Michiyuki Tabiji no Hanamuko (道行旅路の花聟)
Michiyuki Tabiji no Hanamuko is a dance drama ("shosagoto" in Kabuki terms) performed between the fourth act, "Hangan Seppuku" (a judge's suicide by disembowelment), and the fifth act, "Yamazaki Kaido" (Yamazaki-kaido Road), in the Kabuki play "Kanadehon Chushingura" (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers). It was written by Nisoji MIMASUYA. The music is Kiyomoto bushi (a kind of music accompanying Kabuki plays) and the piece is called "Ochiudo" (The fleeing warrior). It is commonly known as "Okarukanpei."
It was first performed at the Kawarazaki-za theater in 1833. In the first play, the leading roles were performed by Danjuro ICHIKAWA VII as Kanpei and Kikugoro ONOE III as Okaru.
The eighth act of the original "Kanadehon Chushingura" is a shosagoto called 'Michiyuki Tabiji no Hanayome', which depicts the journey of Honzo KAKOGAWA's wife, Tonase, and her daughter Konami when she was going to get married. Michiyuki Tabiji no Hanamuko on the other hand depicts Okaru, who brought the letter which triggered the Judge's sword-wielding misconduct, and Kanpei HAYANO wasn't present at the critical moment as he was on a date with Okaru. Unable to face those involved they fled to Okaru's family home, meanwhile the Judge committed seppuku and his family line was legally abolished. It is the most well-known piece of Kabuki shosagoto and is one of the most popular recital works chosen for performance by students of music and dance.
Originally, Okaru and Kanpei were to appear from the Hanamichi (a passage through the audience to the stage). However, in the present performance they start on the main stage where a light blue curtain ("asagimaku" in Japanese) is hung and it opens to reveal a spring landscape of oilseed rape blossoms covering the stage. Okaru and Kanpei are standing with Mt. Fuji behind them in the distance. Okaru is dressed in the style of a palace maid, with a "yagasuri" (arrow pattern) kimono and an obi belt tied in the shape of the Japanese letter "や".
(In some cases, the Okaru actor wears his favorite long-sleeved kimono taking into account that the performance is a kind of musical drama, "keigoto".)
Kanpei wears a black montsuki (a kimono with a family crest) with its bottom hiked up. Both are dressed for traveling. The scene is set in Mt. Totsuka.
Joruri, a kind of chanted narration, explains why they ran away. Kanpei suggests that they rest for a while, and they begin to talk about their future. Kanpei says that he wants to commit suicide by disembowelment because of his increasing sense of a need to apologize. Okaru implores him not to be so impatient and explains that she will be able to support them both and treat him as her husband once they manage to reach her family home. This "kudoki" scene, in which a female impersonator wins over her opposing role by demonstrating the greatest femininity, is one of the highlights of the play.
Okaru says that she will not survive if Kanpei kills himself and that people will criticize him for making such an unreasonable suicide pact. After listening to Okaru, Kanpei is determined to proceed in the hope that someday his apology will be accepted. Then Bannai SAGISAKA, retainer of Ko no Moronao, appears with his followers (called "hanayoten"), besotted with Okaru, and tries to kidnap her. However, they cannot compete with Kanpei's skillful swordsmanship. Bannai is beaten decisively in the ensuing fight and Kanpei leaves triumphantly with Okaru. According to "Chushingura towa nanika" (What is Chushingura?) by Saiichi MARUYA, the triangle made up of Kanpei, Okaru, and Bannai mimics the one made up of the judge, Kaoyo, and Moronao. He also writes that there is a carnival-like conflict between the King of Spring (Kanpei and Hangan) and the King of Winter (Bannai and Moronao).
In this play only, the curtain is pulled from right to left (the opposite of the usual direction) and it is called "sakamaku" (reversed curtain). At the point where Hanamichi and the main stage meet (Hanamichi tsukegiwa in Japanese), Bannai watches Okaru and Kanpei leave. As the curtain is drawn from right to left, it pushes Bannai to the left too, ending up with him dropping into the audience seats, which is a very rare staging. This staging is adopted in "The Kabuki" by Maurice Bejart.
Bannai is performed by actors with great skill, and sometimes the very highest ranked actors make a special appearance in this role ("gochiso" in Japanese), which is a pleasant surprise for the audience. A similar role is HAYAMI no Tota in "Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura, Yoshinoyama Michiyuki" (Yoshitsune and One Thousand Cherry Trees, Journey to Mt. Yoshino).
Do those fleeing also see the green grass in the field although there is no Japanese pampas grass?
They are fleeing in secret and in traveling clothes.
Although trying to keep a low profile, people still may notice us like the drifting smell of plum flowers.
After the flowers are gone, or someday, wild geese will go back to their home. In the cold spring wind, we left the capital and now are at Yoshida-bashi bridge, Totsuka. Mt. Fuji looks like an India ink painting in the night, with its clear shadow in the dark. We got here by following the birds to their nest.
Kanpei: Leaving Kamakura, we have only got as far as the mountain of Totsuka but aren't your feet aching because of the bumpy road with so many stones?
Okaru: It's nothing, but I cannot help but think of this journey's future.
Kanpei: No wonder, and because we have to be inconspicuous during the daytime -
Okaru: Luckily in the shade of this pine tree -
Kanpei: Let's rest our feet.
Okaru: That sounds nice.
At the break of dawn a little cuckoo singing for the first time this summer lifts my spirits on this difficult journey. (Note: Okaru's kudoki starts) Meeting at a secret rendezvous, I was working as a maid in a reputable mansion. I ran an errand for Madame (note: Kaoyo Gozen) and we both are retainers of Mr. ENYA. Wondering if it caused such a misfortune, I am watching a color woodprint of a figure which looks like Hakuen (Note: Hakuen is the nickname of Danjuro ICHIKAWA VII and he played Kanpei in the premiere).
It is comforting to find a pair of mandarin ducks drawn on a paper door in our temporary lodging.
I'm somber and talk to myself repeatedly under the sky with drifting clouds.
How sinful I am to bring harm to the family I serve just because I was blinded by love. My eyes get wet with tears of regret.
Kanpei: Looking back, I just came here without thinking, but I don't deserve to survive because I neglected my master at his critical time. You are just a woman. Live on and comfort my spirit. Okaru, good bye.
Okaru: Why do you say such a thing again. You betrayed your lord because of me. If you kill yourself to atone for it, I'll do the same. Then people will say we killed ourselves in a suicide pact and nobody will praise us. Please understand this and first of all go to my family home (note: Okaru's birth place, Yamazaki-mura village). Both my father and mother are very dependable. It won't hurt to accept what has happened and listen to your wife a bit.
(Note: Okaru's kudoki starts from here)
Who made you a flustered man?
It's all my fault - I asked you to change your mind to live on and come to my parents' place.
For us to survive secretly in the countryside, I will weave and I will do piecework. Even behaving as an ordinary woman, the knowledge of what we did will reach Yamazaki someday.
Just because of me, you are now having a difficult time.
If there was nobody around, I would lean over to you and ask sweetly for your forgiveness.
Kanpei: Indeed, I grant you. You think of me so much. Carry on for the time being and I will apologize later when I get the opportunity.
Okaru: So, you understand me?
Kanpei: Hey, get ready.
Were they getting themselves ready ?
Bannai: I've found you. Oh, Okaru as well.
Your master, the Judge Takasada ENYA had some disagreement with my lord, Mr. Moronao, who drew his sword and slashed him in the palace and it ended up with the judge's mansion being closed and him being carried as a criminal on a palanquin. Things fell into ruin.
Hey, Kanpei !
Give Okaru to me. If you refuse, you know what will happen.
Come on Kanpei, what's your answer?
(Note: The lines above contain puns related to the names of birds because of SAGISAKA's name (sagi means a heron). The word "what" in the last line, for example, sounds similar to "crane" in Japanese.
Depending on the actor, there are wide variations in this kind of pun for listing things in a category.)
Kanpei bursts into laughter when he hears Bannai say "crane".
Kanpei: Good timing, Bannai SAGISAKA!
I won't be satisfied with just one fowl, anyway I'll show you my skill at cooking birds - taste it!
Kanpei stands in front with his arms spread wide.
Bannai: What an irritating guy - 'catch him with rice cake!'
(Note: Bothering = shichimendo in Japanese sounds similar to turkey = shichimencho.
The 'rice cake' means a sticky thing to catch a bird.)
Bannai's followers: Hold on!
Though besotted with a beautiful cherry tree, it is the flower you could never own. She's not going be your lover. Though enamored with a gorgeous peach tree, it is like the wind you could never control. She's not going to be your lover.
Kanpei: Now I get my way.
Shall I chop off his ear or nose first, or simply …?
Okaru: Darling, that's enough - killing him would just get in the way of our plan to apologize.
Banana: Yeah, that's enough.
Sneaky SAGISAKA crouching quietly, escapes by the skin of his teeth.
Kanpei: If I had killed him, it would mean that I had committed more crime, adding to the disloyalty, but now it's the break of dawn.
Okaru: Oh, the edge of the mountain!
Kanpei: It starts turning bright at the East
Okaru: There is a delightful pair of crows singing as they leave their nest, with a cloud drifting sideways.
Even as they hurry, their hearts are left behind. It is natural for them to worry about their home.