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Kabuki: The Love Suicide of Osome and Hisamatsu (染模様妹背門松)

Alternate names:
Somemoyō imose no kadomatsu (染模様妹背門松)

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Biography:

The Bunraku play written by Suga Sensuke was first performed in Osaka in 1763.

Osome is the daughter of the owner of the Aburaya pawnshop. She is engaged to be married to Yamagaya Seibei. But Osome is not happy because she is actually in love with Hisamatsu who is an apprentice to her father. To complicate matters Zenroku, the chief clerk of the shop, is also in love with Osome and tries to give you a love letter which she tosses aside without reading. After Zenroku leaves Hisamatsu and Osome pledge their love to each other and dream/plot of running away and living happily ever after.

Like almost all other Japanese theatrical productions the main theme is mixed up with a bunch of other equally confusing subplots. In this case it is that of Osome's brother, Tasaburō, being in love with the courtesan Oito, who he wants to buy out of her contract. He trusts Oito to the care of his friend Genemon who himself wants Oito. Genemon makes Oito his prisoner, but she escapes and runs back to Tasaburō who by this time was beginning to doubt her fidelity.

"When Yomagaya Seibei comes, Osome's mother Okatsu immediately starts fussing over Seibei. But Genemon comes shouting that Tasaburo is a thief. Genemon and Zenroku have plotted together to get rid of Tasaburo by using a valuable poem card with calligraphy by the famous classical poet Fujiwara no Teika that Genemon owns. The poem card has been pawned for three hundred gold coins.

She asks Zenroku what he knows about it, but Zenroku claims that he did everything for the sake of the store. Moreover, Genemon accuses Tasaburo of being a thief for taking Oito without paying back the money or returning the poem card. Okatsu is shocked and asks for proof that Tasaburo has taken Oito and inadvertently opens the closet, sees Oito, and immediately closes it and covers up by saying that there is nothing but Osome's colorful kimons." [Quoted directly from bunraku.panthorstudios.com.]

Tasaburō tries to redeem himself by handing over the promissory note, but it is blank. Okatsu tries to return the poem card, but it is missing from the box where it was being stored. In its place is a songbook called "The Scandalous Ballad of Osome and Hisamatsu".

Seibei beats both Zenroku and Genemon and gives the poem card to Okatsu for safe keeping. She is only to return it to Genemon when he redeems it for 100 gold coins. Zenroku and Genemon both leave grumbling about their punishments. Later Zenroku and Genemon taunt Seibei for being engaged to a woman who is cheating on him. Seibei doesn't believe them, but is tricked into it when Zenroku shows Seibei his love letter to Osome saying it was written by Hisamatsu and not by himself.

Okatsu could have Zenroku executed for his crimes, but dismisses him from his service to the pawnshop. Seibei plots various schemes including stealing with the help of Zenroku the poem card at night, but Hisamatsu hears them and substitutes a wooden clog for the poem card.

Osome and Hisamatsu meet up at the Ikudama Shrine to renew their vows of love and to plan their double suicide. They overhear the balled and realize that it is about them. Zenroku appears and reveals his nefarious plots. Hisamatus kills him and then himself. Osome throws herself in a well.

But wait! That last part was all a dream, a dream that both Hisamatsu and Osome had. How prophetic it seems. Hisamatsu's father, Kyūsaku, a farmer arrives at the Aburaya to ask them to send Hisamatsu home so he can marry the daughter of a neighboring farmer. Hisamatsu argues against this, but doesn't know that Okatsu had hatched this plan.

Push comes to shove, Osome and Hisamatsu know what they have to do. Osome's father, Tarobei, begs her to marry Seibei because death is so hard on the living. She agrees, returns to her room in tears and kills herself. When they go looking for Hisamatsu they find that he has hung himself. A sad and tragic end. (JSV)