Toribeyama Shinju (Love Suicide at Mt. Toribe)


Toribeyama Shinju (Love Suicide at Mt. Toribe)

Kabuki Plus

by Hashimoto Hiroki

Mt. Toribe


Mt. Toribe is in Kyoto’s Higashiyama district, spreading from Kiyomizu Temple to Nishi Otani. It is also called Toribe Fields. It has had crematoriums and graveyards since the Heian Era (8th-12th centuries), and the smoke from the cremations reminded people of the ephemeral nature of life. The area was thus featured often in poems and songs. The contrast with the glamour of the nearby Gion pleasure district attracted men and women seeking to commit suicide.

There was a popular song known since the 18th century called “Mt. Toribe”, based on an actual joint suicide of local legend. The song features in another play, Chikagoro Kawara no Tatehiki, when the hero’s mother teaches the shamisen to children in the neighborhood. The takemoto lyrics in this play copy a section of this song.

Okamoto Kido

Playwright Okamoto Kido (1872-1939) was born in Tokyo as the son of a government servant. He initially took up the same job but quit to become a journalist. Starting with a serialized novel in the newspaper, he began to write novels and plays, and created a good number of New Kabuki pieces. His most famous novel is The Detective Hanshichi Story, inspired by Sherlock Holmes, which effectively created the detective novel genre in Japan in a trend that has lasted to the present day. He also wrote an essay called “Under the Lamp”, a recollection of Kabuki experiences from his youth that is very valuable in shining light on the Kabuki world during the late 19th-century Meiji Era.

Sadanji II and Shocho II

The legendary combination of Ichikawa Sadanji II (1880-1940) and Ichikawa Shocho II (1886-1940), who originated the roles of Hankuro and Osome, left a large number of New Kabuki masterpieces. Sadanji constantly challenged new frontiers, while Shocho created a more straightforward and modern female character. They stood at the forefront of the revolutionary developments of the Taisho Era of the 1910s and 1920s. Shocho was married to Sadanji’s younger sister and died only half a year after Sadanji. Ichikawa Sumizo VI (later Ichikawa Jukai III, 1886-1971), who played Genzaburo at the premiere, assumed the Hankuro role after Sadanji’s death. This became one of his signature roles.

“Kyoka Ten Select Plays”


This is a collection of ten plays representing Sadanji’s house repertoire. Kyoka (literally, apricot blossom) is his haiku nom de plume. The collection actually contains only eight plays, including this play, Bancho Sarayashiki and Shuzenji Monogatari. All of the plays feature roles that Sadanji created, six of which were written by Okamoto Kido. This highlights the close ties between the actor and writer.