Kiwametsuki BANZUI Chobei (極付幡随長兵衛)

Kiwametsuki BANZUI Chobei refers to a play of Kabuki.
It is categorized in 'sewamono' (a story of ordinary people) written by Mokuami KAWATAKE and another name is 'Yudono no Chobei.'
It was first performed at Haruki-za in Tokyo (present-day Hongo-za) in October, 1881. When it was performed at Kabuki-za in June 1891, it was drastically revised by his disciples such as Shinshichi KAWATAKE (the third). They added 'Kinpirahomon arasoi' in the opening act.. Currently, it is a play in three acts and five scenes.

The scene of Murayama-za kido mae

Kinpirahomon arasoi' performed at a playhouse in Edo, Ichimura-za, gains enormous popularity, so a lot of people come to see it. When a samurai (a warrior), a member of 'Shiratsuka-gumi' that is a group of 'hatamoto-yattko' (young upper vassals of Tokugawa house who form a group and ace violently) picks a fight with passengers of a parent and a child, TOKEN Gonbei, a machi-yattko (ordinary people who are defiant toward 'hatamoto'), intervenes and helps them out of the trouble.
(These days, it is rarely performed.)

The scene of fighting on the stage

When the play is reaching the most interesting part, members of Shiratsuka-gumi go on the drunken rampage and ruined the play. At that time, BANZUIIN Chobei stops their violent acts and forces them out of the playhouse. Coincidentally, MIZUNO Nariyuki, head of Shiratsuka-gumi, is in the audience seat to see the play and he has grudge against Chobei.

The scene of Hanakawado Banzui nai

MIZUNO Shuzen, a chief vassal of the Mizuno family comes to Chobei's house.
His followers clamor excitedly against his visit and shout, 'A Mizuno's vassal is coming! Drive him out!'
But Chobei quiets down his excited followers and listens to MIZUNO Shuzen. Shuzen says, 'Don't come to the residence of the Mizuno family, even if his vassal comes here to invite you.
If a bloody affair occurs in the premises, it does not just bring disgrace on Mizuno's family, so please.'
However, Chobei turns down his request, saying, 'If I was afraid of your master and avoided to face him, people would say I was coward, which would bring disgrace on my reputation.'
Then, Chobei flatly sends him back. As expected, shortly after Shuzen leaves, KUROSAWA Shokuro, a vassal of the Mizuno family comes to see Chobei. He says, 'Our master wants to bury his longstanding grudge and hopes that hatamato-yattko and machi-yakko get along nicely.
Now, we are having a party in our garden where we can enjoy viewing Japanese wisteria and drinking sake (alcohol), so, we would like you to join the party.'
Chobei cheerfully accepts his offer. His wife, children, following and Token, who rushes to him after knowing the incident, shout, 'Don't go there!' and persuade him out of going, but he turns a deaf ear to them. He determines to go there, saying, 'There has been a bitter grudge between the samurai class and ordinary people, so, we should not feel inferior to Shiratsuka-gumi, hatamoto. If I did not go, I would be mocked as a disgrace to all people in Edo.

In order to defend the honor of his family, his following and himself, he heads for Mizuno's house alone, holding back his tears and entrusting the remaining things to Token.

The third act

At a drinking party in Mizuno's house

Mizuno welcomes Chobei with his friends Yamorinosuke SHINDO and Kurosawa. When the party is in full swing, Kurosawa intentionally spills sake on Chobei's clothes. Then, Mizuno says, 'You should take a bath and dry your clothes' and lets his servant guide him to the bathroom.

After Chobei goes out of the room, Mizuno and Shindo plan to assacinate him.

The scene where Chobei is killed in the bathroom
Chobei wearing just a yukata (an informal cotton kimono) is attacked by Mizuno and his retainers.
I'll decisively give you my life.'
I'm prepare for death in the first place, that is why I came your house away from downtown alone, turning deaf ear to my family, mentors and following who desperately try to stop me from coming.'
Each person's life span is destined from the very beginning of conception; some live for years, but others die before coming into this world.'
You should not have acted in a cowardly way to lure me into this place like this.'
You are 'Hatamoto', upper vassal of the Tokugawa shogunate, with eight thousand Goku crop yields (Goku or koku was a system for determining land value), so your family must be honorable and creditable in both name and reality.'
If such an honorable samurai desperately wants my life, I'm willing to give it to you, because I believe you fully deserve my life.'
The reason why I came here knowng I will be killed is that I do not want to bring disgrace on my family for generations.'
I have enjoyed a great reputation as a courageous machiyatsu, so I do not want to disappoint people by sticking to my life, which results in blemishing on our family's reputation.'
I'm willing to give you my life, so, plunge your sword into my brave heart.'
After delivering impressive lines, he was gracefully thrusted with a spear. Shortly after that, word comes that Chobei's following bring a coffin. Mizuno was impressed Chobei's brave attitude saying, 'I regret I have to kill him' and then, he puts an end to Chobei's life.

The scene of suidobata

A free-for-all develops between machi-yakko and Shiratsuka-gumi, because machi-yakko frantically try to take revenge for their boss. Then, Kojiro MIURA, hatamoto, comes to the scene to inform them of the government order; Mizuno has to perform seppuku (ritual self-disembowelment). After hearing that, everyone stops fighting and goes back home.


This story originates in the real incident that happened in the middle of 17th century. When an era of peace continued, the Shogun's bodyguards became corrupt and their behaivor grew worse. They formed groups called 'hatamoto-yakko' and acted violently in Edo. Kyokaku' called machi-yakko shared s sense of solidarity with ordinary people and fought against hatamoto-yakko. The incident of Chobei and Mizuno was one of fights between machi-yakko and hatamoto-yakko and it was dramatized. Especially, the scene, 'gozonji suzugamori' of "Ukiyozukahiyokunoinazuma" (inazuma soshi) written by Nanboku TSURUYA (the fourth) is the most important work. It was made into 'rokyoku' (naniwabushi recitation), 'kodan' (a historical narrative) and a film. Kyuchan katanawo nuite' (draw your sword) starring Kyu SAKAMOTO and 'Oedo gonin otoko' (five men in Edo) starring Uemon ICHIKAWA are included in these works.

One Chinese characters of his name, 'in' was taken out from his name 'Banzuiin Chobei' and it is changed into 'Banzui Chobei' in the title of the play. The reason is; it became custom that the number of Chinese characters in the title should be an odd number because people followed the superstition that an odd number of Chinese characters cannot be devided.

It was made for Danjuro ICHIKAWA (the ninth), who invented stories based on history, so, it was made with complete fidelity of a real story

It set Chobei up as a person from the samurai (warrior) class, so, an actor has to act as Chobei differently from acting as an ordinary kyokaku.
Koshiro MATSUMOTO the seventh said as follows on an artist's talk:
We have to put on different manner, when we act as Chobei.'
When a boss such as kyokaku in the Tenpo era or TOKEN Gonbei have to bow on tatami-matto, they curl their fingers up softly with your thumb attached to the cushion of your index finger and then, they hang down the head, putting the both fists on the knee.'
However, when Chobei bows on tatami-mat in Mizuno's residence, he has to put the both fists on tatami mat and hang down the head.'
Such behaviors represent his cultivated manner and character on the stage.'

In the opening scene of Murayama-za, it takes the form of a play within a play. Although it is a new work in the Meiji period, the scene is still presented only in 'Kinpira Joruri' (a type of sung narrative with shamisen accompaniment) which has tremendous impact on 'Shoki Joruri' (Joruri in the early time) and 'Aragoto' (rough style of kabuki acting). It is also entertaining scene, because Chobei comes from the audience seats.

The first pay was well received, because the main actor, Danjuro, played Chobei with realistic groaning. The reason of this was he pleyed the role based on the real experience. In 1868, when his foster father, Gonnosuke KAWARAZAKI, was killed by robbers, he heard his father's bloodcurdling groans. In addition, he incorporated 'jujutsu' (a soft stylg of Japanese martial art) to make the play more realistic instead of 'Takemoto Joruri' in the fight scene before Chobei is killed. His style has been handed down to this day.

Some actors such as Kichiemon NAKANURA (the first), Chusha ICHIKAWA (the seventh), Koshiro MATSUMOTO (the seventh), Hakuo MATSUMOTO (the first) are good at playing Chobei. Also, Kinnosuke YOROZUYA played the role in Kabuki-za later in life (Jinzaemon KATAOKA [the fifteenth] played Mizuno). Currently, brothers, Koshiro MATSUMOTO (the ninth) and Kichiemon NAKAMURA (the second), are good at playing the role.

Kikugoro ONOE (the sixth), Sadanji ICHIKAWA (the second), Enjaku JITSUKAWA (the third), Shoroku ONOE (the second) are good at playing Mizuno.

There are a lot of famous lines.
In addition to lines mentioned above, the following unique rhythmical lines written by Mokuami are very famous;
In the opening scene, 'Although my name is 'Banzuiin Chobei, it is too early for me to become Buddha', in the secone act, 'I have a 'tenbinbo' (a stick with the same weight of two burdens hanging from the edge of the both sides to carry them) on the shoulders', and in the third act, 'The time is just around 'kinome-doki' (spring but in this season it is said that someone behaving strangely pops up).

The cast for the first play

BANZUIIN Chobei…Danjuro ICHIKAWA (the ninth)
MIZUNO Jurozaemon…Gonjuro ICHIKAWA
TOKEN Gonbei… Chusha ICHIKAWA (the seventh)
Otoki (Chobei's wife)…Shucho BANDO

[Original Japanese]