The Oil-Hell Murder


Onna Koroshi Abura no Jigoku


Kawachiya Yohei

Second son of the family running the oil shop Kawachiya in Osaka. He has a reputation as spoiled and uncaring and leads a dissolute life, accompanied by two bodyguards. His mother finally becomes exasperated by his behavior and disowns him. He is moved by the compassion of his parents and tries to change, but when a huge debt comes due, he becomes desperate and presses Okichi, another oil merchant in the neighborhood, to lend him money. When she rebuffs him, he impulsively lashes out, resulting in her death.


The mistress of oil merchant Teshimaya, located across the street from Kawachiya. She is the mother of three children, including an infant. She is the ideal wife: beautiful, cheerful and devoted to her husband. The kindness she shows to Yohei is repaid by her brutal murder.


Yohei’s mother. She is from a samurai family. After the death of her husband, who runs Kawachiya, she marries the head clerk in order to keep the shop and protect her children. She takes a firm stance against Yohei’s misbehavior and ultimately disowns him. However, she secretly worries about him, as seen in the large sum of money she leaves with the Teshimaya shop, where she suspects Yohei will be stopping by.

Kawachiya Tokubei

Owner of Kawachiya. Warm-hearted and dutiful. He had served the previous owner as head clerk and married the widow to succeed the shop. He is reluctant to discipline his stepson, who closely resembles his late father, and lets him have his own way. He agrees with the wife’s decision to disown Yohei after the latter becomes violent, but sneaks to Teshimaya to leave money for him without his wife’s knowledge.

Kawachiya Tahei

The eldest son of Kawachiya, Yohei’s elder brother. He has become independent and has his own shop on a different street. He receives notice from his uncle Moriemon about Yohei’s misconduct on the riverbank, which cost the uncle his job. He quickly relates that to his parents with a warning to disown his brother.


Daughter of Osawa and Tokubei, Yohei’s stepsister. She is due to marry someone and succeed the shop, but is fooled by a scheme hatched by Yohei to inherit the shop himself.

Yamamoto Moriemon

Osawa’s older brother, Yohei’s uncle. He was a samurai serving a lord in Takatsuki Province, but is forced to step down in apology when his nephew’s behavior causes mud to splatter on the lord during a pilgrimage to Nozaki.

Teshimaya Shichizaemon

Owner of Teshimaya, Okichi’s husband. He becomes jealous when he sees Okichi being kind to Yohei. He is an honest merchant, working late to collect debt. Yokichi visits the shop during his absence.


A courtesan in Sonezaki, often portrayed in Kabuki as a geisha. Has a relationship with Yohei. Yohei is angered when he sees her on a pilgrimage to Nozaki with a client and picks a fight with the rival on the riverbank.