Suitengu Megumi no Fukagawa (水天宮利生深川)

Suitengu Megumi no Fukagawa is a program of the Kabuki play. Commonly known as"Kobei FUDEYA"or "FUDE Ko" for short. Premiered at the Meiji-za Theater in 1885, written by Mokuami KAWATAKE.
A sewamono (play dealing with the lives of ordinary people) of three acts, eight scenes


The representative work of so-called 'zangirimono' (The Cropped Hair Plays) depicting the new folkways of the Meiji period
It was inspired by the sight of a helpless man of warrior class who came to Mokuami's house to sell ink brushes and from the tragic incident in which a mother living behind his house became insane and threw her own child into a river.

After the Meiji Restoration, the new government implemented 'Chitsuroku-shobun' (Abolition Measure of Hereditary Stipend) which was the abolishment of salary-like payments to members of the warrior or samurai hierarchy in exchange for lump-sum payments in order to solve financial problems.
As a result of this, people in the warrior class failed in their unaccustomed businesses called 'shizoku no shoho' (former-samurai way of business) one after another, and the discontent with the government led to the argument for Seikanron (the conquest of Korea) and the outbreak of the Seinan War
The main character is a man who was left behind in this new age and it is a valuable source of information to understand the social problems in the early Meiji period.

The theme of a ruined man of the warrior class was taken up by many literary works of the Meiji period such as "Shimoyonokane Juji no Tsujiura"(Frosty Night Bell and 10 O'clock Fortune-Teller at the Corner) by the same Mokuami and "Unagi-ya" (eel restaurant) which is a rakugo (comic story telling).

The original work consisted of two stories, one about Kobei and another about a Robber Yojiro SHOTENGU, but currently the second act only which is about Kobei is performed. In this play, the Gidayu dialogue in "Kaze-ni-Kuruu Kawabe-no-Me-Yanagi," a performance of Kiyomoto which is a kind of Yosogoto Joruri is so effective that the glamorous music can just amplify the grisly tragedy of Kobei and make the audience satisfied with his superior capability in writing the play.

Story line

Joshinji urahinka no ba (Scene of a poor familybehind Joshin-ji Temple)
Kobei FUNADU of the warrior class has failed in an unfamiliar business and has become bankrupt, and now lives with his wife, two daughters and one-year-old unweaned child in obscurity in a tenement house on a back street in Fukagawa (in Koto Ward, Tokyo). With the help of poor but compassionate neighbors, he makes a living by selling ink brushes, but his wife dies because in the aftermath of a childbirth. His oldest daughter, Oyuki loses her eyesight due to the serious sorrow.

On a cold windy day Kobei is given money and baby clothes by the wife of Seisaku HAGIHARA, a shihandai (an assistant instructor) of swordplay as she sympathizes with Kobei who has been peddling ink brushes while taking care of his unweaned child. Also Oyuki is given one yen by Yojiro. Kobei feels relieved by the human empathy. Somehow things seem to get better after all, but it does not last long as a loan shark comes to take away money and clothes and the family become deeply aggrieved. While the glamorous sound of Kiyomoto is heard from a neighboring house, Kobei determines to commit family suicide, but cannot die because of the smiling baby. He gives way to despair and sorrow, and goes insane and starts dancing. Although desparately stopped by Sangoro, a rickshaw man and tenement residents who had rushed in at the noise and furthermore by HAGIHARA who has come to see what was happening, Kobei, holding his own child, jumps into the Okawa river behind his house.

Umibe-machi Kawagishi no Ba (Scene of River Bank in Umibe-machi)
Kobei who was rescued by Sangoro and Tamio, a patrol officer, has been brought back to sanity by the shock of jumping
The unweaned child was prevented from drinking water by the anchor plaque of the Suiten-gu Shrine which Kobei was carrying with him, and was safe.. Then, having heard that his daughter's filial devotion to her parent has been reported in newspapers, that a large amount of sympathy money has been received, and that miracle medicine to cure his daughter's eyes has been found, he is blessed by all around him and is deeply moved as he thinks that these have happened because of his faith in Suiten-gu God.

Cast for premiere

Kobei/Yojiro SHOTENGU………Kikugoro ONOE (Fifth)
Sangoro/Seisaku HAGIHARA…..Sadanji ICHIKAWA (First)
Daughter, Oyuki …… Kikunosuke ONOE (Second)
Denji IBARAGI …… Matsusuke ONOE (4th)


The Chitose-za Theater where this Kabuki play was performed for the first time was located near Suiten-gu Shrine (in Chuo Ward, Tokyo) and was selected for its neighborhood. Its title is a chic elaboration created by combining 'Fukagawa' (Deep River) and 'Megumi-fukai' (Deep Bressing) which have the same word in common.

The motif of the traditional Kabuki Kyogen such as 'Chichi morai' (Receiving-milk) in which the key player experiencing in twists and angles is wandering about with a unweaned child was arranged in a modern way, and the premiere was well received.

Especially Kobei in a frenzy of grief was recognized as the climax of the whole play as a comment says that 'infinite sorrow is hidden behind his strange behaviors after going insane' (by Seiseien IHARA).

[Original Japanese]