Onnagoroshi Abura no Jigoku (女殺油地獄)

"Onnagoroshi Abura no Jigoku" is a play created by Monzaemon CHIKAMATSU, and has been performed at ningyo joruri (traditional Japanese puppet theater). It is a play dealing with the lives of ordinary people. It consists of three parts.

In 1721, it was performed for the first time at ningyo joruri (traditional Japanese puppet theater). It was also performed at the kabuki theatre as a popular play by CHIKAMATSU, but was received poorly and consequently shelved. It is commonly said that the outline of the play was based on some incident, however, the whole picture of the incident is unknown.

It once again saw the light of day when it was taken up by Shoyo TSUBOUCHI's "CHIKAMATSU study group" during the Meiji Period. When it was performed again at the kabuki theater in 1909 it received high praise. Many years later, in 1947, the play was revived at Bunraku (ningyo joruri [traditional Japanese puppet theater]).

Aside from kabuki and bunraku, it has also been made into a movie and TV drama.


Yohei KAWACHIYA is self-indulgent, dissipated, and morally depraved. Cut off by his father and hounded by creditors, he murders Okichi, the wife of an oil merchant, and flees with stolen money, but is eventually exposed and captured.

Tokubei KAWACHIYA is the master of an oil shop in Osaka Tenman, who was formerly a clerk, and is by nature a reserved man. Yohei, who is Tokubei's son-in-law, uses this to his advantage and grows increasingly dissipated, taking money from the shop and spending it on prostitutes at Aramachi-town.

His parents cut him off in an attempt to correct him. However, Okichi, the wife of oil merchant Teshimaya, pities him for his lack of spending money and secretly gives him some.

Lacking spending money, Yohei borrowed 1 kanme (a measure of coins) from Kohei, a money lender and master of a cotton shop, using a counterfeit of his father-in-law's seal. As the payment date drew near he begged Okichi for money as a stopgap measure, and when she refused, murdered her in cold blood and stole the money.

Yohei attends the Taiya (services held the night before a Buddhist funeral) held for Okichi as if nothing had happened, but the movement of rats in the ceiling cause a blood-stained deed to fall.

The deed contains Yohei's signature and this piece of undeniable evidence leads to the exposure of his crimes and his immediate arrest.

Entangled feelings of love, obligation, and duty between Yohei and his mother, Osawa, and his father-in-law, Tokubei, who was formerly a clerk, are quite intense. It is regarded as a one of the most conspicuous and unique plays written by CHIKAMATSU.

Why it did not do good at it's first performance is unknown. Perhaps it was because it did not feature "entanglements of love", which were characteristic of CHIKAMATSU plays, and because the main character, Yohei, is a complete villian, which makes it difficult for the audience to feel sympathetic towards him.

The first part: `Tokuanji Zutsumi'
The middle part: `Kawachiyauchi'
The last part: `Teshimaya Aburamise' `同逮夜'


The main character of this story
He is the second son of an oil merchant with a large store in Mototenmancho-town, Osaka (he was born between his mother, Osawa, and her late husband). He is extremely dissipated, and has fallen in to debt using his father-in-law's name. He begins fights for no reason, humiliates a passing samurai, and even beats his mother and father-in-law, who are heartbroken over him, and his stepsister who is physically weak. Because of this he is eventually cut off. To evade his creditors he asks Okichi for money, but is coldly refused. He ultimately commits murder-robbery, and is taken to the execution grounds in the Sennichimae area.

The wife of oil merchant "TESHIMAYA", who owns a shop across the street from "KAWACHIYA". She is an accomplished wife with a beautiful figure and good nature, who is attacked and murdered by Yohei. She was 27 years old.

He is Yohei's father-in-law, and the current master of Kawachiya. He originally served the former master of Kawachiya as a clerk. Since Yohei is not his own child he treats him with deference. This appears to be the reason why Yohei grows to be arrogant and spoiled. He finally loses patience with Yohei after Yohei is violent with his wife and daughter, and he cuts Yohei off. However he is still concerned about Yohei so he goes to Teshimaya, which Yohei frequents, and gives them money to give to Yohei.

The wife of the former owner of KAWACHIYA, she becomes a widow with two sons at a young age. She marries Tokubei to maintain the shop and to protect her children. She becomes fed up with her son, Yohei, who is arrogant towards his reserved father-in-law, and who spends the store's money, and cuts him off. But she is still concerned for her son, and takes money and chimaki (a rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves) for Tango no Sekku (Boys' Day) to TESHIMAYA' store and asks them to give it to him for her.

He is Osawa's eldest son, and Yohei's older brother. He is completely fed up with Yohei who is self-centered and mindlessly spending the shop's income. He keeps advising Tokubei to cut off Yohei as soon as possible.

She is Tokubei and Osawa's daughter, and Yohei and Tahei's stepsister. She was supposed to marry and take over the Kawachiya shop, but is bedridden from a serious illness. She tries to put on a show to protect Yohei. But she is battered by Yohei when she mentions her father. In spite of it, she is a loyal sister who defends Yohei to the end when he is suspected of having murdered Okichi, and stealing Teshimaya's money.

Shichizaemon TESHIMAYA
He is the husband of Okichi and is the master of TESHIMAYA. He manages Teshimaya well and is a good master. In the play he displays jealousy towards Yohei, as Okichi shows favor towards Yohei, and he is suspicious about their relationship. He misses his wife, Okichi, who died leaving their three children, and grieves deeply.

He is Yohei's uncle and is a warrior in service to KOGURI Yatsuya of the Takatsuki family. On the way to Jigen-ji Temple (Daito City), he comes across his nephew, Yohei, who is in a fight over a favored prostitute, and trouble arises when a mud ball Yohei throws hits his master. Moriemon became a ronin(masterless samurai)to take responsibility for this incident.

She is Yohei's favorite prostitute. The incident began when Yohei learned that a wealthy man from Aizuwakamatsu City was taking her to Nozaki, and, out of spite, went to the road to lay in wait for them. In his obsession for her, Yohei borrows 200 monme (coin measured by weight) on credit in the name of his father-in-law, Tokubei.

[Original Japanese]