Kanadehon Chushingura – Shichidanme: Gion Ichirikijaya

Kanadehon Chushingura – Shichidanme: Gion Ichirikijaya / 仮名手本忠臣蔵 七段目祗園一力茶屋 —The Treasury of Loyal Retainers – Act VII: The Gion Ichiriki Teahouse—

"Kanadehon Chushingura" is one of the most famous plays in kabuki and has appeared numerous times in the program. This program features the seventh act which is set in the Ichiriki Teahouse (now called the Ichiriki-Tei) in the Gion geisha district, just a few minutes walk away from the Minami-za theater. The seventh act is one of the most famous in the play and brings several of the key characters together in the colorful and lively setting of a Gion teahouse.

For the full summary of the play see the explanation for the "Kanadehon Chushingura" program in the 2014 season. Other programs have looked at various topics. In the 2016 season, the "Tachimawari Fight Scenes" program looked at the dance-like fight in the michiyuki travel scene and the "Kuromisu Music in Kabuki" program looked at the kuromisu background music used in the fifth act of Chushingura. In the 2017 season, the "Kabuki Stage Sets" program looked at the sets for the third act and the eight act and the "Onnagata Props" program looked at problems in recreating props that were just ordinary everyday items. In the 2018 season, the "Handsome Heroes" program looked at Sadakuro, the handsome villain of the fifth act.

Kanadehon Chushingura was first written as a puppet play by Takeda Izumo, Miyoshi Shoraku and Namiki Senryu and performed at the Takemoto-za theater in Osaka in 1748. It dramatizes the "Ako Incident," an actual historical incident in which forty-seven masterless samurai (ronin or "wave men") in 1701 – 1702 avenged the death of their lord by killing the man their lord tried to kill.

In the seventh act, set in the Ichiriki Teahouse in Gion, everyone is wondering if Enya Hangan's former retainers are planning an attack on Moronao to avenge their lord's death. But former chief retainer Yuranosuke seems to be spending all his time in a drunken stupor, playing with the geisha of Kyoto. The same is true this night, the eve of the anniversary of Enya Hangan's death, a time when one is supposed to refrain from drinking and eating fish or meat. Two parties come to find Yuranosuke's true intentions. One is a group of members of the vendetta who are disgusted with his behavior and want to kill him. They are restrained by their footman, a man named Teraoka Heiemon, and withdraw angrily. Heiemon wants to join the vendetta too, despite his low status and presents a letter as a petition to the sleeping Yuranosuke, but Yuranosuke throws it back, seemingly in his sleep. Yuranosuke's son Rikiya comes with a secret letter from Hangan's widow. Yuranosuke is immediately alert, and while pretending to be drunk, gets the letter and urges Rikiya to leave the pleasure quarters unobtrusively. Yuranosuke is also tested by his former colleague Ono Kudayu who has now gone over to the enemy and appears with Moronao's chief retainer Sagisaka Bannai. Kudayu and Yuranosuke drink together and Kudayu is shocked when Yuranosuke easily eats octopus on the eve of the anniversary of their lord's death. Alone with Bannai, Kudayu is almost convinced that Yuranosuke has no intention of avenging Hangan's death but wants to know more about the letter and hides under the veranda.

Okaru was once a lady-in-waiting to Enya Hangan's wife and she became lovers with Kanpei, Hangan's retainer. Because they were having a romantic tryst, Kanpei was not by his master's side when the incident occurred that led to Hangan's death. Kanpei and Okaru fled to her home, where her father was a poor farmer and sold herself as a courtesan in Gion to raise the money to reinstate Kanpei as a samurai. But after she left for Gion, Kanpei committed suicide.

Okaru is now here at the Ichiriki teahouse and goes to the balcony to sober up after drinking too much. Yuranosuke comes to read the letter. He is watched from above by Okaru and from below by Kudayu. When Okaru's hairpin falls, he realizes that the letter has been read. He playfully invites Okaru to come down and join him, and when he finds she has read the entire letter, suddenly says that he will buy out her contract and goes to make the arrangements. Okaru happily writes a letter hoping to be reunited with her beloved Kanpei. Heiemon appears. He is actually Okaru's brother and comes searching for her. At first she is ashamed to be seen as a courtesan, but he praises her for serving to support her family. She asks about her family and unable to tell the truth, Heiemon lies and says that her father and Kanpei are alive. She happily tells him that Yuranosuke is going to buy out her contract. At first he thinks this means that in fact Yuranosuke has given up all thought of carrying out a vendetta. But she says that Yuranosuke is still working on the vendetta and whispers the contents of the secret letter. Heiemon tries to figure it out and realizes that Yuranosuke intends to kill Okaru to keep the secret of the letter. He suddenly attacks her, hoping that if he kills Okaru himself, he will be able to join the vendetta. She is shocked and flees, but finally she comes back and he reveals that their father and Kanpei are dead. She faints with shock and Heiemon revives her and explains what Yuranosuke must be intending to do. She calmly agrees to sacrifice herself, when Yuranosuke says that he has seen the strength of their feelings. He agrees to allow Heiemon to join the vendetta and has Okaru help to stab Kudayu. She is acting in place of her late husband Kanpei. Yuranosuke berates Kudayu for betraying them and living in comfort while all the rest are suffering so to carry out the vendetta and the scene ends as Yuranosuke instructs Heiemon to throw Kudayu into the Kamo river.

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