Imayo Satsuma Uta (今様薩摩歌)

Imayo Satsuma Uta is a Kabuki play written by Onitaro OKA. It consists of two parts. It was first played at Shintomi-za Theater in October 1918.

Story line

Sangobei SASANO, a former feudal retainer of the Satsuma Domain, was adopted by Sugisai SASANO, the chief priest of the Tanjo-Hachiman Shrine, thanks to the efforts of his close friend Gengobei HISHIKAWA, but fell in love with Oman, the daughter of a nearby merchant, Chigusaya, and the rumor of their relationship spread throughout the town. Sangobei and Oman meet in secret at the house of Sangobei, but they were both disinherited by their families after it became known that Sangobei hid Oman in a large oblong chest used to store ceremonial equipments. As Gengobei could not just watch their miserable situation, he decides to take care of them and advised them to live separately until the two families accepted them. He entrusted Sangobei in the care of an acquaintance and took charge of Oman at his house.

That night, Gengobei enjoyed some drinks with Jisuke, a chugen (rank below common soldiers). When Gengobei was drinking alone after the chugen left, he noticed Oman's kanzashi (ornamental hairpin) lying at his foot. He could no longer contain his sexual desire as he was aroused by the evocative sound of shinnai coming from a neighboring house. He took Oman to Chigusaya and tried to persuade Chigusaya to offer him Oman as his wife as he could no longer bear being single at the age of thirty. Chigusaya, who valued his dealings with the Satsuma household, readily agreed, however, Oman could not restrain her anger. Using a banner with white cloth to escape from the second floor, she ran away to Sangobei.

Gengobei chased Oman until they met Sangobei and asked Sangobei to offer Oman to him. Sangobei turned down the request and confronted each other with swords after a verbal spat. Sangobei was slain. Oman screamed as follows and she committed suicide to follow him.
Do you think you can break someone's heart by a sword?'
Can you steal someone's heart by a sword?'
Gengobei, now all by himself, is filled with loneliness and hopelessness, and prepares to commit seppuku.

Background

The romance between Oman and Gengobei was known from around the 17th century by the song "Looking down into a valley from a top of a high mountain, sweet Oman is hanging sarashi (long white cloth)
and the song was used as the theme of some novels and plays such as "Koshoku Gonin Onna" by Saikaku IHARA, "Satsuma uta" by Monzaemon CHIKAMATSU, "Godairiki Koino Fujime" by Gohei NAMIKI, and "Kamikakete Sango Taisetsu" by Nanboku TSURUYA. This program is the story rewritten into a kyogen. Although it is performed in the traditional Kabuki kyogen style, such as using shinnai and takemoto, one can also observe some modern tastes in it such as in the personalities of the characters and the depiction of their psychology. It is especially effective that a chobo of shinnai is used to portray how a clumsy middle-aged warrior falls in love. This is the part one can see an excellent effect given by the author.

Gengobei and Oman played by Sadanji ICHIKAWA II and Shocho ICHIKAWA II in the first performance became so popular that Sadanji included the play in the "Kyoka jusshu", a collection of household specialties. In the subsequent years, Jukai ICHIKAWA III and Hakuo MATSUMOTO I among others were renowned for playing the role of Gengobei. The play is not put on stage as often as a masterpiece should because there are not enough actors who can play the unique character of Gengobei and because the play does not meet its potential unless the most suitable actors are there to play the various roles. From this perspective, Sadanji was superb in playing the role of Gengobei. In the part where Gengobei loses the inner fight to hold down his sexual urge for Oman while listening to shinnai, Sadanji chose to have the audience understand the volatile emotion by being rapt in listening to shinnai, while other actors struggled to express the emotion.

Actors who played in the first performance

Gengobei HISHIKAWA --- Sadanji ICHIKAWA II
Sangobei SASANO --- Ennosuke ICHIKAWA II (Eno ICHIKAWA)
Oman --- Shocho ICHIKAWA II
Jisuke --- Arajiro ICHIKAWA II