when and where to see fall foliage (Japanese version only):

Monday, May 31, 2010

What did a dead wife ask her surviving husband?

The 21-year-old Yohei(与兵衛) and the 15-year-old Okame(お亀) committed suicide together on the 17th day of the 5th month in the lunar calender(in the end of June in the Gregorian calendar). The 17th day of every month is a day believed to have a special relation with Kannon. But Only Yohei survived.

Okame was a daughter of an antique shop owner. Yohei who was her cousin married into her family. But he was entrapped by her father's mistress, and they decided to commit suicide together.

"Uzuki no Iroage(卯月の潤色:Redyeing of Uzuki)" starts here.
Yohei, her surviving husband, became a monk about a year after her death. He still sees her in his mind's eye. Her image is as hazy as a half-remembered dream. (Chikamatsu often shows poetic images like a movie.)

When he dozes off remembering her, he hears her voice. "Do you have a Yohei residing with you?" he hears her voice approaching. He gives an answer for joy and steps out of his house. She looks just the way she used to and asks him excitedly, staying on a palanquin, "It's hot... can you get me a glass of water?"
"Where did you go on a palanquin?"
"Today is the 17th day of the 4th month, so I just visited 22 shrines and prayed that you get along with my father." She carries on a pleasant conversation with him.

"I came to you because I wanted to ask you something. My aunt heard that Yohei often seemed to spend the time at adult entertainment shops. This question has bothered me for a long time. Is it true?"
With a happy grin, he turn the stove on to put water on for tea.
However, fire strikes her weak point. She makes herself invisible in front of him.

Through spiritual mediums, she let him know she wanted for him to stay alive and become a monk. Survivors of love suicide supposed to be executed, but he wasn't. Because his parents and relatives desperately begged for his life.

However, he didn't spend years as a ascetic monk, so he is not able to let her rest peacefully in her grave. He realizes that he has her chained to this world as long as he lives.
And he kills himself on the 17th day of the 4th month in the lunar calender(in the end of May in the Gregorian calendar).

"Uzuki no Iroage(卯月の潤色:Redyeing of Uzuki)" is the sequel to "Uzuki no Momiji(卯月紅葉: Maple leaves in April)". This bunraku play was written by Chikamatsu Monzaemon(近松門左衛門). It's thought to be based on an actual but unidentified incident.

This play has never been performanced according to my best recollection, but it's one of my favorites.

1 comment:

  1. I am glad that you introduced this story, because I am writing my thesis about Chikamatsu's love suicide stories. Your blog is interesting to read!