Kotobuki Soga no Taimen

Kotobuki Soga no Taimen / 寿曽我対面 —The Soga Brothers Confront Their Enemy—

"Soga no Taimen" is an episode from the story of the revenge of the Soga brothers, which was the most popular theme in Edo kabuki. This scene contains most of the fundamental role types and acting styles of Edo kabuki and even today, is often performed on ceremonial or celebratory occasions. In this program, it is part of the gala production commemorating the reopening of Minami-za in Kyoto, long the center of Kamigata kabuki, after being closed for renovation.

During the Edo period, the story of the revenge of the Soga brothers was a great favorite. Partly it is because even though the story took place in the remote past at the beginning of the Kamakura Period (1185 - 1333) it was set in nearby Kamakura and the Izu peninsula. But it is also because it had a wide range of characters and the eighteen years of suffering in poverty meant that the brothers could be depicted both with the stylizations of a jidaimono period play, but also with touches of commoner life, like a sewamono play.

After a man named Kawazu Saburo was killed on the orders of a relative named Kudo Suketsune, Kawazu's sons took the name of their mother's second husband, a man named Soga and suffered for eighteen years in poverty until they could kill Kudo at a hunting party Kudo had arranged for the shogun Yoritomo, at the foot of Mt. Fuji.

Various episodes were dramatized in the classical noh theater, but in kabuki it became a ritual to have a play on the Soga brothers every year. This play is part of that annual performance and is as much ceremony as it is drama. Kudo Suketsune is having a banquet to celebrate his position at the top of the government. With the intercession of Kobayashi no Asahina (or his sister Maizuru), the two Soga brothers join the party. They want to kill Kudo right then and there, but Kudo says that he is in charge of organizing a hunting party for the shogun at the foot of Mt. Fuji and until that is done, they cannot touch him. The play ends as Kudo gives the brothers two tickets ("kitte") for the hunting grounds and by a pun, the word "kitte" also means "to kill."

There are a number of conventions in this play. The younger brother Goro is always shown as an aragoto hero. His older brother Juro is always shown with the techniques of the gentle wagoto style. Although Kudo Suketsune is a villain, he is always played by an important actor, traditionally, the head of the troupe. The lovers of the two brothers, Shosho and Tora, who have been invited to the party to serve sake, are shown with the conventions of top-ranking courtesans.

This play was briefly introduced in the first program of the 2014 season and was featured in the "Powerful Aragoto Heroes" program in the 2017 season.

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