Tsumoru Koi Yuki no Seki no To (積恋雪関扉)

"Tsumoru Koi Yuki no Seki no To" (The Barrier Gate), often shortened to "Seki no To," is the title of a Tokiwazu-bushi (a style of narrative music to accompany a Kabuki performance) and also the title of the Kabuki play performed to Tokiwazu music. The play was written in the Edo period and is still often performed.

Although it is a relatively early piece of Tokiwazu music, this two-part epic is considered a masterpiece. Set in the world of six Waka poetry laureates ("Rokkasen" in Japanese), the performers demonstrate a variety of dances on the fantastic stage of cherry blossom in the snow.

Synopsis

Strangely enough Komachi-zakura cherry blossoms are in bloom in the snow at Osaka no Seki (a barrier gate in Osaka). Munesada YOSHIMINE (later Archbishop Henjo) is living there in secret as his lover ONO no Komachi arrives. The gatekeeper, Sekibe, tries to mediate between them. However, Sekibe looks somehow suspicious. (First part) Sekibe is in fact OTOMO no Kuronushi who has the ambition to rule the world. Astrological signs indicate that now is the time for Kuronushi, who has been waiting for the chance, to take action. He then decides to cut the Komachi-zakura cherry tree in order to use it for the ritual to pray for wishes to come true. However, a courtesan appears who calls herself Usuzumi and she starts trying to convince Sekibe. Usuzumi in fact is a Komachi-zakura cherry tree fairy, and she appeared in the form of a human in order to interfere with Sekibe's ambition. Finally they both reveal themselves and fiercely fight.
(Last part)

Highlight

The music used includes the day's trendy songs, and various tunes such as niagari and sansagari. It is colorful and never bores the audience. Tenmei buri, the choreography used in the drama, is spontaneous and also refreshingly unstrained, and gives us a picture of the early form of Kabuki dances. From the conversation between Komachi-hime princess and Sekibe, the dancing by all three roles in the first part, Sekibe's behavior in the last part, the talk about pleasure quarters, and identifying himself in the final stylized fight scene, the drama has continuous action.

The first performance

It was first staged in Kiri-za theater, Edo in November 1784 as the final act of the drama "Juni Hitoe Komachizakura." As we can tell by the month in which it was performed, it is a drama to introduce the actors to the audience ("Kaomise Kyogen" in Japanese).

Lyrics by Jurai TAKARADA
Composition by Richo TOBAYA and Shikisa KISHIZAWA
Choreography by Senzo NISHIKAWA

Sekibe, actually OTOMO no Kuronushi
Nakazo NAKAMURA I
YOSHIMINE no Munesada
Monnosuke ICHIKAWA II
ONO no Komachi and Sumizome fairy
Kikunojo SEGAWA III