Shinju Ten no Amijima (Love Suicide of Amijima)


Shinju Ten no Amijima (Love Suicide of Amijima)

Desperate love between a married man and courtesan, whose struggles with duty and money issues lead to tragedy.

The paper merchant Jihei in Osaka is married with two children but has fallen deeply in love with the courtesan Koharu. The couple, bound by circumstances and a sense of duty to society, lose hope for life and resolve to die together in Amijima.


by Mizuochi Kiyoshi

Bustling Shijimi River

The Kitashinchi district is bustling with drunken customers. The courtesan Koharu of the Kinokuniya pleasure house arrives at a teahouse. She had vowed to commit joint suicide with her lover, the paper merchant Jihei, but the rumor about them has spread, and the worried master of the pleasure house has forbidden him entry to prevent further meetings between them. Meanwhile, Jihei’s rival Tahei is planning to buy out Koharu’s contract and take her as his lover. Meeting a samurai customer for the first time, she asks which is more painful: hanging herself or cutting her throat.

【Left】Kinokuniya Koharu(Nakamura Shibajaku) April 2015 Kabukiza Theatre

【Right】[from left]Kawachiya Oshou(Nakamura Tozo)、Koya Magoemon(Ichikawa Danshiro)、Kinokuniya Koharu(Nakamura Tokizo) October 2009 Kabukiza Theatre


Soulless man struggles to walk

Jihei has a wife and two children, but has nevertheless fallen hard for Koharu. With financial troubles and unable to fulfill his duty to his relatives, he has promised Koharu that he would join her in a double suicide. Jihei learns that Koharu is visiting a restaurant in a nearby area. Like a soulless person, he walks unsteadily to the area and spies her from the outside. He cries over her tired look and becomes desperate to let her know that he is there.

Kamiya Jihei(Sakata Tojuro) October 2009 Kabukiza Theatre


Koharu’s sudden change of mind

Koharu returns to the room and faces her client. She confesses that though she has pledged to die with Jihei, she has decided not to follow through when she thinks about her friends and family. She asks the samurai to be her constant client in order to prevent Jihei from visiting. Jihei overhears this and is outraged. He sees a shadow through the paper screen and thrusts his sword in, but the quick-acting samurai grabs his arm. Tahei passes and becomes violent against Jihei. The samurai emerges and restrains Tahei, saving Jihei’s life.


Samurai is Jihei’s brother

The samurai removes his head cloth. Jihei is shocked to see that this is his older brother Magoemon. The brother accuses Jihei of infidelity to his family. He asks if Koharu’s story about breaking up is true. Jihei realizes that he has been deceived by Koharu for three years and asks his brother to retrieve the letters he had exchanged with her. Magoemon steals Koharu’s letter box and finds a letter inside from the paper merchant. Magoemon reads the letter and realizes that Koharu is in fact loyal to Jihei. Saying nothing, he stands and takes Jihei back home.

【Left】[from left]Kamiya Jihei(Nakamura Ganjiro)、Kinokuniya Koharu(Nakamura Jakuemon) October 2005 Kabukiza Theatre

【Center】[from left]Kamiya Jihei(Sakata Tojuro)、Koya Magoemon(Ichikawa Danshiro)、Kinokuniya Koharu(Nakamura Tokizo) October 2009 Kabukiza Theatre

【Right】[from left]Kamiya Jihei(Sakata Tojuro)、Koya Magoemon(Ichikawa Danshiro) October 2009 Kabukiza Theatre


Rumor of Koharu’s release

Ten days after the incident. Jihei’s wife Osan, who is running the business, is yelling at her clerk. Magoemon enters with Osan’s mother (who is also his aunt). Jihei hurriedly pretends to be checking the accounts, but the visitors bring up the rumor that Koharu will soon be bought out and suspect Jihei. Jihei explains that the buyer is not himself but Tahei. Osan produces proof of this fact. The visitors force Jihei to write a separation letter before they leave.

[from left]Osan(Nakamura Jakuemon)、Kamiya Jihei(Nakamura Ganjiro)、Koya Magoemon(Nakamura Tomijuro) January 1996 Kabukiza Theatre


Is demon or snake lying in wife’s heart?

Osan sees her mother and brother-in-law off. When she looks, Jihei is lying on the floor crying. Osan says, “Is it a demon or snake living in your wife’s heart?” and cries that his tears will run into the river only to be drunk by his lover. Jihei claims that it is not the case and that he hates Koharu for allowing herself to be bought by Tahei only ten days after her vows to him. Osan realizes that Koharu is in fact planning to commit suicide.

[from left]Osan(Nakamura Jakuemon)、Kamiya Jihei(Nakamura Ganjiro) January 1996 Kabukiza Theatre


Sense of duty among women

Osan explains that she had sent a letter asking Koharu to break up with Jihei. She says that letting Koharu die would go against her duty as a fellow woman and wants Jihei to buy the courtesan out. She presents her savings and says she will make up the rest by pawning her kimono.


Nanny or cook?

Jihei is relieved to know of Koharu’s feelings, but asks his wife what she is going to do. Osan, hiding her tears, says that she will be a nanny or cook for the children. Jihei says he is afraid of the consequences for his wife and prays for her. Suddenly Osan’s father enters. Overhearing, he berates Jihei and drags Osan away.

[from left]Gozaemon(Bando Kichiya)、Osan(Nakamura Jakuemon)、Kamiya Jihei(Nakamura Ganjiro) January 1996 Kabukiza Theatre


Meeting at Yamatoya for suicide

On the following night, Jihei meets up with Koharu at a teahouse by Chijimi River. He secretly observes Magoemon, who is asking Jihei’s two sons if they have seen their father. Once safe, Jihei and Koharu sneak out of the teahouse and head toward death.

[from left]Kamiya Jihei(Nakamura Ganjiro)、Kinokuniya Koharu(Nakamura Senjaku) January 1996 Kabukiza Theatre


Voyage to death

Guided by the moonlight, the couple pass a number of bridges as they walk along the river. They eventually reach Daichoji Temple at Amijima. The passage describing their journey is entitled “The Many Bridges on the Way to Death”.


Dachoji Temple

To fulfill the duty to Osan, the couple cut off their hair to become monks. As the temple bell rings, Koharu dies at Jihei’s hand, and Jihei then goes to a separate place to hang himself with Koharu’s sash.