Ise Dance and Love’s Dull Blade


Ise Ondo Koi no Netaba

Is this an accident or the work of a magic sword? The good intentions of a woman for her lover goes wrong, leading to an unexpected tragedy. A summer drama resembling unfulfilled love.

Based on a real murder, the story was turned into a suspense drama set around Ise Shrine, Japan’s holiest shrine and a well known spot for pilgrims and tourists in the Edo Period as it is today. The show makes abundant uses of the scenery and symbols of Ise, a dream destination for commoners: the rising sun over the lover’s rocks, the dance of the geishas, the famous “Ise Ondo” melody and more.


by Iizuka Misa

Sunset at Ainoyama

A path on Ainoyama linking the inner and outer gates of Ise Shrine. Imada Manjiro, a son of a senior servant of the Hachisuba household in Awa, comes accompanied by the courtesan Okishi and several maids. He has been ordered to search for a treasured sword, but has been distracted in the pleasure houses of Furuichi. He found the sword at one point but pawned it to pursue his other activities. Ignoring the advice of his servant Rinpei, he spends all day in the pleasure quarters. Catching him off guard, the rogue Tokushima Iwaji switches the sword’s certificate of authenticity with a false one.

【Left】Imada Manjiro(Kataoka Hidetaro) July 2011 Osaka Shochikuza Theatre 【Right】[from left]Kurokami Syurei, actually Ryoan(Ichikawa Kin’ya)、Aidamaya Kitaroku, actually Tokushima Iwaji(Ichikawa Enzaburo)、Rinpei(Nakamura Shido)、Imada Manjiro(Ichikawa Monnosuke) November 2008 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre


Chase in the field

Manjiro’s father has ordered his followers to look for the original certificate, an order that is passed to Fukuoka Mitsugi, a retainer. Mitsugi goes with Manjiro to the home of an acquaintance in Futami Bay. Meanwhile, Rinpei realizes that Manjiro was duped. He discovers two messengers bearing a letter to Iwaji signaling plans for a usurpation of the household, and dashes out into the night to catch them. He manages to snatch the letter, but the portion with the sender and recipient are torn off, remaining in the hands of the messengers.

【Left】[from left]Rinpei(Nakamura Shido)、Fukuoka Mitsugi(Ichikawa Ebizo)、Imada Manjiro(Ichikawa Monnosuke)、Fujinami Sazen(Ichikawa Unosuke) November 2008 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre 【Right】[from left]Sugiyama Daizo(Ichikawa Shinzo)、Rinpei(Nakamura Shido)、Kuwabara Joshiro(Ichikawa Shinjuro) November 2008 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre


Happiness of sunrise

Mitsugi comes to Futami Bay with Manjiro. In the darkness, they run into the messengers running from Rinpei. Mitsugi succeeds in taking back the remaining part of the mission letter, but cannot read the names of the conspirators in the dark. Finally, in the morning light, he puts the letter together with Rinpei’s part, and the entire plot is exposed.

【Left】Rinpei(Kataoka Ainosuke) July 2011 Osaka Shochikuza Theatr 【Right】Fukuoka Mitsugi(Kataoka Nizaemon) July 2011 Osaka Shochikuza Theatr


Destiny of treasured sword

The home of Mitsugi’s stepfather, a priest. His stepbrother Hikodayu is offering a prayer. A courtesan from Furuichi comes to visit Mitsugi just as Hikotayu’s son is trying to seduce Mitsugi’s fiancé Sakaki. Mitsugi’s aunt comes to deliver the treasured sword. She tells them that the grandfather and father lost their lives for it, causing the demise of the Aoe household.


Bullying of Manno in front of shop

A few days later, Manjiro visits the pleasure house. To avoid attention, Okichi tells him to go to a temple. Mitsugi arrives after Manjiro has left, and decides to wait for him there. Manno, a long-serving maid at the shop, enters. She intentionally treats Mitsugi badly and prevents him from meeting his lover Okon. She tells him if he wants to stay there, he’ll have to call another geisha. Mitsugi is totally in love with Okon but accepts Manno’s demand. Manno then tells him he must leave the sword with the shop. Though this is the custom of the pleasure house, Mitsugi cannot hand over the sword to someone he cannot trust. As he hesitates, a cook who used to serve in Mitsugi’s family offers to look after the sword himself as a compromise.

【Left】[from left]Imada Manjiro(Otani Tomoemon)、Okishi(Nakamura Shibajaku) May 2004 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】[from left]Kisuke(Kataoka Nizaemon)、Manno(Bando Tamasaburo)、Fukuoka Mitsugi(Nakamura Kankuro) October 2014 Kabukiza Theatre


Compassion of Oshika

Iwaji is secretly listening to everything. He sneaks in and switches the sword’s handle with another, so that Mitsugi will take the wrong sword. But the cook observes this and, when Iwaji is not there, hands the correct sword to Mitsugi. A geisha named Oshika appears. She is a pleasant sort but not much on looks. She has loved Mitsugi for a long time and reminds him that she once arranged some money for him. But Mitsugi does not remember receiving money and irritatingly calls for Manno.

Oshika(Bando Yajuro) July 2011 Osaka Shochikuza Theatr


Unexpected end of relationship

While Mitsugi and Oshika argue, Manno, an experienced servant, tells a number of lies to embarrass Mitsugi. Okon then appears from the main chamber and blames Mitsugi for his infidelity for calling for Oshika. She breaks up their relationship in front of other customers and courtesans. This development is unexpected. Accused by Oshika and Manno, Mitsugi loses his temper. After the repeated humiliation, he takes the treasured sword from the cook and storms out.

【Left】[from left]Oshika(Sawamura Tanosuke)、Manno(Nakamura Shikan)、Fukuoka Mitsugi(Ichikawa Danjuro) May 2004 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】[from left]Manno(Nakamura Kanzaburo)、Fukuoka Mitsugi(Bando Mitsugoro)、Okishi(Nakamura Shichinosuke) August 2005 Kabukiza Theatre


Swapping of sword

After Mitsugi leaves, Okon pretends to show affection to Iwaji, who has been seducing her. She takes back the certificate. Manno, who has been assisting Iwaji, realizes that Mitsugi left with the real treasured sword and rushes after him. Meanwhile, Mitsugi believes he was given the wrong sword, and argues with Manno about which is which. In the midst of the argument, the scabbard breaks, and Manno is injured by the blade. At the sight of blood, Mitsugi or perhaps the sword itself goes mad. Manno screams. Mitsugi, seeing no alternative solution, kills Manno and waves his sword at Oshika and Iwaji.

Fukuoka Mitsugi(Kataoka Nizaemon) July 2011 Osaka Shochikuza Theatr


Matched pair

The main chamber of the pleasure shop, where the geisha are doing a lively Ise Ondo dance. Mitsugi arrives with the sword and stabs people randomly. His lover Okon chases him and persuades him to stop, and presents him the certificate. The earlier act of separation was a pretense in order to give him the certificate. Mitsugi returns to his senses, but having murdered so many, he cannot live. Just as he is about to kill himself, the chef rushes in. Mitsugi finally realizes that the sword he has in his hand is the actual family treasure. With the sword and certificate both in hand, he decides to register it with the national authority.

【Left】Fukuoka Mitsugi(Kataoka Nizaemon) July 2011 Osaka Shochikuza Theatr 【Right】[from left]Kisuke(Nakamura Baigyoku)、Fukuoka Mitsugi(Kataoka Nizaemon)、Okon(Nakamura Tokizo) April 2006 Osaka Kabukiza Theatre