Toki wa Ima Kikyo no Hataage (時今也桔梗旗揚)

"Toki wa Ima Kikyo no Hataage" is the title of a Kabuki play. It is a period piece consisting of five acts. It was written by Nanboku TSURUYA IV (at the time called Genzo KATSU) and first staged in July 1808 at the Edo Ichimura-za theater. The title of the play when it was first staged was "Toki Kikyo Shusse no Ukejo" but it is also known as "Badarai no Mitsuhide."

Toki' in the title is related to the belief that Mitsuhide AKECHI is a descendant of the Toki clan, and it is also related to a part of the linked verse ("renga" in Japanese) called 'Tensho Junen Atago Hyakuin' (A Hundred Stanzas Composed in Atago in 1582).
He read the first part of the verse in his lodgings in Mt. Atago just before the rebellion, 'Now is the time ("toki" in Japanese) of May, we are going to rule the world.'
Kikyo' (Chinese bellflower) is the Mitsuhide family crest.


"Toki wa Ima Kikyo no Hataage" is based on previous plays such as "Gion Sairei Shinkoki" (The Gion Festival Chronicle of Faith), "Mikka Taiheiki" (Three-day Chronicle of Grand Pacification), and "Ehon Taikoki" (The Illustrated Chronicles of the Regent), all covering "the Honnoji Incident" (in 1582, when Nobunaga ODA was killed.)
Today only the first act, "Kyoo no ba" (The Banquet scene) and "Badarai no ba" (The Horsetub scene) and "Atagoyama renga no ba"(The scene of the Linked Verse Session at Mt. Atago) in the third act are performed.

The first act: The Banquet scene (stabbing the forehead)

His lord Harunaga ODA ordered Mitsuhide TAKECHI to entertain Sesonji Chunagon, who had been appointed as Imperial envoy to Gion-sha shrine. With all his heart Mitsuhide redecorated the inside area and asked Harunaga, who had just returned from falconry, to check it. However it made Harunaga angry so he got Ranmaru MORI to hit Mitsuhide with an iron fan, injuring him on the forehead, and ordered him to confine himself at his lodgings.

Second act: Honno-ji Temple (The Horsetub scene)

In the reception room in Honno-ji temple there are Nishiki-gi twigs arranged in a horse's bit inside a tub used to wash horses' legs ("badarai" in Japanese) which were sent by Hisayoshi MASHIBA, who is striving to conquer China, and there is also a flower basket filled with hydrangeas and convolvuluses presented by Kikyo, Mitsuhide's younger sister. Harunaga extravagantly praises Hisayoshi's flower arrangement, but after seeing Mitsuhide's, his mood suddenly worsens. Kikyo and Ranmaru are there at the time, and after their mediation Harunaga resigns himself allowing Mitsuhide to meet him. Mitsuhide cheerfully appears in the room.
However Harunaga says, 'a horse or a cow understands its obligation, and even a dog snuggles up to you and wags its tail if you feed it for three days.'
Even animals act like this, and humans much more so.'
You would wag your tail if you had one.'
It's a great pity that a samurai doesn't have a tail.'
His words are very nasty and cold.
Further, Harunaga says, 'I'll give you a different cup of sake.'
He gives Mitsuhide sake, in a tub used for washing horses' legs.
Although Mitsuhide's feelings are hurt, he says, 'Even though a lord doesn't act like a lord, his retainer should act like his retainer.'
I, humble Mitsuhide, am too presumptuous to call myself your retainer but will respectfully drink the cup of sake you thoughtfully give me.'
Mitsuhide endures Harunaga's brutality.

However nasty Harunaga never stops bullying Mitsuhide. Harunaga brings up a Chinese legend about the retainer Hansui, whose master did the same things as Harunaga, and who finally got his revenge on his master.
Harunaga says, 'Look at your behavior!'
Ha, hah, it shows exactly what you have in mind, doesn't it?'
Harunaga suspects Mitsuhide's rebellion, demotes him and orders him to follow Hisayoshi's orders. Harunaga's offence to Mitsuhide escalates until he suggests confiscating his feudal land in Omi and Tanba provinces and giving away the treasure and an excellent sword, Hiyoshimaru to somebody else, both of which Mitsuhide has wanted. Mitsuhide simply endures the humiliation.

Getting carried away, Harunaga passes Mitsuhide an unvarnished wooden box. There is a lock of a woman's black hair inside, and Mitsuhide looks confused. Then, in front of other people, Harunaga tells an old story about how Mitsuhide's wife Satsuki, when they were poor, cut and sold her hair so they could entertain their guests properly.
To his shame and embarrassment, Mitsuhide manages to say, 'Oh, this hair was in exchange for a bit of money for us to live our modest life when I was a masterless samurai in Koshiji.'
He forces these words of chagrin out.

Harunaga just sneers at him and says, 'I have something else to tell you, but wait in your lodging.'
Hurling these words at him, Harunaga walks away. Left behind, Mitsuhide departs while promising to get his revenge on Harunaga.

The third act: The scene of the Linked Verse Session at Mt. Atago

In a room of Mitsuhide's accommodation in Mt. Atago. Mitsuhide dejectedly comes back home where his wife Satsuki, his retainer Kunitsugu YASUDA (sometimes substituted with Tajima SHIHOTEN), and the renga poet Joha, are all worrying about him.

With a thoughtful look, Mitsuhide whispers something to Sakube and asks him to leave. After that Mitsuhide makes Joha leave also, then he privately shows an unvarnished wooden box to Satsuki telling her about the agonizing indignity he suffered. They both burst into tears. Joha then reappears and inspires Mitsuhide to rebellion.
However Mitsuhide kills him without saying anything, and says 'Joha tempted me into a useless wrong.'
Get rid of his body.' orders Mitsuhide.

Then Harunaga's retainers Tazo ASAYAMA and Yataro NAKAO appear carrying orders from Harunaga. A gust suddenly blows the lights out when ASAYAMA is about to read out the order. Meanwhile Mitsuhide changes into a kimono worn for death and makes his sister Kikyo bring a disembowelment knife on a stand. When the lights are turned on, the two retainers are surprised to see Mitsuhide.
He says, 'Without hearing it from you I already know what you are going to say.'
You must be here to inform me that the provinces of Tanba and Omi are to be confiscated.'
That is why I am dressed like this for death.'
He says he cannot endure any more indignity and will protest by dying as a samurai. Scolding his wife and sister for crying and throwing themselves on him, Mitsuhide sits at the place for harakiri rites. Mitsuhide requests ASAYAMA to, "Please use the knife 'Hiyoshimaru,' which you received from my lord, if you behead me." Then Mitsuhide writes his dying poetry on an oblong card.

On the card is written the poem 'Now is the time of May, we are going to rule the world.'

Just as ASAYAMA draws a sword and is about to kill him, Mitsuhide hits him with a hidden throwing star, steals his sword and stabs NAKAO with it. Then Sakube YASUDA quickly returns to inform him that the operation has succeeded, and that Mitsuhide's army has surrounded Honno-ji temple. Sakube says, "My master, please leave for the front at once."
Satsuki and Kikyo are shocked and surprised, and then Mitsuhide decisively announces to them 'I'm going to the front immediately.'
Although the two desperately try to dissuade him, Mitsuhide says, 'Oh, it's no use making tedious complaints.
It's none of your business if I want to rule the whole world and revel in the height of glory.'
Refrain from your intrusive admonitions.'
He yells at them and they can't persuade him. Turning a blind eye as they kill themselves out of a sense of despair, Mitsuhide heads for Honno-ji temple howling with laughter.

Outline (Staging and each scene)

Forerunner of the historical play

A historical drama ("jidaimono" in Japanese) is unusual for Nanboku. However this piece skillfully portrays the thoughts and feelings of someone who bullies and another who is bullied, and depicts the process of how an ordinary man, Mitsuhide, finding himself cornered, is driven to rebellion as a result of his master's unreasonable bullying. Additionally the play doesn't use the chanted narration with musical accompaniment which is typical of "maruhonmono" (Kabuki drama adapted from the puppet theater).
Shutaro MIYAKE's evaluation is that these aspects are 'the vanguard of historical plays in our country.'
The play is written in a Kabuki format yet still shows modernity.

Danjuro and Danzo

In the play's premiere, Koshiro MATSUMOTO V was highly acclaimed for his brooding performance.
He is at this time second to none in playing a villain.'
His Mitsuhide in 'Ukejo' (a shortened title of the play) is terrifying'
Listening to him plotting his revenge and seeing his changing expression is bad for the heart.'
Stage reviews at the time raved about him. Many great actors later inherited this role. Two different interpretations to be seen today are the dry and masculine Mitsuhide, performed by Danjuro ICHIKAWA IX, and the somber traitor, performed by Danzo ICHIKAWA VII. Danzo especially had complete confidence in his performance of Mitsuhide, and deliberately challenged Danjuro by performing Mitsuhide at the same time as he. Following Danzo and Danjuro, actors such as Chusha ICHIKAWA VII, Danjuro ICHIKAWA XI and Nizaemon KATAOKA XIII played this role well. Kichiemon NAKAMURA I particularly gave a modern interpretation to the Danzo style. The way he performs pathos with a grudge in 'The Banquet' as in the line 'Oh this hair was...' with unhappy feelings is legendary even today.
Danjuro was not good at 'The banquet,' and Danzo was not good at 'Mt. Atago.'
The tragedy resulting from the incompatibility of two people was referred to by Kichiemon as 'Males' Kagamiyama' (a play which depicts a feud between ladies-in-waiting). Currently Nizaemon KATAOKA XV and Kichiemon NAKAMURA II perform this role in their repertoire.

The Banquet

Originally there was an episode before 'The Banquet' about a plot over a flag, and a scene in which Mitsuhide predicted from the movement of a spider that there would be a great disturbance in the world, but they are seldom performed today. In 'The Banquet,' there is an excellent depiction of Harunaga's unreasonable accusation and Mitsuhide's logical refutations. The contrast between hasty Harunaga and the composed Mitsuhide is a highlight of the play. The ending of the scene in Danjuro's version has Mitsuhide reproachfully looking at the fan which injured his forehead and hides his face. In Danzo's version Mitsuhide is startled to meet the gaze of Sakube YASUDA, who has come to see how Mitsuhide is doing at the banquet.

Badarai (Horsetub)

In the scene of 'Badarai' Harunaga, the lord, sits on a higher platform called "nijodai" constantly looking down on Mitsuhide, while Mitsuhide stands underneath enduring the humiliation. It is a well calculated staging. Even more than in other scenes, Harunaga thoroughly bullies Mitsuhide as if he has a personality disorder. This performance as a monstrous master presents great conviction to the idea of Mitsuhide turning to rebellion.
The structure is also interpreted as the contrast between 'Harunaga as a sadist and Mitsuhide as a masochist.'

The ending, called 'hako tataki' (hitting the box), expresses Mitsuhide's decision to rebel, so much for being a loyal retainer, by taking the box afresh (or hitting the box). Then wooden clappers sound as a sign that the play has ended and as a prompt to close the curtain.
Ranmaru watches Mitsuhide from a paper sliding door stage left and they see each other when Mitsuhide turns around.'
Mitsuhide finally hits the box, meaning that he has decided to rebel, out of the despair of knowing that he is totally doubted.'
This is my way.'
The above (according to Nizaemon KATAOKA XIII from "Stories of play") is a variation. After that Mitsuhide exits quickly through the hanamichi (passage through the audience) to the rhythm of an up-tempo drum roll.

Regarding the scene of Badarai, Danjuro IX performed it simply, without any instrumental accompaniment. On the other hand, in Danzo style (Kichiemon) instrumental music accompanies it on the cue of Mitsuhide touching the horsetub with paper in his right hand. Danjuro's interpretation of Mitsuhide in this scene was as a feudal warlord and therefore he easily oriented himself to rebellion. His performance was said to be far different from one with a grudge. Mitsuhide's costume in this scene is bluish purple, both top and bottom. Additionally Danjuro used silver for the family crest of the Chinese bell flower on the costume, which succeeded in creating a somber effect. This has now been adopted as standard.

Mt. Atago

This scene is a parody of the fourth act of "Kanadehon Chushingura" (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers). Nanboku's exquisite arranging skills can be seen here.

In the scene of 'Mt. Atago,' the dialog between Mitsuhide and Satsuki about cutting her hair is often omitted because of the shortage of time.
It depicts the affection between the couple and Nizaemon comments that it is 'a pretty good scene.'
From the episode lamenting his humiliation, the death of Joha, the arrival of the envoys, and to the preparation of harakiri rites, the atmosphere on stage is oppressive and tense. At the same time, this is the scene where the actor playing Mitsuhide must give his best performance. Then, following Mitsuhide's murder of the envoys and Sakube's report, the play quickly twists around and the gloomy mood disappears in a flash. The pose struck by Mitsuhide here has a great cathartic effect on the audience. The pose ("mie" in Japanese) here has two variations - stepping on and breaking the stand holding the sword by Danjuro, and looking into the curtain with his foot on a parapet on a mezzanine by Danzo.

Mitsuhide says, "Come closer, Sakube." "Yes, Sir." Then they look at each other and Mitsuhide grins. On the cue of the sound of wooden clappers he laughs wildly and the clappers roll to an end when Mitsuhide thrusts a sword and Sakube wipes it with an uwaobi cloth untied from a stirrup.
Overall, the role of Mitsuhide requires a high caliber performance suitable for a historic drama.'
(according to Nizaemon KATAOKA XIII)

Phantom second act

The second act of the play, 'The scene of a Brothel in the Battlefield' depicts the attack of Takamatsu-jo castle. It is typical of Nanboku to have a story that is entertaining and eccentric, including such things as a brothel built at the battlefield, Hisayoshi cooking, Masakiyo KATO working in a sushi restaurant, and Shinzaemon SORORI becoming a rakugo comedian. However this act has not been staged since its premiere.

Casting in the premier

Mitsuhide TAKECHI: Koshiro MATSUMOTO V
Harunaga ODA: Sojuro SAWAMURA IV
Kikyo: Iwajiro NAKAYAMA
Ranmaru MORI: Kikugoro ONOE III
Satsuki: Dannosuke ICHIKAWA III

[Original Japanese]