"Kokusenya Kassen" is a play based on historical incidents written by Monzaemon Chikamatsu. It was first staged at the Takemotoza Theatre in 1715 and was an immediate success running for 17 consecutive months. The original play had five acts lasting for around 14 hours, but in recent times only three acts are performed (The Tiger Hunt/The Castle Gate/Kanki's Mansion).
Watonai takes a walk along the beach with his wife Komutsu. Finding a snipe caught by a clam in its unsuccessful attempt to devour the latter, Watonai thinks they are analogous to two neighboring countries fighting each other and consequently destroyed by a third power which takes advantage of their struggle.
Watonai, who has been learning the Chinese strategy from his father, remembers that the Chinese Emperor of the Ming Dynasty was recently murdered by Tartars who had invaded China but that his new-born son was rescued by a loyal general. He considers that the time has come for him to cross over to China and put an end to the war.
Komutsu takes a tortoise-shell bar from her hair and frees the snipe by inserting the bar between the two shells of the clam.
Watonai and Komutsu are about to leave the beach when they notice a small Chinese boat carrying a lady who turns out to be the younger sister of the murdered Emperor, the Princess Sendan. The princess lands the on the beach and begins talking with Watonai in Chinese. Komutsu, who does not understand Chinese, is filled with jealousy for the beautiful stranger to whom her husband listens with attention. Watonai tells her who the lady is and sends her home to fetch his parents.
Soon after her departure the old couple, who have been taking a walk, accidentally arrive. The father, Tei Shiryu, introduces himself to the princess and promises to have his son help restore the Ming Dynasty. He says he will sail for China with his wife and advises Watonai to take the princess to China in a separate vessel.
When Watonai and the princess are preparing for their departure Komutsu comes back, having failed to find her parents-in-law in their home. Suspecting that Watonai intends to divorce her and marry the princess, she cries and attempts to commit suicide whereupon Watonai sets her heart at ease by leaving the princess under her care and telling her that he will sail alone for China.
On their arrival in China Tei Shiryu tells his wife and Watonai that Kinshojo, his daughter by his former wife, whom he left in China when he moved to Japan two decades ago, is now married to Kanki, a general who supports the Tartar invaders. Through this daughter Tei Shiryu hopes to persuade Kanki to change sides and raise with him and Watonai an army to fight for the restoration of the Ming Dynasty. At his suggestion Watonai and his mother separate from him and travel to Shishigajo Castle where Kanki lives.
On their way they come across a bamboo thicket where a tiger hunt is going on. A huge tiger chased by beaters attacks Watonai but Watonai courageously fights back. His mother appears from her hiding to deliver her amulet to him. When Watonai shows the amulet to the tiger the ferocious animal soon staggers back. Watonai pulls it by the tail and pins it down.
The beaters headed by An Taijin appear to attack Watonai but Watonai with the help of the tiger easily conquers them and makes them his retainers to be used for his planned subjugation of the Tartar invaders.
Kanki is absent when Tei Shiryu, his wife and Watonai reach Shishigajo Castle but Tei Shiryu meets, after many years, his daughter Kinshojo, now the wife of Kanki. Because she has not seen her father since she was a child Kinshojo cannot recognize him until she compares him with a portrait that she has long treasured.
When Kinshojo finds that her father's visit is to win Kanki's support for the Ming Emperor against whose forces Kanki is at that very moment fighting she is painfully torn by conflicting loyalties. After reflection she says that she will put her father's case to her husband when he returns but that she dare not admit her father and step-brother, Watonai, enemies as they are to her husband's cause at present, into the castle. She consents, however, to take Tei Shiryu's wife with her to help plead the case, but even the old lady, since she is a Ming supporter, must be bound by Kanki's guards before she can enter.
Kinshojo says that Tei Shiryu and Watonai must watch the water of the moat after Kanki returns. If her talk is successful she will signal by pouring white powder into the moat. If she fails she will pour rouge to stain the water red. With her stepmother she enters her castle and the gates close behind them.
Kanki listens while his wife and the old lady, Tei Shiryu's wife, argue on behalf of Tei Shiryu for Kanki to desert the Tartar invaders and raise an army in support of the Ming Emperor. Finally Kanki agrees that he will join Tei Shiryu and Watonai and then suddenly raises his sword to strike at his wife, Kinshojo. Kinshojo recoils and the old lady, still tightly bound, cries out against the murderous attack.
Kanki explains that though he is convinced that he should change sides it must never be said that he allowed his judgment to be dictated by his wife. Before he announces his support of Tei Shiryu's cause his wife must die; but he loves Kinshojo very dearly and can hardly bring himself to strike the fatal blow. He begs her to accept her fate to further her father's cause and save her husband's honor. Kinshojo says immediately that she is willing to serve both husband and father unto death but the old lady protests and, as Kanki moves to cut down his wife, the catches the sleeve of his sword arm in her teeth. Kanki has his honor to consider but so has she. Kinshojo is the daughter of her husband and therefore as much her own child as her son Watonai. Never can a Japanese mother consent to the sacrifice of her daughter in this way.
Kanki pauses, then announces that if his wife is not to die then he must remain an enemy to Tei Shiryu and Watonai. Kinshojo goes out sadly to give her father the signal that she has failed.
By the bridge over the moat Watonai is waiting for the signal from Kinshojo. Suddenly the stream shows a reddish stain and Watonai knows that Kinshojo has failed to persuade her husband to join her father and Watonai. He thinks of his mother, bound and helpless in the power of one now declared as his enemy, and breaks into the castle to rescue her.
Watonai makes his way to the room where his mother lies a prisoner and cuts the ropes that bind her. He asks for confirmation of the signal that Kinshojo appears to have given but before Kanki can reply Kinshojo enters with a dagger in her hand. She has stabbed herself and the red that Watonai saw in the waters of the moat was her own blood. She has made herself the sacrifice that her husband had demanded and as she falls into his arms she begs him to join forces with Watonai.
Kanki swears he will do so and when the dies he announces that Watonai shall henceforth be known as the "Great General." Kanki offers Watonai a superb suit of armor and Watonai retires to put this on.
As soon as her son has left, Watonai's old mother takes Kinshojo's dagger from the dead woman's hand and stabs herself. Thus she shows that she is willing to accompany her stepdaughter in her last sacrifice, and as she dies she adds her own plea that Kanki and Watonai should never rest until the Ming Emperor is restored to his throne.
Watonai returns, magnificent in his new armor and he and Kanki pose in a splendid tableau as the scene ends.
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