Ehon Gappo ga Tsuji (絵本合法衢)

"Ehon Gappo ga Tsuji" (A Picture Book of the Crossroads of Gappo) is a Kabuki Kyogen play written by Nanboku TSURUYA the fourth. It is commonly called 'Tateba no Taheiji' (Taheiji of rest station), first performed at Ichimura-za Theater in Edo on June 6, 1810, and consists of seven acts.

A Masterpiece of the Kyogen Play of Revenge

Its theme is a real incident of revenge that occurred at Gappo ga Tsuji Enma-do Temple (now in Tennoji Ward, Osaka City). Nanboku (then called Hyozo KATSU) wrote it, based on the original Yomihon (a kind of novel) of "Ehon Gappo ga Tsuji," with villains called Daigakunosuke SAEDA and Tateba no Taheiji as main characters, who commit all crimes. It is recognized as a masterpiece of the Kyogen play of revenge, for its elaborate structure, artful inclusion of parodies of classic Kyogen plays of revenge such as "Kanadehon Chushingura" (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers), and so on.


Act 1 - Scene at the Water Gate of the Taga Family, Scene at Taga-myojin Shrine

It starts, typically for a Kyogen play in which most of the characters are killed, with a villain Takuro SEKIGUCHI who kills a guard and steals the family heirloom, an incense burner that dates from the Reiki period. Sekiguchi is a subordinate of Daigakunosuke SAEKI, who is the kin of the Taga family and he attempts to usurp the headship. In front of the gate of Taga-myojin Shrine, a tool merchant Yohei and his wife Okame are in trouble and are helped by Magoshichi, a Toiya-ninsoku (laborer for administration officers of inn town). They thank Magoshichi and chat with him, and then it is disclosed that Yohei is the younger brother of Sezaemon TAKAHASHI, a vassal of the Taga family, whom Magoshichi used to serve. They are delighted at the coincidence, but shortly after that, Daigakunosuke comes along with his vassal. The beauty of Okame catches his attention, and he tries to forcibly take her to his residence. Then Sezaemon comes along and saves her. Daigakunosuke, having been preached to that it may disgrace his family name, reluctantly leaves the scene. Sezaemon asks Yohei to investigate the theft of the heirloom and gives him a drawing of the incense burner. The incense burner is already in the hands of Daigakunosuke. Daigakunosuke orders Takuro to inform their men about the robbery of the incense burner.

Meanwhile, Magoshichi is worrying about how to raise money. His wife Oyone, in order to help her husband, receives money from Hachinai, a Yakko (varlet) of Daigakunosuke, who then demands her body in return. Oyone refuses and Hachinai calls her a thief and makes trouble. Daigakunosuke and Sezaemon come to the scene and investigate them, and discover that the imprint on the Hachinai's money indicates that it was stolen from the Taga family before. Daigakunosuke kills his vassal Moriyama to silence him.

Act 2 - Scene of Hawking, Scene at Jinya (regional government office)

In the territory of Sezaemon, people speak ill of Daigakunosuke because he enjoys hawking there. His hawk, delivering a secret letter from his fellow villain, gets tangled in a pine tree and Daigakunosuke, getting upset, tells others to cut down the tree. However, Rinpei KOJIMA, a vassal of Sezaemon, remonstrates with Daigakunosuke, who then shows remorse and promotes Rinpei to his own vassal. Daigakunosuke is concerned with his own reputation in order to realize his ambition. However, Daigakunosuke, having been informed that his hawk has been killed by a village boy Satomatsu, kills the boy. Besides, he says that he will also kill Sagoemon, the boy's father, who has come to protest. Sezaemon finally gets angry, and beats Daigakunosuke with a family heirloom, a scroll of the Sugawara family. Sezaemon's sincere attitude makes Daigakunosuke apologize and relieve everyone, but shortly after that, he kills Sezaemon with a spear. Rinpei commits seppuku for remorse. Daigakunosuke gloats, having obtained the scroll as well. Yajuro TAKAHASHI, a younger brother of Sezaemon, wants revenge against Daigakunosuke, but cannot do anything because Daigakunosuke is his lord.

Act 3 - Scene at the Palace of the Taga Family, Scene at the Residence of Takahashi

At the palace of the Taga family. Kanbe SASAGAWA, a fellow of Daigakunosuke, comes to know that his lord Toshiyuki is in love with Satsuki, his younger sister and Yajuro's wife, and he then confines her in attempt to divorce her from Yajuro. Yajuro, having realized what has happened, is bemused because it is his older brother-in-law who has done it. Toshiyuki summons Yajuro and orders him to give Satsuki as a concubine. Yajuro, being unable to refuse, explains to Satsuki what fidelity is, floating a leaf of Japanese iris on a pond and saying, 'a lord is a ship, a vassal is water,' and Satsuki, knowing that he is prepared to commit seppuku if she refuses, obeys him in tears. However, it is a deliberate plot of Toshiyuki. Sasagawa asks for a reward, and Toshiyuki, while allowing him to succeed to the headship of the Taga family, threatens him to assume responsibility in return for the loss of the incense burner and scroll, and then finally makes him confess the crimes of Daigakunosuke and his gang. Besides, he kills Genba and his younger sister Azami, members of the gang, and deceives others into believing that they are Yajuro and his wife, and then orders Yajuro to kill Daigakunosure to avenge the death of his older brother. Yajuro, disguising himself as a Buddhist monk and changing his name to Gappo, sets out with Satsuki on a journey for revenge.

Act 4 - Scene at Shijogawara

Denzo, the head clerk of tool merchant Yohei, visits Unzari Omatsu (disgusting Omatsu), a snake tamer who lives in Shijogawara, Kyoto. Denzo has an arrangement with Daigakunosuke to deliver the incense burner to the shop and has already received a commission for it. Denzo, who wants to usurp the shop and get Okame, obtains the blood of a poisonous snake from Omatsu and adds it to sake to kill his master. He conspires with Tateba no Taheiji, a villain who has come along there.

Act 5 - Scene at the Shop in Imadegawa

Yohei is absent on business. Okame and his mother Oriyo complain, worrying that Yohei is becoming profligate these days. Then Omatsu comes along. She boldly enters the shop and says, 'I have something to talk about with Yohei,' and threatens them with a Kisho (written vow between lovers) addressed to Okame written by Yohei, which has come to her hand, telling them falsely that she is this Okame. Oriyo and Okame are bemused, and following the advice of Denzo, tries to give her the incense burner as compensation. However, Omatsu drops her Hozonoogaki (a small box to store an umbilical cord with the information of the baby written on it), which is found by Sagoemon, who happens to be there, and it is disclosed that Omatsu is an older sister of Sagoemon's second wife and has been expelled from her home for her loose morals. Taheiji helps Omatsu out of the trouble.

Then Yohei comes home. Taheiji hides Omatsu and tries to trick him, asking if Taheiji's striking resemblance to his enemy Daigakunosuke reminds him of revenge so that he wants to be repudiated and is becoming profligate, and then offers him the poisoned sake. Yohei dismisses it as if he knew nothing. However, Oriyo, knowing his true feeling, repudiates Yohei and Okame on purpose and gives them the incense burner as a farewell gift. Taheiji takes this opportunity and offers the poisoned sake as farewell, but only Oriyo takes it, saying that it is unnecessary for those who have been repudiated. Then Denzo grabs the incense burner and runs away. Yohei runs after him. Oriyo dies from the poison, vomiting blood. In this mess, Taheiji robs Oriyo of fifty ryo (currency unit).

Taheiji has obtained fifty ryo with Omatsu. Omatsu is delighted and asks him sweetly to marry her, 'with that money, take me to somewhere nice and let's make a family there,' and Taheiji answers, 'yes, that's nice,' and pleases her. However, on the way back, he strangles Omatsu to death at an old well of Myokaku-ji Temple (in Kyoto City), and throws her body into the well. For Taheiji, who dreams about achieving prosperity by following his former lord Daigakunosuke, Omatsu is a mere tool which has lost its value.

Act 6 - Scene at Kuragari-toge Pass

Daigakunosuke, whose crimes have been disclosed, goes missing. On the other hand, Okame and Yohei have escaped from Kyoto and come by Kuragari-toge Pass in Mt. Ikoma. They are attacked by the Daigakunosuke gang, who still eyes over Okame, but in confusion caused by a lightening strike, they escape. They later come to a solitary house in the mountain. To their surprise, Taheiji and his wife live there. Oyone, the wife of Magoshichi, also lives with them.

Then Yohei's chronic disease worsens. Taheiji tells Okame that he knows where his former lord Daigakunosuke is, and recommends her to sell herself to Daigakunosuke in order to earn money to buy medicine for her husband and also to investigate the circumstances of the enemy. Okame leaves with regret on a palanquin. Taheiji has some villains attack Yohei, and then pretending to support him, injures Yohei's leg with a hatchet. Taheiji, after telling Yohei that it is dangerous to stay there and letting him leave, lures Magoshichi into the house and then follows Yohei.

Taheiji tries to kill Yohei on the mountain, but Yohei has already run away with the help of Omichi, Taheiji's wife. Taheiji, getting furious, kills Omichi as well as Magoshichi and Oyone who are in the house. A short summer night is ending already, and Taheiji delivers a final blow in the morning sunlight.

The Final Act - Scene at Yasui-fukuya Restaurant, Scene at Gappo's Hermitage, Scene of Revenge at Enma-do Temple

Taheiji, now a horrible killer, escapes from the police and hides in Yasui-fukuya Restaurant near Shitenno-ji Temple in Osaka.
Taheiji, while drinking, seduces Onui, a waitress, and says, 'I am a vassal of Saeki. My lord has been confined to his home in Sumiyoshi, but is allowed to return and will go to Kyoto soon. I will become a samurai before long, so let's go to Edo together.'
Onui is suspicious and Taheiji shows her the written order from Daigakunosuke as evidence, which says, 'if you kill Magoshichi and his wife, I will give you 500 koku.'
Onui looks at it and suddenly attempts to stab Taheiji. Onui is the younger sister of Magoshichi. As they fight, the written order accidentally falls from the second floor. Just at that time, Satsuki passes by, picks up the written order, and supports Onui. Although Onui is injured, she kills Taheiji and cries, "I'm dying with him," to avoid involving Satsuki, and then she commits suicide.

Yohei is nursing his disease at the hermitage of Gappo. But they do not realize that they are real brothers and have the same enemy Daigakunosuke. The ghost of Okame appears to Yohei. She tells him that she became a mistress of Daigakunosuke and took the opportunity to kill him, but failed and was killed, and then she disappears. Only a bloodstained Kosode (short-sleeved kimono) is left there. He dissolves into tears with Satsuki, who has come home, and then Daigakunosuke comes along with his vassal. He has come to kill Yohei, a nuisance for him, on the way back to Kyoto after having been forgiven. Yohei, facing his enemy, cannot move because of his disease. He stabs his own belly with a knife in despair. Daigakunosuke laughs mockingly and says, 'I have been confined to my home for some reason, but now, having received an official message to forgive me, I am going to Kyoto to see my lord. If anything happens to me, you will be severely punished. You cannot do that. It is better for you to perish. Don't struggle, don't struggle. You look miserable.' and he leaves there relaxed.

After he leaves, Gappo comes home, reveals his true identity, and reports to the spirit of deceased Sezaemon that he will kill the enemy. Yohei, who is dying, realizes that Gappo is his real older brother and asks him to kill the enemy on his behalf, and gives him the incense burner. Satsuki also gives Gappo the scroll that she has seized from Taheiji. Gappo, having been asked by them to settle everything, shows them a spearhead that he has concealed at the trammel. This is the spear with which Daigakunosuke killed Sezaemon. Gappo, whose real identity is Yajuro TAKAHASHI, farewells his dying younger brother and orders Satsuki to deliver the two heirlooms to his lord, and then sets out with a spirit of courage.

Yajuro meets Daigakunosuke and his gang at Enma-do Temple. He attacks the palanquin, but it is empty. Yajuro, having been tricked, fights alone a fierce battle against many enemies. He is injured and being unable to move, attempts to commit seppuku, and then Daigakunosuke appears. This is, however, a trap of Yajuro. Yajuro successfully kills Daigakunosuke with the spearhead.


Among the Kyogen plays written by Nanboku, it achieved commercial success and was restaged five times during his lifetime. The audience liked it because it had a lot to see, such as the brutality that every act contained the scene of murder, Hayagawari (quick-change technique used when actors play more than one role), the scene of a threat and so on, in addition to the performance of Koshiro MATSUMOTO the fifth, who played Daigakunosuke and Taheiji at its first performance. This Kyogen play was later handed down to Danjuro ICHIKAWA the seventh and then to Danzo ICHIKAWA the seventh, but after the Meiji period, as Kabuki became higher, it was gradually forgotten. In 1926, Sadanji ICHIKAWA the second rediscovered it, but the part of Daigakunosuke was not performed, and it was not really restaged until the performance at Geijutsu-za Theater on September 1965 with Hakuo MATSUMOTO the first as the leading actor, and the performance by Zenshinza Theater Company.

It is extremely difficult to play Daigakunosuke and Taheiji, villains with strong character, and after Koshiro the eighth, only two actors, Koshiro MATSUMOTO the ninth and Nizaemon KATAOKA the fifteenth, have played the roles.

In addition to its elaborate structure and description of the ruthless main characters, Daigakunosuke and Taheiji, its unusual story where nearly thirty characters are killed and all good people die except for the final act, embodies the mature culture of Kasei era falling into decadence.

The love of Daigakunosuke in Act 1 is based on that of Moronobu in Act 1 of Chushingura; the plot of Toshiyuki in Act 3 is based on that of Yuranosuke in Act 7 of Chushingura; the murder of Oriyo and robbery of 50 ryo in Act 5 is based on the murder of Yoichibe by Sadakuro in Act 5; Okame's selling herself in Act 6 is based on that of Okaru in Act 6; brothers' revealing their identity in the final act is based on that of Heisaku and Jubei in "Iga-goe Dochu Sugoroku" (Revenge Sought Across the Path of Iga). We can see the previous great Kyogen plays of revenge, and its artfulness is also remarkable.

Today, some scenes are omitted due to time constraints. Particularly, omitting the scene at Fukuya Restaurant has a disadvantage of omitting the death of Taheiji. In the stage production by Hakuo, Daigakunosuke was killed at Enma-do Temple, but he was in fact Taheiji disguised as Daigakunosuke, who then appeared through Hayagawari.

The scene of the threat by Unzari Omatsu was the ancestor of Dote no Oroku (Oroku of the riverbank) in 'Osome no Nanayaku' (seven roles of Osome) written later. The threatening lines of Omatsu, 'I am like this now, but once I was in Gion-machi, earning twelve monme six fun (monme and fun are units of silver currency; fun is one-tenth of monme), being successful in Miyagawa-cho, went through rice fields to Dojo, then to a downhill in front of Kodai-ji Temple, down to Yasaka, up to Nijo-shinchi and behind Goryo Shrine, to the embarrassing lousy streets, and didn't cry working at a night tea house, going around everywhere...' artfully illustrates the red-light districts of Kyoto with the lilting rhythm of seven-and-five syllable meter. These lines were called 'Yakuharai' (seven-five passages in a special lilting rhythm) and at the end of Edo period, Mokuami made them more sophisticated in Kyogen plays such as 'Kirare Otomi' (Scarface Otomi) and 'Benten Kozo' (Benten the Thief).

Cast in the first performance

Daigakunosuke SAEKI, Tateba no Taheiji - Koshiro MATSUMOTO the fifth

Unzari Omatsu, Yohei - Matsusuke ONOE the first

Satsuki - Hanshiro IWAI the fifth

Rinpei KOJIMA - Danjuro ICHIKAWA the seventh

Magoshichi, Gappo who is in fact Yajuro TAKAHASHI - Mitsugoro BANDO the third

Sezaemon TAKAHASHI, Toshiyuki TAGA - Takasuke SUKETAKAYA the second

[Original Japanese]