Sumidagawa Gonichi no Omokage : Hokaibo

A lovable villain blending evil and winsomeness, a roguish but engagingly free spirit who ends up indeed a spirit. Hokaibo has retained his strange popularity for over two centuries.

The monk Hokaibo remains a vital presence on stage today, full as always of lust and desire. He steals a treasured object at the heart of a household succession dispute, seduces an innocent young woman and blithely takes part in kidnapping and murder. He is eventually killed but returns as an androgynous ghost to haunt the living. This is a black comedy with a slapstick touch, but the portrayal of the lovable villain living to the fullest has made him an audience favorite.


by Kaneda Eiichi

Daishichi Restaurant in Mukojima

A riverside restaurant called Daishichi in the waterfront resort of Mukojima in Edo. A local officer Ushijima Daizo promises a reward for a stolen scroll depicting a carp. The Yoshidas, a noble family in Kyoto, had received the scroll from the imperial family but lost it, leading to the termination of their household. Oraku, the widowed manager of the Eirakuya antique store, enters with her daughter Okumi and clerk Yosuke. The clerk is in fact Matsuwaka, the head of the Yoshida household, who has come to Edo in disguise in search of the scroll. He is being protected by Oraku, who has debts to the Yoshida family. She offers to buy the scroll back from Gen’emon, its current owner, for 100 ryo in exchange for her daughter’s hand in marriage to his son. However, Okumi is in love with Yosuke (not aware of his true identity) and is not keen on this arranged marriage. Then Hokaibo appears. He is an unruly monk obsessed with sex and money who has come ostensibly seeking donations to construct a bell tower.

【Left】Hokaibo(Nakamura Kanzaburo) November 2008 Heisei Nakamuraza Theatre 【Right】[from left]Yosuke(Nakamura Kinnosuke)、Cyota(Nakamura Tamataro)、Hokaibo(Nakamura Kichiemon)、Okumi(Nakamura Shibajaku)、Eirakuya Oraku(Kataoka Hidetaro) September 2014 Kabukiza Theatre


Fiancée arrives from Kyoto

Princess Nowake, who is engaged to Matsuwaka, arrives in Edo after a long journey from Kyoto. She meets her fiancée in a private room in the restaurant. Okumi witnesses their rendezvous and becomes jealous. Meanwhile, Hokaibo is highly taken by Okumi. He stalks her and writes her love letters. Okumi has also attracted the attention of the shop’s head clerk Chokuro, who tries to win her as well.

[from left]Iohei(Nakamura Hayato)、Princess Nowake(Nakamura Tanenosuke)、Yosuke(Nakamura Kinnosuke) September 2014 Kabukiza Theatre


Precious scroll winds up with Hokaibo

Gen’emon brings the scroll and hands it to Yosuke. Okumi, upset by Yosuke’s meeting with the princess, reveals her love to him by passing him a love letter, which he throws aside. Hokaibo slips in while they are fighting and exchanges the precious scroll for another featuring a picture of a temple bell. He also picks up the love letter. Gen’emon, knowing nothing of Hokaibo’s deeds, returns and secretly exchanges what he believes to be the treasured scroll for another that happens to be in the room. He complains that Yosuke is trying to interfere with the marriage of his son and Okumi. The antique merchant Jinza, a former servant of the Yoshida family, appears. Hokaibo has given him Okumi’s letter as proof of Yosuke’s ill intentions, but the letter that Jinza reads out is in fact one of Hokaibo’s own love letters to Okumi. Hokaibo is humiliated and Yosuke exonerated.

【Left】[from left]Yosuke(Nakamura Kinnosuke)、Hokaibo(Nakamura Kichiemon)、Okumi(Nakamura Shibajaku) September 2014 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】[from left]Yosuke(Nakamura Kinnosuke)、Hokaibo(Nakamura Kichiemon)、Cyota(Nakamura Tamataro)、Doguya Jinza(Nakamura Tomijuro)、Eirakuya Oraku(Nakamura Kichinojo) May 2007 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre


Torn scroll leads to murder

Late at night at a shrine in Mukojima. Chokuro abducts Okumi and starts to take her away in a palanquin. This is witnessed by Hokaibo, who kidnaps her back and pushes her into a trunk. Gen’emon then drags Yosuke out and beats him. He tears up the precious scroll in front of him. Yosuke, unable to contain his rage at this act, kills Gen’emon on the spot. He starts to commit suicide but is saved when Jinza happens by. It becomes clear that the torn scroll was a fake substitute for the real thing. Okumi is rescued from the trunk, and the couple leave the scene with Jinza’s assistance.

[from left]Yosuke(Nakamura Kinnosuke)、Doguya Jinza(Kataoka Nizaemon) September 2014 Kabukiza Theatre


Brutal murder, deep resentment

Banks of the Sumida River. A sudden burst of thunder causes Okumi, Princess Nowake and Yosuke to lose consciousness. Hokaibo finds them. He ties up Yosuke and tries to seduce Princess Nowake. When she resists, he murders her, saying that Yosuke has asked him to do so since she is in the way. The princess dies deeply resentful of Yosuke. Jinza rushes in and fights Hokaibo to regain the real scroll. He kills Hokaibo, who falls to his death into a hole that he himself had dug. Yosuke and Okumi manage to escape. When Jinza follows them, he is dragged back by the spiteful ghosts of Princess Nowake and Hokaibo.

【Left】[from left]Yosuke(Nakamura Kinnosuke)、Princess Nowake(Nakamura Kotaro)、Okumi(Nakamura Shibajaku)、Ohana(Nakamura Shikimatsu) September 2014 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】[from left]Hokaibo(Nakamura Kichiemon)、Doguya Jinza(Kataoka Nizaemon) September 2014 Kabukiza Theatre


Which Okumi is real, and which is the ghost?

Yosuke and Okumi, now on the run, have disguised themselves as herb sellers. They reach the Sumida River crossing. There they meet the boatswoman Oshizu. They pray for Princess Nowake after her tragic death and put her clothing into the fire. Suddenly an herb seller appears who looks exactly like Okumi. The others cannot tell which is the true Okumi. Oshizu, seeking to solve the mystery, asks them to describe how they met Yosuke. Each woman tries to drag Yosuke to her side. Finally, the voice of one of the Okumis becomes that of Hokaibo, revealing her as a scary ghost of both the princess and Hokaibo. The spirit disappears when Oshizu brandishes a statue of the goddess of mercy.

【Left】[from left]Okumi(Nakamura Senjaku)、Ghost Hokaibo・Ghost Princess Nowake(Nakamura Kanzaburo)、Yosuke, in fact Yoshida Matsuwaka(Nakamura Fukusuke) August 2005  Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】[from left]Oshizu(Nakamura Matagoro)、Ghost Hokaibo・Ghost Princess Nowake(Nakamura Kichiemon)、Yosuke, in fact Yoshida Matsuwaka(Nakamura Kinnosuke)、Okumi(Nakamura Shibajaku) September 2014 Kabukiza Theatre