The Courier of Hell

double suicide misappropriation

冥途の飛脚

めいどのひきゃく

meido no hikyaku

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Written by Monzaemon Chikamatsu, this play was first staged at the Takemotoza Theatre in 1711.


The Kameya Express Agency

淡路町

A samurai visits the Kameya express agency to say that his master's son in Edo has sent 300 ryo of money to his father through the Kameya's courier system and that it is now about time the remittance should have arrived. An employee tells ben that the arrival has been delayed due to a flood but is expected soon.

After the samurai has left, a messenger comes from Hachiemon, asking what has happened to the 50 ryo which he is to receive from a rice merchant in Edo through the Kameya.

Myokan, foster mother of its proprietor Chubei, overhears this and begins to wonder why Chubei, who she knows received the money 10 days ago, has not yet delivered it to Hachiemon.

Not long after the messenger has gone without getting a satisfactory answer, Chubei comes to the front of the house. He hesitates to enter, fearing that his misappropriation of money may have already come to Myokan's knowledge.

Hachiemon personally comes to the Kameya to claim his money. Chubei appeals to him in front of the house for a few more days in which to raise the money. "To tell the truth," he tells him, "I have used the 50 ryo as earnest money for the redemption of my sweetheat, the courtesan Umegawa." Hachiemon complies with his earnest request.

Myokan notices the presence of Hachiemon and Chubei outside the house. She calls them in and asks Chubei what has happened to the 50 ryo due to Hachiemon. Although Hachiemon says he can wait a few days Myokan insists that Chubei pay him on the spot. Desperate at this turn of events, Chubei secretly takes a pomade container out of the toilet box, hurriedly wraps it with a sheet of paper, and hands it to Hachiemon, making it appear as if it were the money. While so doing, Chubei asks with an eye signal for Hachiemon's cooperation in his attempt to deceive Myokan. To help Chubei out of this predicament, Hachiemon falsely acknowledges the receipt of the money and goes away.

A courier arrives with the 300 ryo from Edo about which an inquiry came from its prospective recipient earlier in the day. Carrying the pouch containing the money, Chubei leaves the house to deliver it to its rightful owner.

The Misappropriation

封印切

Instead of going north in the direction of the house he is supposed to visit, Chubei walks toward the Shimmachi gay quarters in the south. He comes to the entrance of the Echigo-ya tea house, his usual rendezvous with Umegawa. Noticing Hachiemon's presence inside, he eavesdrops and hears Hachiemon expose Chubei's financial difficulty in the presence of many courtesans including Umegawa.

When Hachiemon shows them the pomade container as proof of Chubei's straits, Chubei is goaded beyond endurance. He rushes into the house and unlawfully breaks open the pouch containing 300 ryo. Out of this sum, to which he has no title, he pays his debt of 50 ryo to Hachiemon and 110 ryo to the Echigoya's master for Umegawa's redemption.

Hachiemon tells Chubei that he thought Chubei would stop his reckless dissipation on credit if Hachiemon exposed Chubei's financial difficulty and thereby made the people in the gay quarters more wary about him. Then he goes away, followed by all others except Chubei and Umegawa.

Now alone with Umegawa, Chubei tells her the truth and asks her to elope with him.

The Travel in a Palanquin

道行相合かご

Chubei and Umegawa travel in a palanquin on a bleak snow-covered country road to Chubei's home village to say goodbye to his father before committing a double suicide.


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