Kabuki Review by Sekidobashi Sakura

Shochikubai Yushima no Kakegaku

Greengrocer's Daughter, Oshichi

Essay

November 2003 in Kabukiza Theater


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In 1682, there was a big fire in Edo. A greengrocer's shop was also burned then. The greengrocer's family had stayed in the temple until their new house was rebuilt. The greengrocer's daughter Oshichi met Shonosuke who was a page of the temple, and she fell in love. After the new house was rebuilt, the greengrocer's family left from the temple, but Oshichi didn't forget Shonosuke. Oshichi set fire to her new house in 1683. She was arrested and was executed by burning. Oshichi is the most famous arsonist in Japan.

This play has two acts; one of them 'Kisshoin Temple' is from 'Sonomukashi Koi-no Edozome' in 1809, and the other 'Fire watching tower' is from 'Shochikubai Yuki-no Akebono' in 1856. Both plays were based to that real incident.

In this play, time is confused very much. Kiso Yoshinaka was a warrior of the Genji clan in 12th century. He attacked into Kyoto, but finally he was killed by Minamoto-no Norinaga and Yoshitsune in 1183. Norinaga and Yoshitsune both were Yoshinaka's cousins. The arson of the greengrocer's daughter Oshichi happened in 17th century, and this play was shown in 19th century. Yoshitsune, Norinaga and Yoshinaka were well known as historical persons by the people. So playwrights could have made them appear on the stage. It was a kind of good ideas.

And this play has the other good idea in the second half. The scene is shown like Bunraku, Japanese traditional puppet play. Two men act to look like manipulating Oshichi behind her, and Kikunosuke acts as a puppet Oshichi. Puppet Oshichi has strange beauty, and it makes her tragedy very clear. If you had a chance, I would recommend you to watch bunraku.

Sometimes I wonder if a woman always loves her lover extremely like the love stories. When Oshichi committed arson, she was only 17. And her motive was love. So people felt sympathy for Oshichi very much. I think that there would be a myth that a woman loves her lover like Oshichi. I think like the following.

Writers were males only for long years. They wrote love stories to suit for themselves. In their love stories, always a woman loved her lover extremely. Women live as someone's daughter, as someone's lover, as someone's wife, and as someone's mother. Sometimes it seemed self-sacrificing. Like that dramas were shown to people again and again. So males believed it, and even women believed it. People could have thought that Oshichi's crime was somewhat natural, because a young girl always thinks about her boyfriend only. Although it could have been true, it is wrong to think that all cases were like that.

Perhaps it is right to say that I don't know a real love. It is important to think that a lover is the most precious. But I think that I shouldn't see an illusion over my boyfriend. I know that he isn't my only one. I think that it is very sorry that Oshichi thought her love was the only one for her life.

Anyway, Oshichi was somewhat stupid, and was too young to die. I hope that young girls would think that love is not always the most important. Remember, the next love will come to you sooner or later. (2003,11,8)


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