Written by Jotaro Ki, Yodai Yo and Emba Utei, this play was first staged at the Gekiza Theatre in Edo in 1780.
In the forest of the Myojin Shrine at night Joetsu, an unemployed samurai, sees Tanigoro, another unemployed samurai, bury a severed head. They introduce themselves to each other and start talking. When Tanigoro speaks ill of Joetsu's former master, however, Joetsu gets angry. In their subsequent fighting with drawn swords, Joetsu desperately protects a branch of a mandarin orange from being cut by Tanigoro's sword. As the mandarin orange is the symbol of the family of Joetsu's former master, Tanigoro is impressed with Joetsu's loyalty and offers to make peace with him.
Taking advantage of a trouble in the household of his master, Daishichi, the local magistrate of the village of Sakai, steals a treasured mirror and buries it in a footpath between rice fields for temporary concealment.
Yomosaku, a farmer, happens to discover the mirror while transplanting rice seedlings. Daishichi and his retainer Nisuke, who have been keeping watch from afar, notice his discovery and hurriedly come to recover the mirror from Yomosaku. As Yomosaku refuses to hand it over to them they kill him in order to take it away.
After the two villains have left, Yomosaku's daughter Onobu comes to see him and finds to her surprise that her father is dead. Hearing her cry, villagers including the village headman Shichirobei come around her. Daishichi also arrives, pretending ignorance. Shichirobei suspects Daishichi to be the murderer but Daishichi flatly denies the charge.
Kampei, Daishichi's retainer, comes to report to Daishichi that an unemployed samurai murdered Daishichi's younger brother and buried his head in a forest in the neighborhood. Taking undue advantage of this information, Daishichi claims that the unemployed samurai must have killed Yomosaku also.
In the house of Yomosaku his wife Osayo is ill in bed. Tanigoro, who is being given temporary lodging in the house, tells her that he was engaged as a child to a girl who he believes to be living in this locality. Finding to his surprise that Osayo is the very mother of that girl, he asks Osayo where the girl is.
The girl, who is the elder of Osayo's two daughters-the younger being Onobu-is now in Edo as a courtesan. She had to sell herself eight years ago to free her father from imprisonment resulting from his failure to pay his tax. Without telling the truth, however, Osayo says to Tanigoro that the daughter is now in the employ of a samurai household in Edo.
After Tanigoro has gone out to buy sake, villagers bring the body of Yomosaku to his house, followed by the sorrowful Onobu and Shichirobei. Daishichi and his retainers Kampei and Nisuke also arrive.
When Tanigoro comes back villagers attack him, blaming him for the murder of Yomosaku. Tanigoro denies the charge, but admits that he killed Daishichi's brother. On hearing this, Daishichi, Kampei and Nisuke attack him but are easily overwhelmed by him. Tanigoro kills Kampei and Nisuke after forcing them to confess that Daishichi murdered Yomosaku.
Joetsu, the unemployed samurai whom Tanigoro met in the forest, also comes to the house and promises to collaborate with Tanigoro to help the two sisters avenge their father's death.
Wishing to inform her sister of their father's violent death, Onobu comes up to Edo, but the does not know her sister's exact address. The only information she has is that her sister is a famous courtesan of the Yoshiwara pleasure quarters.
In front of the tea-stall beside the Kaminari Gate of the Asakusa Kannon Temple, Onobu asks a man whether he knows the name of a famous courtesan of Yoshiwara. As ill luck would have it, the man happens to be a hoodlum named Kankuro. Kankuro becomes Onobu's self-styled guardian and sells her to Soroku, proprietor of the Daikokuya teahouse in Yoshiwara, for 50 ryo.
Kankuro is soon compelled to part with his ill-gotten money, however, for Dojo, a street vendor of wheat-gluten, approaches him in disguise of a guardian deity for children and takes 50 ryo away from him by threatening to take him immediately to the other world if he does not offer the money to him.
Two other courtesans of the Daikokuya teahouse, Miyazato and Miyashiba, tell Miyagino that Soroku has just engaged a new maid named Onobu. The new maid is straight from the country and has said she has come to Edo to seek her elder sister. Miyagino is interested and sends the two to bring the girl to her.
When she arrives, Onobu is very shy and awkward. As the two courtesans make fun of her, Miyagino sends them away and begins to question the girl closely. Onobu's replies confirm Miyagino's suspicion and Miyagino reveals that the sought-after sister is herself, proving it by showing a charm identical to the one worn by Onobu.
Their joy at reunion, however, is cut short by the news that Onobu brings. Their father, having opposed the malicious local magistrate, was killed. Their sick mother shortly afterward died of grief.
Miyagino, finding all her hopes of return to her family shattered by this news, pledges her support in seeking revenge. By her side is a book containing the story of the Soga brothers and she tells her sister they must be as faithful to their mission as the famous pair.
When the two sisters try to steal away from the Daikokuya, Soroku, their master, appears. He has overheard the whole story. Miyagino tries to attack him but Soroku easily disarms her and then, taking up the book she had shown to Onobu, he recites the part in which the two brothers seek help from their godfather. He tells the two girls that they have to train themselves in swordsmanship before they carry out the vendetta. Miyagino thanks Soroku for his kindness.
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