On the night of October 14, 1720, Jihei, a paper merchant at Temma, Osaka, and Koharu, a courtesan of the Kinokuniya teahouse at Sonezaki Shinchi, committed a double suicide at the Daichoji Temple at Amijima.
Koharu, a courtesan of the Kinokuniya teahouse, is called to the Kawasho tea house to entertain a samurai. Soon after her arrival at the Kawasho, Tahei, who wishes to redeem her against her will, comes to the Kawasho and speaks ill of Jihei, a paper merchant in love with Koharu. When Koharu's guest, a hooded samurai, comes in, however, Tahei reluctantly goes away.
Jihei, having heard that Koharu is at the Kawasho, comes to its front and overhears a conversation between Koharu and her samurai guest. Koharu tells the guest that her master has forbidden her to see Jihei any more for fear he may commit a love suicide with her. She says, however, that although she has promised to die with Jihei, in reality, she does not want to fulfill this promise.
Angered by her apparent faithlessness, Jihei draws his sword and thrusts at her through the window. Koharu retreats unhurt and he samurai seizes Jihei's hands and ties them to the window bar after which he takes Koharu into an inner room.
Tahei comes back and, finding Jihei tied to the window bar, beats and kicks him. The samurai rushes out of the house and beats up Tahei. After Tahei has fled, the samurai frees Jihei and takes off his own hood to show that he is none other than Jihei's elder brother Magoemon, a soybean flour merchant who has been disguising himself as a samurai in order to call on Koharu and to ask her to give up Jihei. Koharu, having learned the true identity of her "guest," runs out of the house to greet him anew. Jihei takes hold of her and, calling her a fox, attempts to kick her. Magoemon holds him and advises him to give up Koharu, saying that Koharu has been merely pretending to be in love with Jihei in order to make him spend money on her. He also reminds Jihei of the sorrow caused to Osan, Jihei's wife, and her parents by his love affair with Koharu.
Though mortified beyond description at Koharu's faithlessness, Jihei cannot but follow Magoemon's advice. He returns, through Magoemon, Koharu's 29 letters vouchsafing her unchanging love and asks Magoemon to recover his counterparts from her. While inspecting the documents handed to him by Koharu, Magoemon discovers among them a letter from Osan to Koharu. Unnoticed by Jihei, Magoemon reads It and finds that it carries Osan's request to Koharu to cold-shoulder Jihei in order to save him from his possible love suicide. Overwhelmed by his gratitude for her self-sacrifice for the sake of Jihei and Osan, Magoemon secretly promises her that he will destroy the letter and never let Jihei read it.
Unaware of the true cause of Koharu's sudden change of attitude toward him, Jihei kicks Koharu and leaves the house in extreme anger together with Magoemon.
Magoemon and Osan's mother visit Jihei at his home, Osan's mother tells Jihei that the heard a rumor that Koharu will be redeemed soon and asks Jihei whether he is the prospective redeemer. Jihei flatly denies any connection with the rumored redemption. Osan endorses his statement, but to make assurance doubly sure, Magoemon and Osan's mother ask Jihei to write a letter of promise never to have any contact with Koharu, Jihei complies with the request. Magoemon and Osan's mother leave the house to show Jihei's letter to Osan's father, Gozaemon.
Jihei lies in bed ostensibly to take a nap. Seeing tears running down his cheeks, Osan takes them as a sign of his lingering attachment to Koharu. As Osan casts harsh words at him, Jihei refutes her, saying he is weeping not so much for his attachment to Koharu as for his mortification over Tahei's prospective redemption of Koharu. Osan says Koharu would kill herself than be redeemed by Tahei. Jihei angrily denies such a possibility "because Koharu is a most faithless woman."
Feeling sorry for Koharu who acted cold to Jihei at Osan's request, Osan tells Jihei that Koharu's sudden change of attitude to him is in reality a result of Osan's request. Osan, as well as Jihei, wishes to prevent Koharu from committing suicide. The only way to do so, she believes, is to forestall Tahei in her redemption. In order to enable Jihei to redeem Koharu, Osan delivers money. To him as part of the ransom and takes out her kimonos and hair ornaments to pawn them. (The money Osan delivers to Jihei is not her own savings but the money to be used for paying a bill. Osan temporarily appropriates it in view of the fact that Koharu's redemption is urgently necessary.)
Osan's plan is thwarted, however, by her father, Gozaemon, who, no longer trusting Jihei in spite of his written promise for his separation from Koharu, personally calls on Jihei to demand that Jihei divorce Osan. Instead of writing a letter of divorce as demanded by Gozaemon, Jihei attempts to kill himself but is stopped by Osan. Gozaemon takes Osan forcibly to his home, heedless of Osan's concern over her two children, Kantaro, a boy, and Osue, a girl, who were awakened from their sleep by the disturbance.
A maidservant of the Kinokuniya visits the Yamatoya with palanquin to escort Koharu back to the Kinokuniya but turns back when told by an employee of the Yamatoya that Koharu is going to stay overnight at the Yamatoya.
Presently Jihei comes out of the Yamatoya. Before leaving, he tells the Yamatoya proprietor that he will go up to Kyoto and asks him not to wake up Koharu. He goes a few steps but comes back to take his sword which he entrusted to the proprietor's charge when he arrived with Koharu.
Magoemon comes with Sangoro, an employee of Jihei's shop, carrying Kantaro on his back. Noticing their approach, Jihei hides himself. Magoemon knocks at the Yamatoya's door and asks whether Jihei is in. Informed that Jihei has already left for Kyoto, he goes away but soon retraces his steps to the door, apparently suspecting that Jihei has gone with Koharu. He again knocks at the door and asks about Koharu. He feels relieved when told that Koharu is in bed upstairs.
After Magoemon, Sangoro and Kantaro have gone, Jihei reappears. Koharu approaches the door from within and makes a sjgn to Jihei with a cough. Taking advantage of the sound of the wooden clappers of a fire watchman, Koharu opens the door and slips out to join Jihei for a trip to the Daichoji Temple at Amijima where they plan to die together.
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