The Love Suicide at Amijima (revised)

double suicide

天網島時雨炬燵

てんのあみじましぐれのこたつ

ten no amijima shigure no kotatsu

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This is based on Chikamatsu Monzaemon's (1653-1724) 1720 play "Shinju Ten no Amijima". Although Chikamatsu's love suicide plays are extremely famous, in the Kyōhō era (1716-1736), love suicide plays were banned. When they were performed again, instead of Chikamatsu's original plays, they were performed in rewritten versions that had many plot complications to fit audience tastes and tried to avoid the risk of being banned.

This play is largely based on Chikamatsu Hanji's 1778 play "Shinju Kamiya Jihei", which actually has a happy ending and the couple doesn't have to commit love suicide. Then, in the Meiji period, this was revised again with even more plot complications and events were manipulated so once again, the couple had to commit love suicide.

The first act of the original play is set in the Kawashõ teahouse. The paper seller Jihei has long promised his lover, the courtesan Koharu, to commit love suicide together. His brother Magoemon has come to see Koharu's feelings, but all are surprised when she says that she doesn't really want to commit love suicide. In fact, her seeming faithlessness is in response to a letter from Jihei's wife Osan calling on Koharu to try to save Jihei's life. The plan is successful and Jihei abandons his love for Koharu.


Jihei's House

kamiya uchi

As Jihei is in the shop, Tahei, his rival for Koharu, comes claiming that Jihei gave him counterfeit coins and demands the real money. Jihei explains that he borrowed the money from a wealthy priest. In fact the priest was in league with Tahei and was, in fact, a begging priest named Denkai in disguise, who just happens by singing a song about Jihei and his scandalous love. The proprietor of Koharu's brothel says that Koharu ran away and left a letter saying that she truly loved Tahei and not Jihei. Tahei is overjoyed and reads it with all kinds of comic routines. But as he does so, he drops a letter proving he is conspiring with Denkai. Jihei's brother Magoemon finds the letter and drives them off. Tahei goes to search for Koharu. The mother of Jihei's wife Osan comes and asks whether it is true that Jihei has given up Koharu, she wants reassurance because her husband Gozaemon is very insistent on protecting Osan. Jihei easily says that he will write an oath that he has given up Koharu. Osan's mother is overjoyed and goes, taking her granddaughter Osue away with her.

As soon as they leave, Jihei goes to sleep inside the kotatsu-covered brazier and weeps. Osan is heartbroken that he still cannot forget Kohar U and expresses her feelings in a long speech. But Jihei says that he is crying out of bitterness that Koharu is so faithless that she will allow herself to be ransomed by Tahei. Osan is shocked and says that if Koharu agreed to go to Tahei, this must be because she is really intending to die. Osan reveals that Koharu pretended not to be in love with Jihei because Osan begged her to save Jihei's life. Now that Koharu is going to die. It is Osan's duty to save her life. But they must pay at least half of the cost of the contract. Osan brings out a bundle of money, which she had borrowed to make the paper wholesaler's payment. She then gets out all her kimonos to pawn for the rest of the money and urges Jihei to go. Just then, her father Gozaemon comes to take Osan away. He does not believe Jihei's written oath and tells him to write a letter of divorce. Osan berates her father and reminds him that all their money troubles came when Gozaemon lost all his money investing in a fraudulent silver mine. Jihei paid the bills and started going to the pleasure quarters to explain why he didn't have money. This was how Jihei met and fell in love with Koharu. Gozaemon says that he will check to make sure that all the kimonos and ornaments of her dowry are still here and to put a seal on them. Alarmed. Jihei says that he will give Gozaemon the bundle of coins. Still, Gozaemon insists on inspecting the chest of drawers and is alarmed to find it empty. Gozaemon drags Osan with him, but as they go. Osan notices Koharu hiding in the shadows where she has watched everything.

Koharu rushes into the house and laments that she has caused all these problems. Suddenly Sangoro, the simple-minded servant comes with the items for a wedding ceremony. He says that Osan told him that if she were to leave, Koharu would probably come and instructed him to give them a wedding ceremony. However, there is no sake and so he substituted water. (A toast of water is the final parting at death.) Determined to commit love suicide, Jihei and Koharu agree. Sangoro wishes there were a song and a little nun appears. She is Jihei's daughter Osue and her robe is covered with a letter from Osan and Gozaemon. Osan says that she owes so much to Koharu that she wishes Jihei and Koharu to live as husband and wife. Then Gozaemon says that Jihei's situation reminded him of his own youth. He says that when he examined the chest of drawers, he left the money that Jihei needs to ransom Koharu. Osan and Osue will go together to be Buddhist nuns and Gozaemon will use the money he took earlier to give to their temple. But just as things look like they will end happily, Tahei and his crony Zenroku come to take Koharu by force. Tahei and Zenroku end up wounding each other and, sensing this is his fate, Jihei takes out his anger at Tahei by delivering the final stroke and killing them. In the end, Jihei and Koharu end up going to Amijima to commit love suicide.


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