The Renowned Banzui Chobei


Kiwametsuki Banzui Chobei

“A man has but one life, but his name lasts forever.” Chobei’s manly pride leads him to his death.

The head townsman Banzuiin Chobei is invited to a banquet by a top government official. Chobei suspects a trap but accepts as a matter of pride, leaving his wife and child behind. A tense and sorrowful drama of a “man’s man”.


by Hashimoto Hiroki

Stage show at Murayama Theater

A play is being performed at Edo’s Murayama Theater as usual to a full house. Just when the story is approaching its climax, a samurai’s drunken servant crashes onto the stage, forcing the actors to stop. The stage manager tries to intervene, but a samurai then jumps onto the stage and gives him a hard time. No one is able to control him, even other samurai in the audience, and everyone panics.

[from left]Sakata kimpira(Kataoka Ichizo)、Priest Manyo(Kataoka Matsunosuke)、Iyonokami Yoriyoshi(Ichikawa Unosuke)、Kashiwa no Mae(Nakamura Kyotae) May 2014 Kabukiza Theatre


Appearance of Banzuiin Chobei

From the audience, Banzuiin Chobei, a machi-yakko (chivalrous commoner), appears on the stage. He tries to calm things down, but his opponent, a member of a group of government servants, is outraged at being interrupted by a townsman and attacks him. Chobei easily puts this down, earning wide applause from the audience.

Banzuiin Chobei(Ichikawa Danjuro) May 2008 Kabukiza Theatre


Assignation between Chobei and Mizuno

The head of the government servants, Mizuno Jurozaemon, has been watching the entire event from his box seat. He calls to Chobei following the fight. Chobei’s allies gather quickly, ready for a fight, but because the play is still in progress, both sides pull back.

【Left】Mizuno Jurozaemon(Onoe Kikugoro) May 2008 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】[from left]Gokuraku Juzo(Bando Kamesaburo)、Banzuiin Chobei(Ichikawa Ebizo)、Kaminari Jugoro(Bando Kametoshi)、Kanda Yakichi(Nakamura Mantaro) May 2014 Kabukiza Theatre


Invitation from Mizuno

Shortly after the troubles at the theater, a messenger from Mizuno arrives at Chobei’s house in Asakusa. Mizuno is hosting a banquet to bring together the government servants and townsmen, and he would like Chobei to attend. Chobei instantly accepts.

[from left]Decchiri Seibei(Ichikawa Omezo)、Banzuiin Chobei(Ichikawa Ebizo)、Jizou Sankichi(Ichikawa Aragoro)、Kasamori Danroku(Ichikawa Otora)、Enma Daisuke(Onoe Ukon)、Yasumasa Musyanosuke(Onoe Matsutaro)、Kobotoke Kohei(Bando Minosuke) May 2014 Kabukiza Theatre


Separation from allies and family

Chobei’s followers ask him not to go, seeing this as a trap to kill him. Chobei says that he has lived in pride and dignity, and running away would be shameful. He would not be able to face his followers or other leaders in Edo if he were to refuse; he would rather die with dignity. He thus rejects their advice. He asks his wife to prepare his clothes, and expresses his wish that even if the family is poor, she should raise their son honestly. He asks another leader to look after his group, and shaking off the pleas of his young son, goes alone to Mizuno’s home.

【Left】Token Gonbei(Nakamura Baigyoku) June 2009 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】[from left]Banzuiin Chobei(Nakamura Kichiemon)、Otoki(Nakamura Shikan) June 2009 Kabukiza Theatre


Banquet at Mizuno’s home

Mizuno welcomes Chobei, and the banquet begins. The guests ask Chobei about rumors that he is a former samurai and request that he show his sword skills. Chobei carries out a mock fight with Mizuno’s retainer and others, beating them handily. The banquet resumes. Some sake is spilled over Chobei’s kimono. Mizuno offers his famous bath to Chobei until his clothes dry.

[from left]Banzuiin Chobei(Ichikawa Danjuro)、Mizuno Jurozaemon(Onoe Kikugoro) May 2008 Kabukiza Theatre


Chobei in the bath

After Chobei is shown to the bath, Mizuno appears with a spear. The defenseless Chobei fights back but is mortally wounded. Suddenly there is a clamor at the entry to the home, and they learn that Chobei’s followers have arrived with a coffin. Mizuno is impressed to learn that Chobei courageously came despite knowing he would die.

[from left]Kondo Noborinosuke(Nakamura Tozo)、Banzuiin Chobei(Nakamura Kichiemon)、Mizuno Jurozaemon(Kataoka Nizaemon) June 2009 Kabukiza Theatre