Monday, March 7, 2011

Kagamiyama Kokyo no Nishiki-e and Ooku

Maids of warrior families are allowed to return home during the Doll's Festival. "Meiboku Sendai Hagi(伽羅先代萩)" and "Kagamiyama Kokyo no Nishiki-e(加賀見山旧錦絵)" used to be performed for them in the 3rd month.

"Meiboku Sendai Hagi(伽羅先代萩)" is a kabuki or bunraku play based on the internal strife in the Sendai Domain between 1660 and 1671.  It was premiered as a kabuki play in 1777 and as a bunraku play in 1785.

The highlight of this play is the suffering of Masaoka(政岡) who is the wet nurse of her young lord.  She is torn between love for her child and loyalty to her lord.

"Kagamiyama Kokyo no Nishiki-e(加賀見山旧錦絵)" is a kabuki or bunraku play based on the internal strife in the Kaga Domain in 1748 and an actual incident occurred at a feudal lord's residence in Edo. It was premiered as a bunraku play in 1782 and as a kabuki play in 1783.

At the residence maintained by a feudal lord of the Hamada Domain in Edo in 1724, first lady-in-waiting Sawano gave second lady-in-waiting Michi a thrashing because Michi wore Sawano's zori(Japanese sandals) by mistake. Michi was shamed into committing suicide and Michi's waiting maid Satsu got revenge against Sawano to death.

Instead of being punished, Satsu won acclaim for her loyalty. She rose to the rank of second lady-in-waiting.
There is Satsu's grave in Hamada City of Shimane Prefecture.

The three women came from samurai family, but Onoe(Michi) is a commoner's daughter in the play.  This play received empathy from maids who were through the same kind of experience.

Ooku (大奥) refers to the shogun harem in Edo Castle. About 1000 women including the shogun's mother, wife, concubines and maids resided there. The maids were divided into 3 ranks in a broad way and more than 20 ranks for details.

The maids whose father was received in audience with the shogun and his wife had the potential to advance their career. However, they were not allowed to get a lover and marry during their lifetimes. They were scarcely able to go out of the castle.

The daughters of rich merchants or farmers were not able to move upward in Ooku, but they were allowed to make a home visit and were able to marry after coming back to their parents' home.  They tried to gain prestige by going into service in Ooku to make a good match.

Both of high-ranked and low-ranked maids had a chance to catch the shogun's attention and become the shogun's mother before age 30, but high-ranked ones had more opportunities than low-ranked ones.

A top-ranked maid got a salary of 25 million yen a year, but second-ranked maids were at the helm of Ooku.  They had jobs with prestige.
A second-ranked maid got a salary of 15 million yen a year and a house in Edo. They earned house rent income by letting their houses.
A bottom-ranked maid got a salary of less than a million yen a year, but the salary was equivalent to more than double a typical live-in maid's salary.

Maids who had worked for Ooku for over 30 consecutive years received pensions whole life long.

Successive financial reformers of the Edo Shogunate tried to reduce the costs of Ooku, but Ooku's annual budget went up to 24 billion yen around the end of the Edo Period.

The 8th Shogun Yoshimune underwent a major restructuring of Ooku. He retired young and beautiful maids on the assumption that they could find a new carrer.  Every furloughed maid didn't file a claim.

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