The Precious Incense and Autumn Flowers of Sendai


Meiboku Sendai Hagi

Tense battle of wills in the ladies chamber

A nursemaid makes the ultimate sacrifice in defense of a young lord. A colorful classic featuring a variety of sharply drawn characters – the iron-willed nursemaid/tender mother, the evil ladies-in-waiting, the mysterious black-magic villain, the wise judge – in a dramatic battle of succession in a lord’s household.


by Kaneda Eiichi

Yorikane and the pleasure quarters

Clan leader Yorikane is returning from a visit to the pleasure quarters, where, egged on by conspirators aiming to overthrow him, he has been spending an inordinate amount of time. As his palanquin passes Kamakura’s Hanamizu Bridge, he is attacked by a gang of thugs.

[from left]Kinugawa Tanizo(Nakamura Matagoro)、Ashikaga Yorikane(Nakamura Fukusuke) November 2006 Kabukiza Theatre


Battle of wills in women’s quarters

Yorikane was forced to retire due to his dissipation and has been succeeded by his son Tsuruchiyo, who is still a child. Amid rumors of intrigue, his guardian Masaoka keeps him for his protection in the women’s quarters, where men are not allowed, claiming he is sick.

The schemers want Masaoka out of the way. Yashio, sister of the plot’s mastermind Nikki Danjo, comes to the Bamboo Room with other ladies-in-waiting to pay a visit, professing concern over the young lord’s health. She tries in vain to remove Masaoka from the lord’s care through numerous tricks, including a ninja in the ceiling, a forged document and accusations against the nursemaid’s reputation.

【Left】[from left]Komaki(Ichikawa Unosuke)、Masaoka(Onoe Kikugoro) November 2006 Kabukiza Theatre

【Right】[from left]Masaoka(Bando Tamasaburo)、Yashio(Kataoka Nizaemon) April 2009 Kabukiza Theatre


Young boys and dramatic twist

Masaoka anxiously cooks rice for Tsuruchiyo and her own son Senmatsu. At this point, Yashio returns with the wife of a high government official, who brings sweets for the young lord. The suspicious Masaoka cannot allow the young lord to touch them for fear of poisoning, but refusing the gift would be a severe breach of protocol. As she hesitates, Senmatsu suddenly rushes in and eats the sweets. He immediately suffers from stomach pains, indicating that this was indeed poison. Yashio, claiming that the child has been unspeakably rude, quickly stabs him to death to hide the evidence. Masaoka, though horrified at the murder of her son, is careful to show no emotion.

【Left】Masaoka(Bando Tamasaburo) April 2009 Kabukiza Theatre

【Right】[from left]Masaoka(Bando Tamasaburo)、Yashio(Kataoka Nizaemon)、Sakae Gozen(Nakamura Karoku) April 2009 Kabukiza Theatre


Masaoka’s strength and sorrow

Masaoka’s steely calm at the murder convinces Sakae Gozen that this could not have been Masaoka’s son. She assumes Masaoka exchanged the boys and allowed the child lord to die, meaning she is an ally. Believing that the lord is now out of the way, she hands Masaoka secret documents detailing the usurpation plot.

When Masaoka is alone, she expresses pride over her son for stepping forward to protect the master, but is overwhelmed with sorrow at his death. She achieves a measure of revenge by killing Yashio when the latter sneaks back in and attacks. She loses the crucial documents, however, when a rat suddenly appears and runs away with them.

【Left】[from left]Sakae Gozen(Nakamura Shikan)、Masaoka(Nakamura Kaishun) March 2011 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre

【Right】Masaoka(Sakata Tojuro) May 2013 Kabukiza Theatre


Kabuki archetypes: Bravura aragoto vs. evil incarnate

The retainer Otokonosuke, presented in exaggerated aragoto style, has been kept away from the young lord by the manipulating villains, but has managed to sneak under the floor of the main chamber, where he watches intensely. He captures the rat and hits it, but it wriggles free and disappears. Then the villain Nikki Danjo magically appears on the hanamichi (via a trapdoor) with a scar on his forehead – he had transformed himself into a rat to get the documents. He sneers at the helpless Otokonosuke and makes a deliberate, chilling exit.

【Left】Otokonosuke(Bando Mitsugoro) April 2009 Kabukiza Theatre

【Right】Nikki Danjo(Matsumoto Koshiro) May 2013 Kabukiza Theatre


The wise judge and judgment

The villainous Nikki Danjo meets the young lord’s followers in court, hoping to eject them from the household through legal trickery. The judge, secretly backing Danjo, rejects the evidence with barely a glance and is about to render his verdict in Danjo’s favor when the senior judge Hosokawa Katsumoto appears. Then the tables turn.

【Left】Hosokawa Katsumoto(Kataoka Nizaemon) November 2006 Kabukiza Theatre

【Center】[from left]Gekizaemon(Nakamura Karoku)、Nikki Danjo(Nakamura Kichiemon) April 2009 Kabukiza Theatre

【Right】[from left]Gekizaemon(Ichikawa Danshiro)、Hosokawa Katsumoto(Kataoka Nizaemon) November 2006 Kabukiza Theatre