、Ono Kudayu(Matsumoto Kingo) November 2009 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】Oboshi Yuranosuke(Matsumoto Koshiro) November 2009 Kabukiza Theatre


Love journey

Kanpei, who was supposed to be accompanying Hangan, had slipped away to be with his lover Okaru when the incident occurred in the palace. Thus, he was not present at his master’s life-changing event. Mortified at his poor judgment, he resolves to commit suicide in atonement, but Okaru begs him to reconsider. They escape to Okaru’s family home in Kyoto.

[from left]Okaru(Nakamura Tokizo)、Hayano Kanpei(Onoe Kikugoro) November 2009 Kabukiza Theatre


Act V: The Killings on Yamazaki Highway

Kanpei has become a hunter. He has learned that he needs to contribute to the war chest in order to participate in the revenge but is unable to do so with his humble lifestyle. Unbeknownst to him, his wife Okaru has sold herself to a pleasure house in Kyoto in order to raise the money. Her father has received half the money as a deposit and is rushing home with it on a rainy night. Suddenly he is attacked by a ruffian, Sadakuro, who kills him and steals his wallet. Then a shot rings out, and Sadakuro collapses. Kanpei, who has been hunting a boar in the area, emerges. He is shocked to discover that he has shot a person by mistake. As he tries frantically to revive the man, he discovers the wallet. Torn between guilt and his desperate need for the money, and unable to examine the body in the dark, he ultimately removes the wallet and runs to donate the money to the cause.

【Left】Hayano Kanpei(Onoe Kikugoro) November 2009 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】Ono Sadakuro(Nakamura Baigyoku) November 2009 Kabukiza Theatre


Act VI: Kanpei’s Suicide

When Kanpei returns the following day, the proprietress from the pleasure house is there to take Okaru away. Kanpei learns only then that his wife has sold herself. Furthermore, the proprietress has brought the other half of the money in a wallet similar to the one Kanpei stole the previous day, making him think to his horror that the man he killed was Okaru’s father. After Okaru is taken away, his fellow hunters bring her father’s dead body. By coincidence, Kanpei is visited by some of the retainers. They have come to return the money, suspecting that it might have been stolen. Kanpei confesses his agony and thrusts a dagger into his stomach. Moved by his self-sacrifice, they examine the corpse. They discover that the wound was made not by a bullet but a knife, proving that Kanpei was not the killer. The disgrace is cleared, and Kanpei is grateful to see his name added to the member’s list for the revenge. He dies in the arms of his mother-in-law.

【Left】[from left]Hayano Kanpei(Onoe Kikugoro)、Genroku(Ichikawa Sadanji)、Okaru(Nakamura Tokizo)、Ichimonjiya Osai(Nakamura Shikan) November 2009 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】[from left]Hayano Kanpei(Onoe Kikugoro)、Okaya(Nakamura Tozo) November 2009 Kabukiza Theatre


Act VII: Ichiriki Tea House in Gion

The Ichiriki Tea House, the popular pleasure house in Kyoto’s Gion district in which Okaru is now working. Yuranosuke has been drinking and carousing every night, a ploy to convince Moronao that he has forgotten all about the revenge. In his caution, he pointedly ignores Okaru’s brother Heiemon, an ally, when he comes to join the revenge. Meanwhile, Enya’s former adviser Ono Kudayu, now working for the Moronao camp, is suspicious. He hides under the floor to keep an eye on events. When Yuranosuke is alone, he begins to read a secret letter. As he unwinds the scroll, Kudaya secretly reads from below. Yuranosuke then notices Okaru in an adjacent room looking at herself in a mirror, and realizes that she has seen the letter. He calls her to his room, saying to her delight that he will buy her out of the contract. When he goes in the back to pay the money, her brother enters. He realizes that Yuranosuke actually intends to kill his sister to prevent the revenge scheme from being leaked. The brother asks the sister to allow him to kill her himself so that he can join the revenge through his service. Okaru agrees, and he is about to carry though when Yuranosuke steps in. He has observed everything and praises them. He allows Heiemon to join the revenge. He hands a sword to Okaru and guides her hand to thrust the sword through the floor, killing the enemy underneath. By letting her kill the traitor, Yuranosuke helps Okaru achieve credit on behalf of her late husband Kanpei.

【Left】[from left]Oboshi Yuranosuke(Kataoka Nizaemon)、Okaru(Nakamura Fukusuke) November 2009 Kabukiza Theatre 【Center】[from left]Okaru(Bando Tamasaburo)、Teraoka Heiemon(Kataoka Nizaemon)February 2007 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】[from left]Teraoka Heiemon(Kataoka Nizaemon)、Okaru(Bando Tamasaburo)、Oboshi Yuranosuke(Nakamura Kichiemon) February 2007 Kabukiza Theatre


Act VIII: Bride’s Journey

A dance interlude. It is late autumn, and the maple leaves are beautiful. Honzo’s daughter Konami is traveling with her stepmother Tomase on the Tokaido Highway to join her intended, Yuranosuke’s son Rikiya, in Kyoto. On the peak, with a view of Mt Fuji in the clear autumn sky, Konami’s heart is shaken by the coincidental passage of a bride. Tomase feels a duty to help her stepdaughter realize her wish. They rush ahead. They cross the river by boat, pass over several mountains and approach the end of their long journey as the autumn deepens.

【Left】Tonase(Nakamura Shikan) December 2003 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】Konami(Nakamura Fukusuke) December 2003 Kabukiza Theatre


Act IX: Quiet Interlude in Yamashina

Yuranosuke returns to his dilapidated house in Yamashina on a snowy morning, seen off by the head maid of the Ichiriki Tea House. On the way, he makes snowballs on a lark and tells Rikiya to put them in the garden, then goes inside. (This section is not normally performed because of time constraints.) Honzo’s wife and daughter arrive seeking Rikiya. But Yuranosuke’s wife Oishi rejects the marriage to her son. Tonase and Konami resolve to die. When Tonase raises a sword to kill her daughter, they hear the sound of a shakuhachi flute played by a passing monk. Oishi stops Tonase. She explains that it was Honzo’s intervention that prevented Enya Hangan from killing Moronao, thus prompting the tragedy. She will allow the daughter to marry Rikiya but, to their shock, demands Honzo’s head in exchange. The monk then appears, and reveals himself to be Honzo, who lashes out severely at Yuranosuke. This spurs Rikiya to jump out and stab him with a lance in defense of his father’s honor. Yuranosuke appears, realizing that Honzo has in fact intentionally gotten himself killed. He allows Rikiya and Konami to marry. He reveals a five-tower pagoda that he has made of snow, symbolizing a grave – a sign that he intends to achieve the revenge and die as well. The dying Honzo is overjoyed at the turn of events and hands over the floor plans of Moronao’s home before he passes on to the next world.

【Left】[from left]Konami(Nakamura Fukusuke)、Tonase(Sakata Tojuro) March 2012  Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre 【Center】[from left]Kakogawa Honzo(Matsumoto Koshiro)、Oishi(Nakamura Kaishun)January 2014 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】[from left]Oboshi Rikiya(Ichikawa Somegoro)、Konami(Nakamura Fukusuke)、Kakogawa Honzo(Matsumoto Koshiro)、Tonase(Sakata Tojuro)、Oboshi Yuranosuke(Onoe Kikugoro)、Oishi(Nakamura Tokizo) March 2012  Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre


Act XI: Revenge

After many troubles and tragedies, the day of reckoning arrives. Enya’s retainers gather in front of Moronao’s residence. They yell their names as they crash into the house in search of Moronao. After a severe battle, the warriors find Moronao hiding in a small warehouse for charcoals. Yuranosuke beheads the enemy with the dagger used by his master Enya Hangan to commit suicide. Having achieved their mission, the warriors shout, “Victory!” They cross Ryogoku Bridge to present their head at their master’s grave.

【Left】Opening November 2009 Kabukiza Theatre 【Center】[from left]Takenomori Kitahachi(Nakamura Kinnosuke)、Kobayashi Heihachiro(Nakamura Kasho) November 2009 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】[from left]Oboshi Yuranosuke(Kataoka Nizaemon)、Hattori Ituro(Nakamura Baigyoku) November 2009 Kabukiza Theatre