The Haunted Sword


Kagotsurube Sato no Eizame

Cherry blossoms and oiran courtesans were called the flowers of Yoshiwara. The homely but innocent Jirozaemon falls for their beauty. When he is mistreated, he turns to the seductive glare of the sword.

The merchant Jirozaemon visits the famous Yoshiwara pleasure district on a trip to Edo. He falls hard for Yatsuhashi, the district’s most beautiful oiran (high-ranking courtesan). Eventually he becomes her patron and is determined to buy her out. However, Yatsuhashi in fact has a secret lover. Torn between the two men, she guiltily rejects Jirozaemon. The heartbroken Jirozaemon leaves quietly but returns later with a famous sword.


by Kaneda Eiichi

Fateful encounter in Yoshiwara

Jirozaemon, a silk merchant from the countryside who has come to Edo on business, visits Yoshiwara with his servant Jiroku at the height of the cherry blossom season. Everything they see is dazzlingly glamorous. They witness the procession of oiran courtesans, which they had only seen in ukiyoe prints. Jirozaemon accidentally bumps into the oiran Yatsuhashi. He is stunned by her indescribable beauty and falls head over heels for her. As she leaves, she turns with a mysterious smile. Jirozaemon’s heart is captured, and he says he does not want to go back to his lodging.

【Left】[from left]Sano Jirozaemon(Nakamura Kichiemon)、Yatsuhashi(Nakamura Fukusuke) September 2006 Kabukiza Theatre 【Center】Yatsuhashi(Onoe Kikunosuke) December 2012 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre 【Right】[from left]Sano Jirozaemon(Nakamura Kichiemon)、Jiroku(Nakamura Matagoro) February 2016 Kabukiza Theatre


Jirozaemon becomes patron, but true story emerges

Jirozaemon is gentle and honest but was born with an ugly face, possibly due to his father’s murderous acts. Nevertheless, he sees Yatsuhashi on every visit to Edo. Because of his respectable manner, he gains the trust of others and is dubbed the “big man from Sano”. Soon he talks of buying her out of her contract with the pleasure house. One day, he visits the shop with his fellow merchants from the countryside and proudly introduces them to Yatsuhashi. What he does not know, however, is that Yatsuhashi has a lover named Shigeyama Einojo. Furthermore, a gangster Gonpachi pretending to be Yatsuhashi’s guardian has been taking money from her clients. Furious when the pleasure house refuses to loan him money, he seeks revenge by telling Einojo that Yatsuhashi is no longer in love with him. This angers Einojo, who tells her that he will cut off all ties unless she breaks up with Jirozaemon.

【Left】[from left]Osaki(Onoe kikusaburo)、Okitsu(Ichimura Manjiro)、Yaezaki(Nakamura Shikimatsu)、Yatsuhashi(Onoe Kikunosuke)、Sano Jirozaemon(Onoe Kikugoro)、Tanbei(Bando Shucho)、Josuke(Kataoka Kamezo) December 2012 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre 【Center】[from left]Tsurigane Gonpachi(Ichikawa Danzo)、Shigeyama Einojo(Bando Mitsugoro) December 2012 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre 【Right】[from left]Yatsuhashi(Bando Tamasaburo)、Shigeyama Einojo(Kataoka Nizaemon)February 2010 Kabukiza Theatre


Yatsuhashi reluctantly breaks up

While Jirozaemon is enjoying the evening at the pleasure house, Yatsuhashi appears and unexpectedly asks to break up, a stark contrast with their intimacy to that point. She claims that she was never keen on being bought out and declines the offer, telling him that she no longer wants him as a client. Jirozaemon can barely speak upon this sudden turn of events. He tries to reason with her, but Yatsuhashi rejects him harshly. She is secretly unhappy at having to break off relations under pressure from Einojo, who is witnessing events from behind the screen.

【Left】[from left]Sano Jirozaemon(Nakamura Kichiemon)、Yatsuhashi(Nakamura Fukusuke) May 2011 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre 【Right】Sano Jirozaemon(Nakamura Kichiemon) May 2011 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre


From joyous reunion to brutal murder

Several months later, Jirozaemon returns to Yoshiwara in evident good spirits. The madam and workers at the pleasure house are delighted that he has returned to his old self. Yatsuhashi appears and apologizes deeply to Jirozaemon. When they are alone together, he calmly offers her sake. She refrains, but his voice suddenly changes. He tells her that this will be her final drink and kills her with a single thrust of his sword. He says simply, “This Kagotsurube sword is very sharp.” Impressed by the sword’s damage, he glares and speaks words of amazement.

【Left】[from left]Yatsuhashi(Onoe Kikunosuke)、Sano Jirozaemon(Onoe Kikugoro)December 2012 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre 【Right】Sano Jirozaemon(Nakamura Kichiemon) February 2016 Kabukiza Theatre