Sogoro the Fishmonger


Sakanaya Sogoro

Kabuki Plus

by Kaneda Eiichi

Dish Mansion vs. New Dish Mansion

“The Dish Mansion” is a popular ghost story where a housemaid breaks a treasured household dish and is killed and thrown into a well. She reappears as a ghost and counts the dishes slowly one by one. In the prologue to this play, Otsuta is blamed for an act, murdered by the master and thrown into a well, but that portion is rarely performed these days. At the premiere, Kikugoro V played the roles of both Otsuta and her brother Sogoro. Most recently, this act was performed at the National Theater in 1989, with Yasosuke (later Mitsugoro X) played the two roles.

Serious and square Sogoro


The highlight of the play and the audience’s biggest delight is Sogoro’s drunkenness. It is important to note that Sogoro is depicted as a serious, diligent and faithful individual. His father and wife are frustrated and urges him to appeal to the lord, but Sogoro responds calmly. Once he learns the truth, however, his sorrow drives the normally abstinent Sogoro to drink. Though he loses control when he drinks, he is not a mere alcoholic. He is depicted in the end as again humble and obedient.

Shiba Katamonzen

Sogoro lives in Shiba Katamonzen, a rather chic name for a town. It is in fact a corner in the vicinity of Zojoji Temple. Nearby is a shrine known as Shiba Daijingu. In this drama, we can hear the voices of a nearby festival at the opening of the second act, but Sogoro’s house alone is quietly in mourning. It is also where Tenzo is captured at the end of the show. This shrine is also featured memorably in Megumi no Kenka. It is at the foot of Tokyo Tower and near the Shinkansen bullet train line, but still has a local atmosphere today.

Shiba fishmonger and Edo character

Sogoro is a fishmonger in Shiba. The sea in nearby Shibaura (Shiba Bay) has an abundance of local fish and a major fish market, so the area had a good many fishmongers. There is another Shiba fishmonger in Kabuki named Masagoro in Shibahama no Kawazaifu (The Leather Wallet of Shiba Shore). The character finds a wallet with a lot of money and celebrates with lots of drinking. Somehow Shiba fishmongers are generally portrayed as big drinkers. As an old saying goes, “Edo people are like the carp of May: they have only mouths and nothing in the gut.” They are argumentative and wild, but also compassionate and dislike injustice. There’s a popular song that goes, “Born in Shiba, raised in Kanda, now working as a firefighter”, representing a typical local Edo commoner.

Chambermaid’s standard attire

Onagi used to serve Otsuta in the mansion. She comes to her home in memory dressed in a typical kimono with arrow pattern with the obi (sash) tied diagonally in the back. The obi is tied left over right when outside the mansion, and right over left when inside. This is to enable easy use of the dagger outside in case it is needed.

Smell of fish


Kikugoro V was reportedly wonderful in the depiction of the drunken fisherman, with audiences saying they could almost smell the alcohol. Others say that he basically smelled like fish. It is impossible to tell how true these legends are. In addition, Sogoro is a fishmonger, but many of the names in the show reflect the sea setting, such as Ohama (shore), Isobe (beach), Urato (cove), Iwagami (atop a rock) and Onagi (wave). This is reminiscent of the well known Sazae-san comic strip, where the characters are similarly named.