●Theatre Guide for October, 2008
Clever Women Studying the New Almanac was first performed at Dotonbori in Osaka by Takemoto Gidayu, but wasn’t staged again for 322 years until we resurrected it last year. In the first year of the Edo period’s Jokyo Era (1684), the official almanac in use for over 800 years was replaced with the Jokyo almanac, which was designed to reflect Japan’s actual circumstances through a combination of solar and lunar calendars. Upon the new almanac’s implementation on the first day of the new year, performers were presented with a new theme which they quickly put to competitive use.
Takemoto Gidayu launched the Takemoto-za theatre at Dotonbori in Osaka with Yotsugi Soga, a play which Chikamatsu Monzaemon had written for Takemoto’s teacher, the ballad drama master Uji Kaga-no-jo. When Kaga-no-jo heard that Chikamatsu’s play had been warmly received on account of a brilliant narration style markedly different from his own, he had Ihara Saikaku write a play called Almanac (Koyomi), which he rolled out from Kyoto to Osaka. In response to this, Takemoto Gidayu hastily appended the theme of new almanacs to Inoue Harima-no-jo’s Clever Women Learning, thus making an assault on Kaga-no-jo with Clever Women Studying the New Almanac. In this way, the dramatic treatment of almanacs set the stage for a showdown between teacher and student, but the young Takemoto Gidayu proved to be the victor over Kaga-no-jo.
The plot of Clever Women Studying the New Almanac goes like this. The Emperor decides to make a new almanac that reflects the actual circumstances in Japan, and therefore orders Sanekata Chujo to make a survey to the east in the Kanto region and Yasukuni to make a similar investigation in the western regions. But since Yasukuni had killed Kikuchi Zenjo Michikiyo at Dazaifu in Kyushu, he no longer wants to go out west. Upon visiting the temple Tenno-ji before departing to the east, Sanekata meets and falls in love with princess Rurihime, the daughter of the murdered Michikiyo. Sanekata finds out that Rurihime’s mother, brother Tachimaru, and retainer Heima-no-jo are in pursuit of Yasukuni to avenge Michikiyo’s death. A few days later, Yasukuni unexpectedly meets Tachimaru and Heima-no-jo, who have a letter that Sanekata had received from the Emperor. Yasukuni takes possession of the letter by telling them, falsely, that Sanekata is the enemy of their father. Tachimaru returns home and conveys this to Rurihime, who falls into despair about marring Sanekata, the enemy of her father...
The play is full of twists and turns, fantasy and romance, the vicissitudes of fortune and a dynamic pursuit of Michikiyo’s enemy across Japan, from Kyushu to Osaka, and from Kanto north to Tohoku into Ezo (modern Hokkaido)?all expressed through the teachings of the esoteric deity of love, Aizen Myo-o. The actress performs all twelve roles by herself. Japan has a long tradition of entertainment with one person playing many roles, such as with Buddhist monk lute players (biwa hoshi), puppet theater narration (joruri katari), story-telling (kodan), and comic stories (rakugo). The performance of this play, however, entails not only verbal narration, but also physical movement, which is why we call it “one-woman Kabuki.”
With this theatrical experience, we hope that your interest in Japanese culture deepens and your understanding of Japan grows.
(translated by Robert Goree)
Oct. 7 (Tues) 16:00 Myojou Temple, Hakui-shi, Ishikawa
Oct. 8（Wed）15:00, 19:00 Toyama Nogakudo, Toyama-shi, Toyama
Oct. 9 (Thurs) 19:00 Hukagawa Edo Shiryokan, Koto-ku, Tokyo
Oct. 10 (Fri) 14:00, 19:00 Hukagawa Edo Shiryokan, Koto-ku, Tokyo
Oct. 16 (Thurs) 18:30 Handa Planetarium, Handa-shi, Aichi
Oct. 17 (Fri) 15:00, 19:00 Yamamoto Nogakudo, Osaka-shi, Osaka
Oct. 18 (Sat) 14:00 Yamamoto Nogakudo, Osaka-shi, Osaka