Thursday, May 20, 2010

Shinjuu Yoigoushin

"If you were forced to get divorced a hundred or a thousand times, …"

"Shinjuu Yoigoushin(心中宵庚申:love suicides on the night of the day of koushin-machi)" is a bunraku play, which was written by Chikamatsu Monzaemon(近松門左衛門) based on an actual incident that happened on the sixth day of the fourth month in the lunar calendar (May 20th in the Gregorian calendar) in 1722.

On the day, a greengrocery and his wife committed suicide together despite she was pregnant. Koushin-machi means Buddhist and Shinto ceremonies that people stay awake all through the night.

Surprisingly, the play was premiered on the 22nd day of the fourth month in the lunar calendar in the same year.
Bunraku writers of that time often dramatized actual incidents as they were happening live. The plays were premiered shortly after the incidents, like yellow papers.

Chiyo, this story's heroine, has bad luck with men.
Her first husband ruined himself and she lost her second husband. In additon, her mother-in-law forced her to get divorced during her third husband's absence, and she has been forced to come back to her parent's home.
Her marriages are arranged ones that were once common in rich families. Her father is a very wealthy farmer. People in those days regarded divorces as a shame of her family through no fault of her own.

He tells Chiyo, "If you were forced to get divorced a hundred or a thousand times..." He feels sorry for his daughter and complains of her third husband earnestly. Finally, He says,"I will marry you off to a much better husband than him."
His words should touch daughters' hearts.

We have an image of women in old times as weak victims, but most women in bunraku plays are pretty tough stuffs.
She is very meek compared to her noisy older sister who runs a family business well with her sister's husband. I guess her mother-in-law don't like her weakness and marital history.

Her third husband, Hanbei(半兵衛), was born into a samurai family but was adopted into a greengrocery's family. So he is not able to protest against his stepmother about being hard on her daughter-in-law. Meahwhile, he promises his wife's father not to leave his wife.
Finally, they decide to commit suicide together.

It is thought that the first act of the play was written to describe Hanbei's personality.
However, the content of the act is startling. The act is not performed at the present day, so few people know the content of this act.

He went to Hamamatsu to attend a Buddhist memorial service for his late father. He visits his brother who is a samurai warrior.
Some warriors try to have his brother's heart and their master encourages retainers to have a homosexual encounter!
Hanbei handles the romance with adeptness.

Actually, samurai warriors and monks were allowed to have a homosexual encounter in the Edo Period. It's a well-known fact that some famous samurai warriors were homosexual.
A Japanese film "Taboo (御法度, Gohatto)" directed by Nagisa Ōshima depects male homosexuality in the Edo Period. Recently, a kabuki play that deals with male homosexuality was performanced for the first time in 100 years.

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