Imose-yama Onna Teikin (Proper Upbringing of a Young Lady at Mount Imose) (妹背山婦女庭訓)

"Imose-yama Onna Teikin" (Proper Upbringing of a Young Lady at Mount Imose) is a play of Ningyo Joruri (traditional Japanese puppet theater) and Kabuki. It was first performed at Takemoto-za Theater on January 28, 1771. It was written by the collaboration of Hanji CHIKAMATSU, Baku MATSUDA, Zenpei SAKAI, Tonan CHIKAMATSU and Shoraku MIYOSHI. It consists of five acts.

It is a great work in the life of Hanji CHIKAMATSU, and it is legend that its success revived Takemoto-za Theater that almost went bankrupt.

The first performance of the Kabuki version was also in 1771, at Ogawa-za Theater in Osaka.


It is set around the times of the Taika Reforms in 645, rather old times among the plays of Gidayu Kyogen (Kabuki adaptation of the puppet theater).

Act 1

Scene: Ouchi (The Imperial Palace)
The Emperor Tenchi has become blind from disease, and the politics are in chaos. SOGA no Emishi takes that opportunity and ousts FUJIWARA no Kamatari by making a false charge against him. Uneme no Tsubone, daughter of Kamatari, is in danger of her life and escapes from the palace.

Scene: Kasugano Komatsubara (Komatsubara Plain in Kasugano)
Daihanji (senior judge) Kiyosumi and Sadaka, widow of Dazai, have a conflict over territory. However, Kiyosumi's son Koganosuke and Sadaka's daughter Hinadori are in love with each other. When the two lovers are talking together, Uneme no Tsubone comes there to escape. Koganosuke disguises Uneme no Tsubone and saves her.

Scene: Emishi Yakata (The Mansion of Emishi)
SOGA no Iruka, son of Emishi, is meditating, being upset at his father's violent act, and thinking deeply, he reproves his father. Emishi, getting furious, kills his wife and tells Iruka to hand over the covenant of rebellion, but then Daihanji Kiyotsune and ABE no Chunagon (middle councilor ABE) come to investigate the rebellion of Emishi. Iruka hands over the covenant to Daihanji and drives his father to commit seppuku. However, this is all the plot of Iruka who intends to replace his father and usurp the imperial throne. Iruka has superhuman power because his father Emishi made his wife drink the blood of a white male deer before his birth. He declares that he will be the ruler of Japan, and attacks the palace.

Act 2

Scene: Sarusawa-ike (Sarusawa-ike Pond)
The blind emperor comes to Sarusawa-ike Pond after hearing that Uneme has drowned herself there. Then bad news arrives. Iruka has intruded into the palace and declared himself emperor. FUJIWARA no Tankai, son of Kamatari, shelters the emperor in the house of a hunter called Shibaroku, who is in fact his vassal Taro GENJO.

Scene: Shibaroku Sumika (The House of Shibaroku)
The emperor escapes into the house of Shibaroku in the mountains, where it suddenly turns into a temporal palace. A big fuss is caused by many court ladies and nobles who come along, a debt collector who comes to urge payment, those who perform Manzai (a kind of performing art for celebration) to relieve the emperor's boredom, and so on. Shibaroku learns that the blood of a black-hoofed deer and that of a jealous woman are necessary to destroy Iruka. Breaking the rule, he shoots an arrow at a black-hoofed divine deer and kills it on Mt. Tsuzura. Sansaku, son of Shibaroku, tries to take the guilt on himself and receive punishment by Ishikozume (a death penalty that buries a guilty person alive in a hole filled with stones), but he is saved by Kamatari and also Uneme and the divine mirror are found. The emperor's eyes are also cured by the power of the divine mirror. Thus begins a counterattack by Kamatari.

Act 3

Scene: Hanawatashi (Handing Flowers)
Iruka, having seized power, becomes a fearful tyrant. He unreasonably demands that Kiyosumi give Koganosuke as his vassal, and Sadaka to give Hinadori as his concubine, and orders them, handing branches of flowers, to throw the flowers in the Yoshino-gawa River for acceptance.

Scene: Yama (The Mountains)
Kiyosumi and Sadaka, lost in deep thought, each go back to their mansions. They live on, respectively, Mt. Imo and Mt. Se, where cherry blossoms are in full bloom, facing each other across the Yoshino-gawa River. Both Kiyosumi and Sadaka forget about the past conflicts, and kill their children in tears. Although they both try to save the other's child, they each learn across the river that both children are dead.
Sadaka floats the head of Hinagiku with Hina-ningyo (dolls and miniature instruments displayed at the Girls' Festival) in the river to send it to Daihanji, while gorgeous yet sad Joruri (dramatic narrative chanted to a shamisen accompaniment) is played on the musicians' stage; it chants, 'marriage furniture, food box, container, papier-mache dog, and many chests (these are all the instruments included in Hina-ningyo). If she was alive, they would have been real presents once in life, lined up for five or seven cho (distance unit; a cho is about 109 m).'
Thus the couple marry each other after their death.

Act 4

Scene: Sugisakaya (Sugisakaya Sake Shop)
Omiwa, daughter of Sugisakaya sake shop at the foot of Mt. Miwa, falls in love at first sight with Motome SONOHARA, a handsome Eboshi (formal headwear for court nobles) maker who lives in the house next door. Motome is FUJIWARA no Tankai in disguise. However, Motome has a lover called Princess Tachibana, daughter of Iruka. Motome, in order to sneak into Iruka's mansion, attaches a red thread to the hem of the princess's clothes and follows her. Omiwa also attaches a white thread to the hem of Motome's clothes and follows him.

Michiyuki (travel-dance scene): Koi no Odamaki (The Spool of Love)
It represents, with dance, the strife between Princess Tachibana and Omiwa over Motome, with its setting at Kasuga-taisha Shrine. In the original version, it is set at Furu no Yashiro (Isonokami-jingu Shrine). In the performance at Kabuki-za Theater in 2003, the actors played the roles by Ningyoburi (A way of Kabuki acting which imitates the exaggerated motions of the puppets in Ningyo Joruri).

Act 5

Scene: Mikasayama Goten (Kinden) (The Mikasayama Palace [The Gold Palace])
Iruka is having a party with his vassals. Then Fukashichi, a fisherman from Naniwa, arrives there introducing himself as a messenger of Kamatari. Iruka is suspicious, and Fukashichi shows him a letter from Kamatari, which says that he will become a vassal of Iruka. However, Iruka does not believe it and tells others to hold Fukashichi hostage until he confirms the truth, and leaving the scene, goes inside. Fukashichi, a brave man, is not afraid of various tricks and goes inside without fear.
(Fukashichi Joshi [The Messenger Fukashichi])

Princess Tachibana arrives home as Joruri I being played on the musicians' stage and comes to the passage, 'to love is to suffer. Princess Tachibana leaves and returns in secret, walking through dewy grass.'
Then Motome arrives after her, tracing the red thread. Princess Tachibana swears to Motome that she will seize, at the risk of her life, the treasure sword of Totsuka that Iruka has, in order to marry him.
(Himemodori [Return of the Princess])

As Joruri comes to the passage, 'as a single quail got lost, Omiwa runs, tracing footsteps on grass and losing her breath,' Omiwa, after the thread has broken, finally reaches the palace. A woman buying tofu (bean curd) passes by and tells her that the couple is going to marry each other, and then she feels impatient. She tries to enter the building, but the court ladies stop and bully her terribly. Omiwa, with her heart broken, goes back, and then she hears cheers for the bride. Omiwa finally goes mad with jealousy and tries to enter the building swinging her hair wildly, and then Fukashichi stabs her. Fukashichi is in fact KANAWA no Goro who is a vassal of Kamatari.
Goro says to Omiwa, 'Be happy, woman. You deserve to be a wife in an honorable family because you, by giving up your life, will give your beloved man credit and a method of destroying Iruka. Good job.'
He tells her that he has come to kill Iruka on the orders of his lord, but has known that the power of Iruka will diminish if he plays a flute after pouring on it the blood of black-hoofed deer and the vital blood of a woman mad with jealousy, and this is why he has stabbed her while feeling sorry. Omiwa, knowing that her self-sacrifice will actually help her lover Motome, who is in fact FUJIWARA no Tankai, dies with pleasure.
(Takesu [Sparrow and Bamboo])

Scene: Iruka Chobatsu (Killing of Iruka)
Iruka, whose supernatural power has been diminished by mystical power of the flute, is killed, and to everyone's delight, the emperor comes back to the throne and restores the peace. The loyal vassals are rewarded in Shiga no Miyako (the ancient capital of Japan in current Shiga, also called Otsu no Miyako), and a Buddhist service is held for Koganosuke and Hinadori.


Today, most performed scenes are "Yama (Yoshino-gawa)," "Michiyuki," and "Mikasayama Goten." This play is very unique among Joruri plays, for its setting in ancient times, the motif of myths and legends like Ama no Iwato (the Heavenly Rock Cave: the myth that the Goddess of Sun hid herself in the cave), Jusan-gane (Thirteen Bells: the legend that a 13-year-old boy who had killed a deer was punished by Ishikozume) and Kinukake Yanagi (Robe Draped over a Willow: the legend about a court who lady drowned herself in Sarusawa-ike Pond), and particularly its structure similar to current fantasy action, which makes Iruka a horrible monster and the good guys who search for his weakness.
Yasuji TOITA appreciated it and said, 'it has an epic and romantic idea like musical dramas of Richard Wagner.'
In fact, the story is that when this play was first introduced to the West, a French composer Giacomo Meyerbeer tried to compose an opera called "The Blind Emperor."

Scene of Yama

Daihanji and Sadaka walk on Hanamichi (passage through audience to stage) at each side, and speak to each other along the way. This is an excellent interpretation that treats the audience seating area as a river, across which they speak to each other. The stage is gorgeously decorated with cherry blossoms in full bloom and displays for the Girls' Festival to emphasize the tragedy. It has great scenes, full of tragic atmosphere, where both parents kill their children and inform the other of it, Sadaka floats the head of Hinadori in the river with instruments displayed for the Girl's Festival, and Daihanji receives it with a bow.

Comment of Nizaemon KATAOKA the thirteenth, who played Daihanji
In fact, he wants to burst into tears, holding the hands of his son, but he cries only in his heart without directly showing his sorrow, suppressing his own feelings; this rigidness of ancient samurai rather makes the audience feel sorry for the parents and children.

The center as a river, the stage is divided into Kamite (the right-hand side as seen from audience seats) as the Mansion of Daihanji on Mt. Se, the world of man, and Shimote (the left-hand side as seen from audience seats) as the Mansion of Sadaka on Mt. Imo, the world of woman, and also Joruri players on the musicians' stage are divided into Kamite and Shimote.

It ends with the following lines.
Listen, my son Kiyofune (Koganosuke's real name). What your soul is at your death decides what your next life will be. Dying for fidelity, let your soul accompany your lord and father and witness the victory over the emperor's enemy. Now, we have permitted you and Hinagiku to marry each other forever. You shall pass through the palace of Enma (the King of Hell who passes judgement on the dead) introducing yourselves aloud as ones who have died for fidelity and virtue.'

These famous heartbreaking lines of Daihanji are the climax of the whole play.

The story that the lovers whose families are enemies are united by death is very similar to "Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare.

Also in the Ningyo Joruri version, it has excellent music and the stereotyped structure that Tayu (chanters) and shamisen players are divided into Kamite and Shimote, playing Daihanji and Sadaka respectively.
Sumitayu TAKEMOTO the seventh, a Bunraku (Ningyo Joruri) player, recognized the importance of this scene and said, 'this is the climax. Chanting such excellent "Yama" to each other cannot bore the audience. If it does, that is the fault of Tayu.'

The famous actors for Sadaka are Baigyoku NAKAMURA the third and Utaemon NAKAMURA the sixth, and for Daihanji, Nizaemon KATAOKA the eleventh, Kichiemon NAKAMURA the first and Shoroku ONOE the second. The play performed today is based on the performance at the Kabuki-za Theater in September 1941, interpreted by Onitaro OKA, with Kichiemon the first as Daihanji, Baigyoku the third as Sadaka, Tokizo the third as Koganosuke and Utaemon NAKAMURA the sixth as Hinadori.

Scene of Mikasayama Goten

Iruka is a typical Kugeaku (a noble villain in Kabuki). The role of Iruka had been emphasized long before Danjuro ICHIKAWA the ninth played the double role of Iruka and Omiwa during the Meiji period, although it has become more moderate since then.

Fukashichi, who is in fact KANAWA no Goro, is typical in the role of Aragoto (rough and fierce style of Kabuki acting), based on the style of Danjuro the ninth. During the Taisho period, Udanji ICHIKAWA the second in Osaka played it flamboyantly, using Danjiri-bayashi (music performed in festivals) in the action scene before the curtain falls.

Omiwa looses her hair and bares one shoulder after hearing the voices congratulating the groom inside the building. This indicates she has transformed herself from a pure young lady into a woman mad with jealousy. Omiwa's costume is decorated with the Juroku Musashi pattern (pattern derived from a chess-like game during the Edo period), invented by Danjuro the ninth. The key for playing this role is commented on as follows.

Although jealousy makes her look harsh, she is a lady deep inside. Because when Fukashichi stabs her, she understands and dies with pleasure as a lady, what her true soul is, keeping her love for Motome.'
(Utaemon NAKAMURA the sixth)

The role of Omiwa has been gradually refined by great actors like Hanshiro IWAI the fifth in olden times, Danjuro the ninth and Kikugoro ONOE the fifth during the Meiji period, and during this century Kikugoro ONOE the sixth, Utaemon NAKAMURA the sixth and Baiko ONOE the seventh. The famous actors for Fukashichi include Danjuro the ninth and Shikan NAKAMURA the fourth during the Meiji period, and in this century, Kichiemon NAKAMURA the first, Shoroku ONOE the second and Ganjiro NAKAMURA the second.

The scene of 'Takesu' (literally means 'Sparrow and Bamboo') is so called because Omiwa is told by court ladies (who bully her) to sing Mago-uta (a kind of folk song sung by packhorse drivers) of 'Take ni Suzume no' (Sparrow and Bamboo) to be allowed to see Motome, and she dances with her right shoulder bared, the bottom left of her clothes folded, a cloth headband on her head, and a spool in her hands. Kikugoro the sixth played it with gestures of chasing a horse, without a dance, but Onitaro OKA criticized him for not dancing.

A bullying court lady should be played by a skilled supporting actor. In the Meiji period, there was a scene, before the curtain fell, where she flipped after picking a fight with Fukashichi, and then a skilled actress beautifully swings her long red Hakama (skirt).
A teacher, watching the scene about bullying Omiwa, was said to have murmured, 'people bullied even during the old times.'

The woman buying tofu is called 'Omura,' a minor role, but played by famous actors like Kanzaburo NAKAMURA the seventeenth, Gonjuro KAWARAZAKI the third and Ennosuke ICHIKAWA the third, as a 'treat.'
She is a comedy relief character that should be played by a skilled actor.

Today, Omiwa appears on the scene running through the Hanamichi with heavy footsteps, but Utaemon NAKAMURA the fifth appears slowly, in accordance with the Joruri passage, like she had got lost.

[Original Japanese]