Bunshichis Mottoi (文七元結)
Bunshichi Mottoi was created by Encho Sanyutei, and is one of human-interest stories among rakugo (traditional comic story telling). It is considered as a difficult topic because many characters appear in the story, while the story is long, and humor has to be added to a moral story. In other words, if one can tell this story well, the one can be recognized as a professional rakugo story teller. It is performed in Kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors) with the title, "Ninjo banashi Bunshichi Mottoi" (human-interest Kabuki story of Bunshichi).
It is said that the story was created to express the sprit of a native of Edo in an exaggerated way as the author didn't like country samurai from Saccho (Satsuma Domain and Choshu Domain), who walked around like they owned the world, from the end of Edo period through until the early Meiji period. That's why the sprit of a native of Edo is depicted in an over exaggerated way.
SANYU group often picked up this story, and successive Oshinuchi (rakugo story teller in the highest grade) including Enu SANYUTEI (first generation), Enkyo TACHIBANAYA (the fourth generation), Ensho SANYUTEI (the fifth generation), Ensho SANYUTEI (the sixth generation), Shinsho KOKONTEI (the fifth generation), Shincho KOKONTEI, and Hikoroku HAYASHIYA (Shozo HAYASHIYA) were excellent at this story telling.
Characters of the story vary more or less depending on the version, whether it is rakugo or kabuki, and depending on the performer. The following characters are based on the story telling of Encho. The main characters are listed below in the order of appearance in the story.
Okane (the wife of Chobei)
Tosuke (a clerk of Kadoebi, a big brothel of Kyo-machi, Yoshiwara [Tokyo])
Madam (of Kadoebi)
Ohisa (daughter of Chobei)
Bunshichi (servant of Omiya, tortoise shell warehouse merchant in hakugin-cho)
Uhei (master of Omiya)
Heisuke (clerk of Omiya)
Chobei was a skilled plasterer, but he didn't work and was in debt because he hooked on gambles. It was the day close to the end of a year, Chobei came home only with a hanten (a short coat originally for craftsmen worn over a kimono) as he was deprived of all his belongings because he severely lost his money for gambling. Then, he saw his wife, Okane sobbing. She said that their daughter, Ohisa was gone. While he had a quarrel with Okane, a messenger from Kadoebi, a big brothel, which Chobei often visited, came up. Chobei asked the messenger to come again as he was in the middle of something, and then the messenger told that Ohisa was in the place of the madam of Kadoebi.
Chobei put on a piece of Okane's kimono and went to Kadoebi, then he learned that Ohisa had asked Okado to buy her out to earn money so that Chobei would be reformed. The madam, Okado gave Chobei the money, fifty ryo (currency unit), saying that she would keep Ohisa around her, without having her prostitute until the last day of the year, but if he doesn't return the money by the last day of the year, she will have Ohisa prostitute in her brothel, even if he returned the money only one day late.
When Chobei, who was so ashamed, but reformed, was about to cross Azuma-bashi Bridge, he ran into a man who was about to fall off the bridge to drown himself. Chobei asked the man why he had to do it, then the man said he was a servant (Bunshichi) of the tortoise shell warehouse in Shirokane-cho. He was ordered to go and collect money, and had the money picked by someone, then he thought he would compensate it with his life. For some time, Chobei repeatedly talked Bunshichi into not dying while Bunshichi insisted on dying to make it up. Then, Chobei told Bunshichi that his daughter, Ohisa sold herself out to earn the money, fifty ryo for him. Chobei forced the man to receive fifty ryo to save him, saying that his daughter will not die even if he doesn't return fifty ryo by the last day of the year, and he quickly left.
Bunshichi gingerly came back to his master, and presented the money which was given by Chobei. The master incredulously asked him where he obtained fifty ryo, presenting him another fifty ryo, which was turned in to his place after it had been left in the place where Bunshichi went to collect the money and was so absorbed in Igo (board game of capturing territory), and Bunshichi hurriedly confessed the whole story.
On the following day, Uhei made some arrangements and visited Nagaya (tenement) where Chobei lived with Bunshichi. Uhei explained to Chobei how it happened, and intended to return fifty ryo to him. Chobei refused to accept the money saying that once a native of Edo gives something to someone, he can't receive it back. After arguments, Chobei eventually accepted the money, and Chobei offered to adopt Bunshichi as his child and to make a relationship with Omiya as his relative in connection with this incident. They shared sake toast, and called Ohisa, who was redeemed by Omiya, to offer them some snacks for sake. Thereafter, Bunshichi and Ohisa married, and they opened a branch shop of Omiya, Motoyui shop (shop of paper cord for tying the hair).