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Date: 1991
From: The Love Suicide at Amijima: A Study of Japanese Domestic Tragedy
Publisher: Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan
Document Type: Critical essay; Excerpt
Length: 13,359 words

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[(essay date 1953) In this excerpt from the introduction to his translation of The Love Suicide at Amijima, originally published by the Harvard-Yenching Institute in 1953, Shively provides the cultural background of the story, focusing on the prostitutes of Osaka's "Gay Quarter." Shively also discusses the cultural role of the theater in Chikamatsu's Japan. This essay originally contained ideographic characters, which have been silently removed for this reprinting.]

1. The Theater in the Culture of the Osaka Townsmen

The leading playwright of the Japanese popular drama movement which began in the opening years of the seventeenth century was Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1725). Of his many plays none is better known today than The Love Suicide at Amijima (Shinju Ten no Amijima). Written in 1720, it is a mature work of his late years and is considered by modern Japanese scholars to be the finest example of his domestic plays, or sewamono, a form which is largely his invention.1 The esteem in which this work is held in the history of Japanese literature is indicated by the fact that there have been more commentaries written on this than on any other play.

The plot concerns the ill-conceived love of the young owner of a paper store, a married man with children, and a prostitute. The lovers, unable to extricate themselves from their family and professional obligations so that they may marry, escape the unsympathetic world by seeking death in a double suicide.

Westerners who read this play will find some aspects of it to be of merit. The dramatization is often skillful. The plot as a whole is well integrated, and the details of the story are unfolded in a natural manner. Unexpected complications in the course of events hold the reader's attention; variety of action sustains the pace. The flow of events seems logical, and the main characters have a tragic quality. In fact, the social and ethical dilemma of the lovers, if abstracted out of their particular cultural environment, seems to deal with a universal experience.

Yet the Western reader may be at a loss to understand why the play or its author has gained quite such recognition in Japan. He finds that in translation the style is undistinguished, and he may feel that the characters are inadequately delineated, the moral conflict is meaningless, and the suicide unnecessary. He will probably be more convinced that the play does not merit serious attention when he learns that it was written for the puppet theater, and that in the last two centuries it has been performed only after the most extensive rewriting.

The Westerner who is critical of this play is perhaps correct in the opinion that Ten no Amijima is not a work of universal appeal. However, this is not to deny that it deserves its position of esteem in Japanese literature. The very fact that it has markedly less appeal to a Western than to a Japanese reader enhances its importance for the study of comparative literature. The play is appreciated by the Japanese for special characteristics of style, content, and form which are unfamiliar to the Western reader. It is the product of a culture radically different from Western cultures, and its merits can be appreciated only after the most elaborate explanations. The elements of literary style, such as meter, word-plays, and allusions, are much more thoroughly swept away in translation from Japanese than they would be if translated from an Indo-European language. Another barrier to understanding the play is the social environment, the social and moral conflicts, which made it more poignant for the Japanese audience of two centuries ago than for modern Japanese. To understand the play we must also be aware of special conventions of the Japanese drama which conditioned it, and the peculiar requirements of the puppet theater which it had to meet. At the risk of doing some violence to appreciation of the play as a work of art, it will be subjected in this Introduction to such analysis as will show the specific ways in which the play is a product of its particular environment. Our first consideration then will be the culture of the Osaka townsmen and the theater that developed in it.

The Genroku, the era name for the years 1688-1704, refers more broadly to the cultural period from about 1680 to the 1740's. This was a time of unprecedented prosperity in the cities, of extraordinary productivity in the development of new popular forms of literature and art. It followed upon the establishment of internal peace and a form of centralized political control at the opening of the seventeenth century. The first three shogun, or military overlords, of the Tokugawa family had evolved an intricate system of political and social control which ran largely on its own momentum through the two and a half centuries (1600-1867) of the Tokugawa period. During the Genroku period the authority of this central government was unchallenged at home, and was free of threats from abroad. The old problems seemed to have been settled, and the new ones were yet to develop significant proportions; thus the administration had no concerns more serious than matters of finance and succession.

Domestic peace and a stable political structure were propitious for those interdependent developments which contributed to the expansion of the economy--the improvement of the transportation system, the increased circulation of commodities, the growth of a money economy, the formation of rice exchanges and credit houses, and a rising standard of living for all classes. In this rapidly developing economy, it was the commercial centers, the cities, which gained the greatest benefits, and much of the wealth of the nation passed into the hands of the merchants. They made large profits by government contracts for construction projects, for transporting commodities, and for reminting. They made even more money by speculation in rice and other products, by wholesaling monopolies, and by lending money to the feudal lords and members of the samurai class.

The center of the new urban culture was the city of Osaka, which dominated the commercial world as the transportation entrepôt and the location of the rice exchange. It had risen to importance in the sixteenth century when it outstripped the port of Sakai which neighbored it to the south.2 For several generations from the seventeenth into the eighteenth century it held a clear preëminence as the center of urban life over the two larger cities which had a population of over half a million.3 Heian, the modern Kyoto, the ancient Imperial capital and center of traditional culture, was too steeped in its past glories to live fully in the present. Edo, the modern Tokyo, the effective political center of the nation as the headquarters of the Tokugawa administration, was in the process of being built, and its townsmen were still rather stifled by its rustic provincialism and military atmosphere. The chief characteristic of Osaka which distinguished it from the other two was that it was predominantly a commercial city. Under the Toyotomi family it had a brief career as a political and military center, until the fall of Osaka Castle in 1615. In the years that followed, the Tokugawa strove to gain the favor of the inhabitants by the remission of taxes and by public works, such as developing the canal system.4 Osaka Castle was reconstructed as a bastion of Tokugawa power against any uprising of the feudal lords of southwest Japan, but it was not needed for this purpose until the middle of the nineteenth century; during the Genroku period the Castle did not cast a shadow over the civilian character of the city. Those samurai stationed in Osaka who were not in the Castle garrison were more commercial than military, since they were on duty at the commercial offices which the various feudal lords had established in Osaka to market the rice and other products of their fiefs.

It is not surprising that, at this center of commercial activity, the Osaka townsmen (chōnin) developed the most pronounced bourgeois spirit in Japan. Under a system of corporate responsibility they had a measure of management of their own affairs. They were responsible to a commissioner from the central government, the machi bugyō, for carrying out the instructions and requirements of the central government. Although the townsmen had no real opportunity for participation in political life, they were actually freer in the ordering of their lives and the conduct of their business than any other class in Japan.

By the time of the Genroku period the actual position of the Osaka townsmen was very different from their theoretical status in the Tokugawa social order. The feudal overlords, influenced by Confucian ideas of the functions and productivity of the occupations, had decreed a four-class hierarchy which placed the samurai or official class at the top, the farmers second, the artisans third, and the merchants fourth. This system did not take economic status into consideration. In the course of the economic expansion of the seventeenth century the Osaka merchants became wealthy, and the townsmen as a whole--merchants and artisans--were comparatively prosperous.5 It is true that they had little opportunity for participation in politics or for social advancement, but anything that money could buy was theirs. Their energy and wits were channeled into making money and spending it, and these became the great satisfactions in life.

The prosperity of the townsmen created a demand for forms of entertainment and art to meet their tastes and interests. It led to the development of gay quarters in the cities, where they could divert themselves in the restaurants, brothels, and bathhouses. It led to the development of new literary genres and new forms of drama, music, and dance. Their tastes brought forth new schools of painting, the development of the techniques of multicolored woodblock prints, and advances in the crafts of the weaver and the dyer.

All of these forms reflected the buoyant spirit of the townsmen, their lack of restraint and their verve. They contrasted sharply with the simplicity of the traditional forms of entertainment and art of the samurai, who considered the culture of the upstart townsmen plebeian, gaudy, and often immoral. Yet the samurai often were attracted by its excitement and fell under its spell. In subject matter, the bourgeois art bore a closer relation to actual life than did the art of the higher classes. The new literary genres and the domestic plays dealt with the social and moral problems of the townsmen. The paintings and woodblock prints took as subject matter scenes of their daily life, often in the gay quarter. The music of the three-stringed samisen and the drama recitations caught the tempo of their energetic, emotional lives. The patterns of their clothes and the woodblock prints reflected their love of bold color and design.

This tendency of chōnin art to represent actual conditions of life in rather graphic terms was in part the result of its origin as popular art of a class with but rudimentary education. However, it was more than a literal-mindedness, for it also reflected intellectual changes in Japan. Coincidentally with the rise of the merchant class in the early seventeenth century, the otherworldliness of the Buddhist outlook was giving way among the educated to the more practical social ethic of Confucianism. Concepts of legal procedure were becoming dominant in business as in feudal relations. The increase of commerce contributed to the growth of a mentality among the townsmen which placed importance on facts and figures. In the world of business, abstract concepts seemed of less utility. The practical, impatient townsmen found classical culture too antiquarian, too restrained, too profound. In the forms of art and literature as modified to meet the taste of the townsmen, there was a trend from the romantic toward the realistic, from the historical to the everyday.

This is exemplified by the three literary genres which developed during the seventeenth century: the haiku or seventeen-syllable poems, the ukiyo-zōshi or short stories, and the popular plays.

The haiku (or hokku) as a simple, terse poetic form appealed to the townsmen. It derived from classical forms but was simplified and had been freed of most of the scholastic rules of prosody and restrictions on subject matter. The composing of haiku and the related form of "chain poems" (haikai renga) became popular pastimes and the object for social gatherings and contests. They were often as much games, however, as art forms, games in which humor, nimbleness of wit, or quantity of production were appreciated more than aesthetic quality.6

A literary form even more representative of the townsmen is the short story of Ibara Saikaku (1642-1693) and those he influenced, such as Nishizawa Ippu (1665?-1731). These men delighted in describing the life of townsmen of all professions. With keen humor and sharp insights they described how merchants made their fortunes and squandered them. They reported in greatest detail on life in the gay quarters and gave the full particulars of recent love suicides. The terse and witty style of this prose, like the subject matter, suggests the tempo of chōnin life.

The content of Chikamatsu's plays shows a similar trend from classical materials to those of the contemporary world dealt with in the short stories. In literary style they were similar to contemporary prose, and were characteristic of chōnin culture in the rhythm of the language, the bombast, and the emotionalism. The two types of theater for which he wrote were developed specifically for chōnin taste, and contrasted in form and treatment with the classical theater. The kabuki and the ningyō jōruri, or puppet theater, both products of the seventeenth century, are so interrelated by cross influences in their development that they must be considered together.

That the kabuki theater is a characteristic product of chōnin culture can be seen in its points of contrast to the classical drama and kyōgen farces of the Muromachi period (1336-1568). Like many of the townsmen's arts, it emerged from a crude, plebeian medium, and was elevated by borrowings from a classical art form of the upper classes. Its rudimentary beginnings were in shrine dances and mimes, but it was the which supplied many of the elements that made it a dramatic form. The plots of most early kabuki were taken from the texts (yōkyoku) or from that corpus of military stories (gunki monogatari) on which the drew so heavily. The michiyuki, or poetic journey of the plays, became a regular feature of the kabuki. Its dances and posturing were influenced by the nō, and the style of recitation and early techniques and terminology of staging were borrowed from it. However, in its spirit and tempo it is as different from the as the Tokugawa townsman was from the Muromachi warrior. In contrast to the subtlety and restraint of the nō, the action of the kabuki is direct, the language bombastic, and the movements exaggerated. Historical events are unfolded in lively action on the stage, instead of being narrated in retrospect by a priest or the spirit of a samurai. The impersonal recitation in poetic diction which characterizes is supplanted in the kabuki by extensive use of dialogue, in rough and ready language. During the last decade of the seventeenth century, the introduction of the domestic plays about contemporary occurrences in the townsmen class made kabuki even more representative of chōnin culture. At the same time the use of more elaborate sets and staging techniques and the development of more mature acting styles began.

The early kabuki had developed certain characteristics, especially in acting styles, which restricted its potentiality as a serious art medium; this was probably an important reason why the puppet theater was able to rise to such popularity and compete with it during the Genroku period. The kabuki is said by tradition to have originated in 1603 with the appearance in Kyoto of Okuni, who was evidently a renegade Shinto priestess.7 Her suggestive dances attracted notice, and her performances were provided with some plot content by her lover, Nagoya Sanzaburō (or Nagoya Sanzō), who outlined farces for her from his knowledge of and kyōgen. In many of the kabuki troupes which soon appeared the women's roles were played by men, and the men's roles by women, providing the opportunity for a great deal of indecent pantomime. The acting and dancing was often calculated to advertise the actors' and actresses' secondary profession of prostitution. It is not surprising, then, that the kabuki theaters were established next to the gay quarter. The central government, deploring the immorality of the kabuki theater, began to place prohibitions on it as early as 1608. There were some troupes composed entirely of women, who performed onna kabuki, or "women kabuki." But the impersonation of men by women was considered to be especially disruptive of public morals, and women were banned from the stage in 1629, an order which remained in force for over two centuries.8

Even before this prohibition, at least as early as 1617, there was an all-male theater, known as the wakashu kabuki, or "young men kabuki," which was connected with homosexual prostitution. This type of drama was banned intermittently, notably in 1642. It continued without serious interference after 1652 when certain superficial reforms were made to satisfy the authorities. An example of these changes was the requirement that the boys who played female roles shave their forelocks in conformity with the masculine fashion. In compensation, the practice soon arose of wearing a purple cloth cap over the shaved portion to simulate the appearance of women's coiffure. In this modified form, known as yarō kabuki, or "fellow kabuki," the emphasis was still on sex rather than on art, as is abundantly illustrated by the yarō hyōbanki, the critical booklets rating the boy actors, which stressed their physical appeal more than their dramatic skill. It was probably not until the 1680's that art began to take precedence over sex in kabuki acting, with the development of new styles by Arashi San'emon (1635-1690) and Sakata Tōjurō (1647-1709).9 For some time, however, the actors continued to be idolized by the townsmen public as much for their appearance as for their acting.

The excessive popularity of the actors also inhibited in another way the development of kabuki into a mature drama form. The individual actor confined himself to a type of role in which he felt he excelled and demanded of the playwright a vehicle which would suit his style and rhetorical declamations which would utilize his voice to its best advantage. The written text (kyakuhon) was sometimes little more than an outline on which the actor improvised, and in most cases the actor's whims took precedence over the structure of the plot. This was such a restricting medium for the able writer that many of them, like Chikamatsu, turned more and more to writing jōruri for the puppet theater, where their literary talents would have fuller scope.

Jōruri, a style of recitation used in narrating certain romances,10 began to be used to accompany the performance of puppets at the beginning of the seventeenth century.11 About the same time the three-stringed samisen12 was substituted for the biwa as an accompaniment to jōruri recitation. With the development of the puppet theater, jōruri came to mean the style of recitation used for puppet plays, and hence the plays themselves.

This puppet jōruri grew rapidly in popular favor and on certain occasions was even performed for the Imperial Court, the Tokugawa shogun, and many of the feudal lords, at a time when kabuki was held in contempt by the upper classes. Dozens of competing styles of jōruri recitation were evolved in Osaka, Kyoto, and Edo, but the style which was ultimately to overshadow the others was developed by Takemoto Gidayu (1651-1714).13 He established his own puppet theater, the Takemoto-za, in Osaka in 1685. His success can partially be attributed to the fact that many of the jōruri he performed from 1685 on were written for him by Chikamatsu, who, after 1705, worked almost exclusively as a writer for his theater.

The principal competition of the Takemoto-za among the puppet theaters of Osaka was the Toyotake-za founded in 1702 by a former pupil of Gidayu, Toyotake Wakadayu (1681-1764). Hiring the able playwright Ki no Kaion (1663-1742), it staged a new play to vie with each production of the Takemoto-za, often using the same theme for its plot.14 The competition between the two theaters and the two writers was a great stimulus to the development of the art. The spur of economic competition induced Chikamatsu to put more originality into his plays, Gidayu to recite more fervently, and the puppeteers to develop new techniques and more artistic puppets. The result was that for several decades before and after 1700 the puppet theater seems to have actually out-stripped the kabuki in popularity in Osaka.15 The limitations of the kabuki as a serious art form during its early development can in part be credited for this extraordinary situation, but an important cause was the outstanding talent that the puppet theater had assembled.

The interrelation between the kabuki and the jōruri is extremely complex, and it is often impossible to determine in which form certain of the elements originated. During the Genroku period the puppets came to be modeled in appearance and style of acting on certain of the more famous actors of the day. It must have been amusing to the audience to see the familiar gestures and stance of well-known actors mimicked by the wooden puppets, but with a touch of exaggeration which may have made the human actors seem a little flat. The puppet theater fell into some of the conventions of the kabuki, such as the use of type roles; the movements of the female puppets were modeled on the style of the boy actors who played the female roles in the kabuki. At the same time, the puppets had an influence on the acting styles of the human actors. The articulation of the wooden arms and necks of the puppets lacked the smoothness of the movements of humans. Also, in order to bring puppets to life on the stage in the roles of humans, all of their movements and gesticulations had to be slightly exaggerated. The actors, not to be outdone, adopted some of these jerky and exaggerated movements themselves. Similarly, the necessity of heightening the emotional impact of the language in the jōruri to make the puppets seem human influenced the language of the kabuki. In time, the kabuki was forced by the competition of the jōruri to improve the dramatic structure of its plays and to subordinate the actors to the play. The kabuki theater adapted jōruri texts for its own use, and as much as half of its repertoire during the Tokugawa period seems to have been derived in this way. Some of the stories used in the jōruri had been borrowed originally from the kabuki, so that a complete cycle was sometimes formed.

This process of borrowing can be seen also in the evolution of the domestic play (sewamono). All earlier plays in both theaters were of the category known as "period pieces" (jidaimono), that is, history plays. In kabuki there began to appear scenes which were clearly contemporary, such as a glimpse of prostitutes and townsmen in the gay quarter, and these elements were expanded until a rudimentary sewamono was evolved. Such innovations were copied in the jōruri and were developed until finally the full-length domestic puppet play was evolved by Chikamatsu, and then readapted for presentation on the kabuki stage.

2. The Jōruri of Chikamatsu

Chikamatsu Monzaemon is the most famous author of jōruri.16 His contribution to the development of Tokugawa drama is comparable to that of Zeami (Kanze Motokiyo, ca. 1363-1443) in the of the Muromachi period. In a career of fifty years he wrote a hundred jōruri, some forty others are often attributed to him, and he was the author of about thirty kabuki.

Few details of his life are known with any certainty except those connected with his career as a playwright. There are at least ten different traditions concerning his place of birth, three about his place of death, and three temples claim his grave.17 Even the exact date of his death is in doubt,18 and there are three versions extant of his "death message" (jisei).19 Until new evidence is uncovered, it seems better not to add to the excess of speculation that now exists concerning his origins and education. It need only be remarked that it is obvious from the internal evidence of his plays that he had an extensive knowledge of Japanese literature and a wide familiarity with quotations from the Chinese classics and Buddhist writings. It is generally accepted that he was born into a samurai family and that some years of his youth were spent in the service of noble families in Kyoto.20

It is known that he composed haiku which were included in a family anthology, published in 1671, when he was eighteen.21 As in the case of Saikaku, his experience in composing haiku contributed stylistic characteristics to his prose. The imaginative exercise of composing haikai renga contributed to his agility in turning poetic phrases in meter for sustained passages. During the first half of his productive period, he wrote jōruri for reciters of at least five different schools and composed most of his kabuki. Thereafter he devoted himself almost exclusively to writing jōruri for the Takemoto-za. Through this wide experience and decades of intense application he constantly improved his literary style and gained an ever deeper understanding of the problems of the theater. From the crude and monotonous productions in the "old jōruri" (ko-jōruri) style, his plays gained in stature as he developed the "dialogue,"22 the structure of the plot, and the delineation of psychological attitudes. His most creative achievement, the domestic play, was a product of the second half of his career. Indeed, the plays written during his last decade quite overshadow those of the preceding forty years, not only in maturity of concept and polish of style, but also in originality and vigor.

Chikamatsu's career as a playwright is generally divided into four phases. The first phase (1676-1685) is normally considered as beginning with the first jōruri for which we have a reliable date, but there is some evidence that jōruri he had written were being performed as early as 1673. His earliest plays were largely adaptations of texts. The second phase (1686-1703) began with the performance of Shusse Kagekiyo, the first important play he wrote for Takemoto Gidayu. During this period he wrote nearly half of his kabuki, including about ten specifically for Sakata Tōjurō, the greatest actor of the day and his close friend. In some of these works, such as Butsu Mo Maya-san kaichō (ca. 1693) and Keisei Awa no Naruto (ca. 1695), he began to place scenes in the gay quarter, such as those involving the redeeming of prostitutes, which foreshadowed the development of the domestic jōruri in the following decade.

The third phase (1703-1714) opened with the production of the first pure sewamono, Sonezaki shinju (The Love Suicide at Sonezaki), which deals exclusively with Osaka townsmen, dramatizing the story of a recent event. Chikamatsu did not write another domestic play for three years, but in the third month of 1705, he moved from Kyoto to Osaka where he became a permanent writer for the Takemoto-za, which thereafter performed his plays almost exclusively. Here at the center of chōnin culture, he turned his attention more and more to the domestic plays, and thirteen of the forty-five jōruri written during this period were of this type. His writings in this decade relegated almost all of his earlier jōruri to obscurity.

The fourth phase (1715-1724) of Chikamatsu's career, although less prolific, quite overshadowed even the preceding one in its high concentration of important plays. Among the sixteen history plays and eight domestic plays is included his most famous work in each group; Kokusen'ya kassen (The Battles of Coxinga)23 (1715) and Shinju Ten no Amijima (The Love Suicide at Amijima)24 (1720). Moreover, during his last four years he wrote the history play, Kan hasshu tsunagi uma25 (1724), and the domestic play, Onna koroshi abura no jigoku (1721), which were unsurpassed in vigor of style and originality of plot. His late plays also excelled in the sympathetic depiction of human problems. The cumulative experience of forty years as a playwright and a lifetime as an observer of human life led him to his best achievements.

According to tradition, it was the difficulties arising from the death of his friend and employer Takemoto Gidayu in the ninth month of 171426 which spurred him on to his greatest efforts. The theater faced a double crisis in finances and in the question of succession. One of the young reciters, Takemoto Masadayu (1691-1744), had been selected by Gidayu to succeed him as chief reciter. Some of the older reciters of the troupe, however, believed him to be unworthy to fill his master's place, and, discouraged about the future of the theater, a number of them seceded. When word of the dissension spread, the audience began to dwindle. Chikamatsu was called upon to try to save the day by writing a daring new history play. He rose to the occasion by writing The Battles of Coxinga, which broke all records, running continuously for seventeen months. It assured Masadayu of his position and brought new recognition to Chikamatsu,27 whose apparent paternal concern for the young Masadayu may also help to account for the brilliant achievements of his last years.

Other circumstances at this time contributed to the development of Chikamatsu's art. His relation with Masadayu gave him more freedom in writing than he had had under Gidayu, and he was able to give fuller scope to his literary preferences. He did have to make some changes in his style to meet the special requirements of Masadayu's voice, but this necessity proved to be fortunate, especially in the case of domestic tragedies such as Shinju Ten no Amijima. Masadayu's voice was weak in volume and rather thin in tone, unsuited to the type of bombastic, thundering history plays which Gidayu had delighted in. To bring out the emotional qualities of Masadayu's voice, Chikamatsu emphasized human feeling and sympathy in his writings. He succeeded in making his characters more lifelike by revealing their human frailties and by paying greater attention to dialogue, with the result that he enhanced the dramatic situations in the plays.28

As a writer of jōruri for the Takemoto-za, Chikamatsu had, of course, to meet many requirements which limit the freedom of any dramatist. Although jōruri permitted him wider latitude than kabuki, it was nonetheless a restricted medium. He was part of a business organization which produced plays for profit. Since he was in a key position to determine its economic success, he had a serious responsibility to the entire company. Obliged to write plays which would be certain of popularity, he had at times to compromise his artistic ideals.29

A comparison of the two types of jōruri--the history plays (jidaimono) and the domestic plays (sewamono)--indicates the course of development of jōruri into a more mature drama form. The jōruri jidaimono, when contrasted with the nō, can be described as representative of chōnin culture in much the same way as are the early kabuki. Roughly speaking, many early jōruri, like the kabuki, appeared to be a chōnin variation on nō. Although they borrowed extensively from the in structure, recitation, and subject material, they contrast with them so sharply in spirit and tempo that they unmistakably reveal their chōnin origin. Yet compared with the jōruri domestic plays, the history plays seem to be an intermediary form between the classical and the bourgeois, for the domestic plays were not only for townsmen, but are about them exclusively.30 Also in many lesser ways, including changes in form, the domestic plays are more characteristic of chōnin culture. To a greater extent than the history plays they exhibit the tendency of chōnin art forms to develop from the romantic toward the realistic, from the historical toward the everyday. This can be seen in the points of contrast between the domestic and the history plays.

The twenty-four sewamono of Chikamatsu, written during the last twenty years of his life, are concerned largely with the townsmen of Osaka and Kyoto. The plot usually revolves around a love scandal, in most cases based on an actual contemporary event. The financial problems and family conflicts that follow upon an unfortunate amour often bring the play to a tragic conclusion. The domestic plays are highly charged with emotional problems, which were perhaps too close to home to be enjoyed by the townsmen as a steady diet. The history plays by contrast seem escapist entertainment with the scene laid in the historical past, the characters military or court figures of the upper class, the events enlivened with supernatural intervention, superhuman heroes, and gaudy pageantry. But after the splendor of the long five-act jidaimono, the program was concluded by a three-act sewamono, direct and poignant, which sent the audience home choked with tears.31

The subject matter of the domestic plays is immediate social realities, the problems of real townsmen. If these, as presented on the puppet stage, were to stir the sympathy of the audience, they had to be presented with the greatest possible realism. An atmosphere of reality was built up by presenting familiar scenes of Osaka or the interior of a typical townsman's home. This is in contrast to the deliberately unrealistic atmosphere of the history plays, which catered to sensationalism by presenting the fantastic and the mysterious, the scene being laid in the dim past when incredible feats were possible and divine intervention was a matter of course. In his so-called history plays Chikamatsu did not strive for accuracy. He jumbled history and legends from various sources--the nō, military stories (gunki monogatari), and classical novels (monogatari)--to spin the most entertaining story he could. He changed names and scrambled chronology.32 Regardless of their century the characters act according to the idealized feudal pattern of ethics which was taught to samurai in the Genroku period. Despite prohibitions against depicting contemporary historical events involving the upper classes, Chikamatsu on several occasions dealt with this material in his jidaimono, but he was careful to camouflage the story by dating it in an earlier century.33

The structure of the two types of play also reveals a marked contrast. The domestic play has a closely knit, succinct plot, so presented in the love-suicide plays, for example, as to prepare the audience for the tragic culmination. If the lovers were to suffer, the reasons had to be made clear, and all routes of escape had to be blocked. In those plays which end in suicide, the suicide psychology had to be built up by reasonable and convincing steps. There had to be a clear framework of time and space, which requirement resulted in a tendency to observe the unities within an act. The structure of history plays, on the other hand, is loose and episodic; lacking any real plot, it consists rather of a series of incidents, disjointed in space and time, often with little relation between the beginning and end and with the most chaotic chronology in between. The free treatment seems to have pleased the Tokugawa audience, but the modern Japanese as well as the Occidental finds the history play distressingly weak as a dramatic form. He is disturbed not only by the feebleness of the plot, the insertion of irrelevant elements merely to entertain, and the excessive use of the supernatural, but also by the dogged insistence on a lesson of moral edification. The greatest violence is done to credibility in the careful rewarding of good and punishing of evil which conclude each history play. When the supernatural must intervene to bring about the edifying ending, it often reduces the plot to puerility. This structural characteristic, combined with the greater emphasis on the musical element in the history play, often gives these plays an operatic rather than dramatic flavor.

The difference between the two types of play is also evident in the delineation of the characters. The domestic play centers around the mental state of the main characters, the complex dilemma in the minds of the lovers, torn between their love and their obligations. The conclusion usually is a triumph of the heart, of human frailties. The interest in the domestic play lies in human attitudes rather than in events, and the interplay between events and feelings forms a dramatic balance. In the history play, the main interest is in the events, and there is greater reliance on narrative than on dialogue. Action does not flow from character but is rather external and contrived. The characters have no real individuality but are merely types, each embodying some virtue or vice in familiar garb. These stock characters--faithful retainer, brave warrior, benevolent lord, filial son, illustrious woman, blackest villain--are so manipulated as to bring about the desired end, that is, the rewarding of good and the punishment of wrongdoing. They serve merely as agents through whom the moral of the play is pointed. In the domestic play the characters also tend to be types, but to a much lesser degree. Their actions more often betray human failings, and they have more personality than the abstract paragons of virtue who are the heroes of the history play.

The contrast between the domestic and the history play also extends to the spheres of puppetry and music.34 The study of Chikamatsu's jōruri as literature neglects two major dimensions of the dramatic art--first, the puppet manipulation, and second, the musical elements of recitation and samisen--which must be conceived as interrelated elements. The dance of the puppets, a combination of puppetry and music, is also an important element in some plays. These elements are used somewhat differently in the two types of play. In the presentation of the history play there is greater reliance on the purely visual aspects, and a corresponding exaggeration and lack of realism are exhibited in the movement of the puppets. The historical heroes make great leaps in the air and effect miraculous entrances and exits. There is a certain bravura in the musical accompaniment, the action, and the language of the history play--a liveliness, vigor, and exuberance of word and deed that overshadow purely dramatic qualities. Contrariwise, in the domestic play the movement of the puppets is more restrained and natural, the intention being to create an atmosphere of plausibility, of reality. The musical elements enforce the human moods, convey in turn the lively tempo of the gay quarter and the sadness of the doomed lovers at their place of death in the suicide plays. If the history play may be said to appeal to the eyes and the ears, the domestic play appeals to the ears and the heart. In the latter there is obviously greater emphasis on the recitation to create and sustain the mood.

The contrast in the essential characteristics of the two types of play makes it clear that more mature dramatic writing can be expected in the texts of the domestic plays.

3. The Gay Quarter and Love Suicides in the Domestic Plays

A closer examination of the subject matter of the domestic plays is revealing of the social problems of the Osaka townsmen. The plots of most of the twenty-four by Chikamatsu revolve about a love affair, which most often ends in tragedy. Fifteen of them have been classified as "love-suicide pieces" (shinjumono),35 but in some of these the suicides are not consummated. The other nine deal with illicit love, which is almost always adulterous.36 It is typical of Chikamatsu's moralistic treatment that some of the adultery cases are merely alleged, or if they actually occurred, take place in a rather accidental manner, as if to show that there was no premeditation. In most of the love-suicide plays, the girl is a prostitute in one of the gay quarters of Osaka. The subject matter, then, is similar to that of the "amorous pieces" (kōshokumono) among the stories of Saikaku, and the works of others of Chikamatsu's contemporaries, such as Nishizawa Ippu. Three of Chikamatsu's domestic plays are based on stories which had appeared earlier in rather different versions in Saikaku's Kōshoku gonin onna (Five Amorous Women) (1686). It is probable that all of Chikamatsu's domestic plays are based either directly on an actual occurrence or on a story prevalent in the popular literature of the day.37

The gay quarter (irozato) and its life are the subject of a great mass of chōnin literature throughout the Tokugawa period, as they are of the ukiyoe, the paintings and woodblock prints of the townsmen. That it should be the exciting center of social life, while the home and marriage were considered subjects too unromantic for treatment, is symptomatic of the social arrangements of the townsmen.

The outlets for the money and energy of the Osaka merchant were limited. His vigor and ability were directed into a desire for property and for pleasure. He could gain prestige within his class by spending money conspicuously and by acquiring a reputation for riotous living. When a merchant indulged too ostentatiously in luxuries, he might encounter difficulties with the feudal authorities,38 who feared that obvious enjoyment of life by the lowest class was disrupting to the hierarchical class system. The Confucian education of the officials made them ever concerned with outward appearances, and they attempted to keep the townsmen in their place by intermittently issuing sumptuary laws. At various times these restricted the size of houses merchants could live in, the richness of their ornamentation, the use of expensive textiles in their clothes, the making of certain types of cakes, and the hiring of palanquins of certain design. However, a wide margin of license was allowed for the way the townsmen could conduct themselves in the gay quarter of the large cities. It was something of a free area, where the chōnin could escape the social and political inequalities of the Tokugawa system. It was a pleasure quarter for the chōnin, and although many of the visitors were samurai, the latter usually wore a disguise, since they went at some risk to their professional standing. They avoided attention and did not attempt to enforce their social prerogatives. Only in this quarter was class unimportant. Money was the sole index of prestige and power, and there was little that money could not buy.

The gay quarter originated from the practice in earlier centuries of restricting houses of prostitution to a certain section in the town. Originally the prostitute's sole function was probably physical, but with the development of prosperity in the cities, the character of certain of the old quarters was transformed, and new quarters were established which became centers of social and sometimes even cultural activity. As the only places where the townsmen could spend lavishly and enjoy themselves, they grew rapidly into luxurious centers of entertainment. They were areas of such wonders that they were sometimes referred to as gokuraku, the name of the Western Paradise of Amida Buddha.39

In the higher type of establishment, the primary function of the girls shifted from sexual to social intercourse. They were encouraged to develop distinctive personalities and were trained in singing and dancing, in poetry and calligraphy, in tea ceremony and flower arranging. The cultural accomplishments of the higher class of prostitute far exceeded those of the townsman's wife. Their rich dress and elaborate coiffures led the trend in fashion, and the influence of their styles reached even to the ladies of the shogun's palace. A few of the girls of the highest rank attained a position of considerable independence. They would not bestow their favors lightly, but demanded a long and expensive courtship.40 The strong personalities and accomplishments of some won respect for their profession within the chōnin class. Outwardly they were treated with courtesy and were addressed in terms of respect. In their relations with their masters, of course, there were few who were treated with consideration. Most of them were little more than slaves for the term of the contracts which their masters had made with their parents. Few were fortunate enough to be redeemed by a man of wealth to become his concubine, or even his wife. The treatment of girls of lower status, who far outnumbered the privileged few, was sometimes severe. However, this is not the case in the idealized view of prostitutes in Chikamatsu's domestic plays, where even the lowly girl at a highway inn, who was a waitress by day and a prostitute by night, was always a woman with a highly developed sense of moral responsibility and an unfailingly cheerful disposition.41

There was a hierarchy of ranks among the prostitutes, with an elaborate scaling of the attendants and adornments which accrued to each in the custom of the particular quarter. The designations of rank differed from locality to locality, and from generation to generation, with the result that the Japanese language has accumulated a list of over four hundred and fifty terms for prostitute.42

By the Genroku period, the Yoshiwara in Edo and the Shimabara in Kyoto had become famous licensed quarters, but it was Osaka, the center of chōnin culture, which led the field. In addition to the officially licensed quarter of Shimmachi there were the unlicensed quarters known officially as bathhouse or teashop districts, such as Shimanouchi, Fushimi Sakamachi, Dōjima Shinchi, and Sonezaki Shinchi.43

The Shimmachi Quarter, which opened in the second quarter of the seventeenth century, had the highest status and the most formal organization. The houses to which the girls were indentured, and where they lived, were known as okiya. The four principal classes of prostitutes in the Shimmachi were tayu, tenjin, kakoi, and hashijorō (or misejorō). An okiya had girls of different classes, but often had none of the upper two classes. The patrons or visitors were not entertained at the okiya, but went to an ageya or to a chaya (literally, "teahouse,") where they made arrangements to have a certain prostitute or prostitutes summoned from an okiya. The ageya summoned prostitutes of the two higher ranks, while the chaya called the lower two. At the ageya or the chaya the patrons could order food and drink and demand any other type of entertainers they desired, such as singers, musicians, buffoons, or actors. In the Shimmachi there were also some lower classes of prostitutes and houses which were outside of the officially recognized system. In Chikamatsu's sewamono Yodogoi shusse no takinobori, Yugiri Awa no Naruto, and Nebiki no kadomatsu, the heroines are tayu of this Quarter, and in Meido no hikyaku she is a hashijorō.

The largest unlicensed quarter, the Shimanouchi, or Minami, "South" (i.e., the South Quarter), prospered by its location just north of the Dōtombori theater district. It had two major classes of prostitutes, the hakujin,44 and the yuna,45 but in time the distinction between these two categories was largely lost. These prostitutes were also indentured to okiya and were summoned by visitors to chaya (the term ageya not being regularly used in the Shimanouchi). In all probability, the heroine of Chikamatsu's Shinju Kasane-izutsu is a hakujin of this Quarter.

The Fushimi Sakamachi, a lower-grade quarter located south of the Dōtombori theaters, was opened in 1698. The prostitute in Chikamatsu's Ikutama shinju is from this area.

The northern counterpart of the Shimanouchi Quarter was known as Kita no Shinchi ("Northern New Land") and consisted of the Dōjima and the Sonezaki Shinchi, which faced each other across the Shijimi River. The Dōjima area was reclaimed land which was divided into streets in 1688; it soon developed into a thriving quarter. When the rice exchange was moved into this area, the district gradually turned into a commercial district, and the houses of prostitution moved north of the river into the Sonezaki Quarter. After the Kyōhō period (1716-1736), there were none left in Dōjima, and the term Kita no Shinchi came to mean only the Sonezaki Quarter. The Dōjima Quarter appears in Chikamatsu's Sonezaki shinju, Shinju nimai ezōshi, and Shinju yaiba wa kōri no tsuitachi.

The Sonezaki Quarter was divided into streets in 1708 and the city officials granted permission to build chaya (nominally, "tea-houses"), furoya (nominally, "bathhouses"), and niuriya (eating stands). Within a few years it was a thriving quarter, because of its proximity to the Dōjima rice market. Directly to the south, on the islands, Dōjima and Naka-no-shima, were located many of the commercial offices of the feudal lords. The Quarter served as a convenient location where the representatives of the lords and the merchants with whom they dealt could entertain one another, in much the same way that in modern times geisha houses (machiai) are the scenes of business and political transactions. The furemai chaya, which specialized in this type of entertaining, brought great prosperity to the Sonezaki Quarter. In The Love Suicide at Amijima, Chikamatsu's only play concerning the Sonezaki Quarter, it is stated that the heroine, Koharu, was originally a yuna in the Shimanouchi Quarter, who was transferred to an okiya in the Sonezaki Quarter as a hakujin. The hakujin of the unlicensed quarters did not have the high formal status or command the prices of the higher ranks of prostitutes in the official Shimmachi Quarter. However, from the late seventeenth century on, they were much in vogue, as the etiquette in their establishments was less formal and the entertainment less restrained.

In the social mores of the townsmen class, visits to the gay quarter were not condemned on moral grounds. It was not considered disruptive to the social system for the husband to have extramarital relations in moderation so long as he confined these activities to prostitutes. The relation which existed between husband and wife makes this attitude understandable. Marriages were arranged by the parents through go-betweens, the first consideration in making a match being the business or social advantages it would bring. Even in the townsmen class the bride and groom were often strangers until the time of the wedding. Finding themselves man and wife, the couple were obliged to work out a modus vivendi as best they could. The prejudice against demonstrativeness in the home also militated against the growth of a romantic attitude in marriage. The relation which developed between man and wife at best was usually one of loyalty rather than of romantic attachment.

The family, according to the ethical teachings of the time, seems to have been centered not so much on the husband-wife relation as on that between parent and child. The wife's primary function was to be a mother to her husband's children, whereas the husband concentrated on bringing his son up to perpetuate the family business and to ensure the continuation of masses for the ancestors.

The importance of parent-child relations is also illustrated in the case of the parents-in-law. No matter how compatible the husband and wife, if relations with one set of parents were bad, the marriage could be destroyed. This is the theme of Chikamatsu's Shinju yoigōshin, in which the young couple committed a love suicide rather than permit their parents to break up their happy marriage. In our play, Amijima, the wife fails in her attempt to resist the decision of her father to break up her marriage.

The attitude of the wives was conditioned by the training they received as girls. They were educated in a doctrine of service and obedience to men. They were taught that jealousy was one of the greatest of evils, that they must overlook their husband's infidelity, even to his bringing a concubine into the house or setting her up in a separate establishment. They were confined largely to household tasks and to the bearing and care of the children. With little education or experience outside the home, they were not stimulating socially or interesting romantically. Whatever excitement of social intercourse or romance the townsmen might desire had to be sought outside the home.

This excitement they found in the gay quarter. The townsmen, bound by a class and family system which caused many frustrations, found in the gay quarter a place where they could give free rein to their emotions, where they could gain a self-expression and prestige impossible elsewhere. Those who had the money to pay could command in the quarter a world of luxury and license. For those who could not afford it, this life could be disastrous. Led on by glittering temptations and sometimes by infatuation, they might plunge themselves into debt which would ruin their businesses and sometimes destroy their marriages.

Chikamatsu's domestic plays about the gay quarter deal with the family conflicts and often tragedies which were brought about by indulgence in the gay life. A prostitute was a commodity available to all, and her visitor was merely a customer. But occasionally a prostitute and one of her visitors forgot their proper roles, fell in love, and wanted each other exclusively. A practical-minded author like Saikaku would have no sympathy for such uncouth conduct which showed that the lovers did not know the proper way to act in the gay quarter. However, in the idealized account in Chikamatsu's domestic plays the hero is led into the impasse, not by unbridled sexual desire as Saikaku would suggest, but by true love. He makes the fatal mistake of losing his heart to a prostitute. This leads him into financial or family difficulties which bring about a conflict between his love and his obligations (giri). Unwilling to be false to his love, he either commits a love suicide with the prostitute or, more rarely, through some happy development, meets his obligations in such a manner that his life is not sacrificed.

The love suicide (shinju)46 is the more frequent outcome in Chikamatsu's domestic plays. The word shinju meant "sincerity of heart" and came to be used of acts by which lovers demonstrated to each other the strength of their love. Some of the methods, prevalent especially in the gay quarter, were writing vows of undying love, inflicting burns or wounds on themselves, cutting off fingers, shaving the head, tattooing, and pulling out the fingernails and toenails.47 In cases of a hopeless love, when the couple could not remain together in this life, they might perform the supreme act of sincerity by committing suicide together, and such love suicides were called shinju-shi, or "shinju death," and later, merely shinju. This practice was a reflection of the tradition in the samurai class of committing suicide by disemboweling oneself (harakiri or seppuku) when one failed to meet some obligation.

By the end of the seventeenth century the love suicide had become so frequent among the townsmen that it became something of an institution, with its own conventions and formal procedures. In 1695, when Sankatsu and Hanshichi committed suicide, they are said to have left letters which stressed the importance of love as the highest principle of conduct, overriding all others. Their story, dramatized as a kabuki play with the title Akane no iroage, was the first love-suicide play to be a hit, running one hundred and fifty days.48 When a love suicide occurred, it was greeted as the most exciting news item of the day. It was described in greatest detail in scandal sheets and short stories, with particular attention to such points as the conflict of family obligations, the weapons that were used, and the content of the suicide notes, which were usually only apocryphal.

The Shinju ōkagami (Great Mirror of Shinju), published in 1704, is one of the many works which deal with this subject. It tells the story of seventeen incidents which it implies are true. The preface suggests the prevalence of this practice: "Yesterday there was a love suicide, today there was also a love suicide, tomorrow with the vicissitudes of fortune, [such] strange things will again occur."49 The sensational and romantic treatment of love suicides in contemporary literature seems to have been suggestive to frustrated lovers of the Genroku period. Rash young men and women could anticipate that their suicides would be publicized if not immortalized in prose and drama. Love suicides became so frequent that in 1722 the officials for a time prohibited the performance of plays on this theme. They also attempted to discourage the acts by imposing punishments on those who survived unsuccessful attempts and by heaping dishonor on the corpses of those who had been successful--according them the treatment given executed criminals and exposing them to public view for three days.50

The most important early jōruri about a love suicide is Chikamatsu's Sonezaki shinju (1703), which set the pattern for the host of others that were written for the kabuki and puppet theaters.51 The high point in his love-suicide plays is always the "Journey" (michiyuki), the poetic description of the walk of the lovers to the place of suicide, in which passage he touched on their feelings toward the familiar places they were leaving behind, the loved ones they were deserting, the conflicting obligations which had rent their lives. The report may indeed be true that such narratives, glorifying the act in a brilliant literary style, did incite other lovers to suicide.

These passages in Chikamatsu also made an impression on the audience because he placed more emphasis than other writers on the theme of religious salvation. He made the most of the tradition of popular Buddhism, derived from the Lotus Sutra, that lovers who died together would be reborn on the same lotus calyx on the lake before Amida's throne in the Western Paradise. In Chikamatsu's domestic tragedies, as the lovers went hand in hand to the place of death, they seemed to be guided by Amida. At the moment before their death, Chikamatsu indicated that the lovers would be immediately reborn in Paradise. With few regrets, the lovers gained release from their unfortunate lot in this world, to gain perpetual bliss together. Although the incident on which the play is based must usually have been the imprudent act of an immature couple, Chikamatsu beautified it with a religious aura, which seemed almost to justify it. He achieved for his audience what seems the impossible. Just as he kept the illicit relations of the lovers from seeming immoral, he kept the suicides from being tragedies.

Chikamatsu's view of love suicides suggests the projection into the chōnin class of the feudal attitudes of the samurai. The townsmen in the domestic plays, like the samurai in the history plays, held their lives lightly, and they sacrificed themselves with so little consideration that they hardly seemed like real people. The townsmen died for love with no more hesitation than the feudal samurai died for his lord, at least in fiction. The townsmen in some domestic plays were also as quick to commit suicide as the warrior when they feared they would lose face.

The greatest shame a townsman could suffer was the failure to meet one of his many obligations. It was this sense of obligation which Chikamatsu relied on so heavily as the determinant of human action. Giri could be an obligation to any relative or simply to a fellow man or fellow woman. It was the obligation to meet faithfully all business agreements. It could also be the obligation to conform to certain moral principles, traditions, and laws. The system of obligations in social relations was so comprehensive that it served as the basis for the ethical code, rather than an abstract concept of good and evil. Giri, in its broadest sense, could encompass the total social environment of the individual. Chikamatsu pictured it as a tyrant which oppressed the individual. When a high-spirited townsman would not conform to it, but acted according to his human desires, his obligations closed in upon him and crushed him.52

The townsmen's ethical code was composed largely of elements of the samurai code, which had been derived primarily from Confucian principles for the governing of feudal relations. Their attitude toward parents, children, employer and employee, and women, took on the aspects of the samurai view. Modifications were made to suit their needs in accordance with the requirements of their professions. Some business agreements concerning contracts and the payments of debts took on the terminology and rigidity of feudal obligations of fealty. The problem of financial difficulties arises constantly in the sewamono, and in some twelve of the fifteen shinjumono it is a contributory factor in the suicide decision. In some cases the fear of failing to meet financial obligations is the primary factor which leads to crime or suicide.53

It is, of course, impossible to reconstruct in adequate detail either the ethical system of the chōnin or their level of conformity. The mass of contemporary literary material which we have too often presents an ideal pattern, or a satire on it, rather than the actual pattern of behavior. However, it provides a sufficient basis for two general conclusions. It is obvious that the Genroku townsmen were guided to a greater extent by concepts of obligation than Japanese in more recent times have been.54 On the other hand, it is impossible to accept the pattern in Chikamatsu's domestic plays as an accurate representation of the ethical behavior of the townsmen. At best it might be called the ideal. Chikamatsu, who is believed to have come from a samurai family, was a great admirer of the samurai code. He took the feudal concepts about meeting obligations, which he had applied so rigidly in the history plays, and applied them in the domestic plays to the townsmen. Giri often seems to be the determinant of behavior which guides the actions of the characters, especially the female ones, in mechanical fashion. It is an important element in the plot of every play, often causing some act of extreme sacrifice, which to modern Japanese, as to Westerners, seems farfetched. The hero in Chikamatsu's domestic play seems to be born in a world of giri, but he lacks the will or reasoning power to try to resist the unreasonable conventions which confine him. He submits to environment not by conformity in behavior, but by suicide, and he does this so complacently that he hardly seems human. When giri is applied mechanically for the sake of plot it must be considered a major flaw in Chikamatsu's writing.

Although Chikamatsu uses the conflict between the individual and his social environment as a sort of formula, there is no doubt that it reflects a real problem of the period. The ethical system of the newly risen townsmen of the Genroku was inadequate to enable many of them to resist excessive indulgence and dissipation. They admired and emulated the strict code of the samurai, but lacked the feudal discipline which, in theory at least, enforced it so harshly in the samurai class. The townsmen failed to meet the standards, which of course were not designed for their civilian needs. This disparity between theory and practice, between expected standards and levels of conformity, was probably the cause of personal conflicts, and sometimes of tragedies.

In Chikamatsu's domestic plays the oppressive social system under which the characters are made to suffer is softened in the end by a Buddhist solution. Despite the prominence of the Confucian ethic among the chōnin, the influence of Buddhism had survived far more strongly among them than in the military class. Lacking the self-discipline of the samurai, they often failed to measure up to the code they emulated and sought refuge in the compassion of Buddhism, which made allowances for human feelings (ninjō) in a way that Confucianism did not. In popular Buddhism, human weaknesses were expected and salvation was promised for all. In Chikamatsu, as in most subsequent Tokugawa literature, there is the painful collision of giri and ninjō.55 The heroes suffer under the ethical system and are destroyed by it, but in the end Chikamatsu pours out upon them his Buddhist sympathy for human failings. He does not justify their weakness, but he indicates that their failure is not entirely their fault. He does this by relying on a sort of popular predestination, using the Buddhist term inga, originally "cause and effect," hence "karma" or "fate." The good or bad that comes to all individuals in this life is reward or retribution, according to their inga, determined by their acts in earlier lives and in the present existence. Because of their inga some individuals are predestined to suffer. The rack on which they are broken, according to Chikamatsu, is giri. A few can be helped by human love, but most cannot be consoled in this world. By the strength of Buddha's compassion and by the prayers of the believers, they will be saved, that is, they will attain Buddhahood and reach the Western Paradise. Particularly in the shinju plays his Buddhist love makes of death a salvation.


1Kuroki Kanzō, for example, considers Ten no Amijima to be Chikamatsu's greatest play both in form and in content. See his book, Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1942, 298 pp.), p. 102.

2Osaka's location near Sakai, the leading port in the preceding two centuries, contributed to its rise as a commercial city. Osaka expanded rapidly at the close of the sixteenth century when the Toyutomi family made it their base, and much of the new population came from Sakai. Osaka also had a cultural debt to Sakai, where printing and new musical styles flourished well into the seventeenth century.

3Kurita Mototsugu, Edo jidai shi (1937, 2 vols.), 1.809-813 (vol. 9 in Sōgō Nihonshi taikei, 12 vols.).

4Tokutomi Iichirō, (Genroku jidai) Sesōhen in Kinsei Nihon kokuminshi (1918-1939, 61 vols.), 19.11-17.

5A factor which contributed to the attainments of the townsmen class was the movement into Osaka of thousands of rōnin, or unemployed samurai, whose masters had discharged them because they themselves had been dispossessed of their fiefs or simply as an economy measure. Many of the rōnin, better educated than the chōnin, became teachers, physicians, writers, or painters. A few who were able to turn their education to practical advantage became successful merchants. Kurita, op. cit., pp. 690, 697-700.

6The haiku appreciated by the townsmen was represented first by the Teimon school of Matsunaga Teitoku (1571-1653), and later by the Danrin school of Nishiyama Sōin (1605-1682). This popular tradition served as the basis on which Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694) could develop the Shōmon, a haiku school of high literary merit. He was a samurai by birth, a Buddhist in his philosophy, and a scholar of classical poetry by education. By combining the attitudes of the samurai, monk, and townsman, he had a wide appeal, but his art was too subtle for some chōnin who found the earlier schools more to their taste.

7On the development of the early kabuki, see Aleksandre Iacovleff and Serge Elisséeff, Le Théâtre Japonais (Kabuki) (Paris: Meynial, 1933), pp. 6-11, 15-19.

8See Serge Elisséev (Elisséeff), "Un nouveau livre sur le Théâtre Japonais," Japon et Extrême-orient (Paris), No. 1 (December 1923), 77-84, a review of Sekine Mokuan (1863-1923), Kabukigeki to sono haiyu (1923, 120 pp., vol. 4 in Bunka sōsho).

9The date of Tōjurō's death, given by Miyamori as 1704, is incorrect; Miyamori Asatarō, Masterpieces of Chikamatsu, the Japanese Shakespeare, revised by Robert Nichols (New York, 1926), p. 22. So is the date 1705 given by Kenneth P. Kirkwood in Renaissance in Japan, A Cultural Survey of the Seventeenth Century (Tokyo: Meiji Press, 1938, 414 pp.), pp. 225-228. Tōjurō's date of birth is sometimes given as 1645.

10During the late Kamakura period (1185-1333), various styles of metric recitation had been developed for the narration of martial and romantic stories. One of the romances which had gained great popularity by the middle of the sixteenth century was known as Jōruri monogatari or Jōruri junidan zōshi, the love story of a girl named Jōruri and Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159-1189). The particular melodic style used in the recitation of this story came to be called jōruri, and was used for other stories as well.

11Puppets are known to have been used in popular performances as early as the Kamakura period. At the end of the seventeenth century, the type of puppet most commonly used was about two feet high and was held and manipulated from the rear. In the next century, some of the principal puppets were as tall as three and a half feet, and required three manipulators. On the development of Japanese puppets, see Utsumi Shigetarō, Ningyō shibai to Chikamatsu no jōruri (1940, 610 pp.), pp. 43-251, and Watanabe Yoshio, Bunraku, Japanese Puppet Play (Tokyo: Japan Photo Service, 1939). For a description of the technique of manipulation now used, see Miyajima Tsunao, Contribution à l'étude du théâtre japonais de poupées (Osaka: Société de Rapprochement Intellectuel Franco-Japonais, Institut Franco-Japonais du Kansaï à Kyōto, 3rd ed., 1931, 109 pp.), pp. 9-12.

12The samisen (or shamisen) had a squarish soundbox and was played with a large plectrum. It was introduced into Japan via the Ryukyu Islands from China in the middle of the sixteenth century.

13His style became so dominant that gidayu became another term for jōruri recitation.

14Tokutomi, op. cit. 19.241-242.

15This opinion, held by Japanese scholars, is based on a statement in a work on the puppet theater by Nishizawa Ippu entitled (Imamukashi) Ayatsuri nendaiki (1727, 2 kan), kan 2, in Shin gunsho ruiju, 6.518 in Kokusho kankōkai, Series 1 (1909).

16His original name was Sugimori Nobumori, and his principal literary name () was Sōrinshi, but he had many others: Heiandō, Fuisanjin, and Sanjinfuishi.

17Kitani Hōgin, Dai Chikamatsu zenshu (1922, 16 vols.), 1.11-12; Wakatsuki Yasuji, Chikamatsu ningyō jōruri no kenkyu (1934, 900 pp.), pp. 41-42; Kuroki, op. cit., pp. 5-6; Kirkwood, op. cit., pp. 225-228.

18Whether it was the 21st or the 22nd day of the 11th month of 1724 (which according to the Western calendar would be January 5th or 6th, 1725). Kitani, op. cit. 1.44-45.

19Ibid., 1.48-52. The jisei is a formal message composed before death, usually in poetry, but sometimes, as in this case, in prose.

20Shuzui Kenji, Chikamatsu (1948, 191 pp.), pp. 27-29.

21This anthology was an appendix to a book on haiku, the Takaragura, by Yamaoka Genrin (gō, Jiunsai) (1631-1672). Kitani, op. cit. 1.13-14; Miyamori, op. cit., p. 31. Kobayashi Zenhachi reads the title of the anthology Hōzō in his study, Shinju Ten no Amijima (1924, 102 pp., vol. 1 in Chikamatsu kessaku shu), p. 47.

22The entire jōruri was narrated by the reciters, but for convenience, the "speeches" of the puppets, as opposed to the description of the action, will be spoken of as dialogue.

23A synoptic paraphrase of part of the play under the title "The Battles of Kokusenya" appeared in Miyamori Asatarō's Tales from Old Japanese Dramas, revised by Stanley Hughes (New York, 1915, 403 pp.), pp. 359-403. A complete translation and critical study of the play by Donald Keene entitled The Battles of Coxinga, Chikamatsu's Puppet Play, Its Background and Importance (London: Taylor's Foreign Press, Cambridge Oriental Series No. 4) was published in August 1951, but was not yet available to the present author when his manuscript was being prepared.

24Translated under the title "The Love Suicide at Amijima," by Miyamori in Masterpieces of Chikamatsu, pp. 221-263.

25Translated under the title, "The Tethered Steed," ibid., pp. 311-359.

26Miyamori (ibid., p. 39) twice gives the date of Gidayu's death as 1724, but he has the correct date, 1714, on p. 28.

27Kitani, op. cit., pp. 41-42.

28Ibid., pp. 42-43.

29Utsumi, op. cit., pp. 8-12.

30There were, to be sure, rōnin and even some samurai in the audience, but the domestic plays seem to have been written neither for them nor about them.

31The first domestic plays were not regarded as full-scale plays, but rather as interludes performed often after the third act of a history play. Not until about 1717 were they accorded the status of full plays. Maejima Shunzō, Chikamatsu kenkyu no johen (1938, 305 pp.), p. 153. Kuroki, op. cit., pp. 86-89, advances the theory that the domestic play originated in form from the third act of the history play, the act in which the central conflict or tragedy of the play is usually developed. The three acts of the domestic play, he explains, were derived from the three subdivisions which usually constitute the third act of the history play. The theory has also been advanced that the domestic play was derived by omitting the first and fifth acts of the history play, and using the three middle acts. See Sonoda Tamio in Jōruri sakusha no kenkyu (1943, 443 pp.), pp. 109-110. Either theory would explain why the domestic play seems to begin in the middle of the story, as is so notable in Shinju Ten no Amijima. The five-act history play itself did not develop until the 1670's, and is thought to have been derived from the form of five plays which constitute a program. Earlier in the ko-jōruri style the six-act history play was the most common, and after Chikamatsu's death longer plays began to appear.

32Wakatsuki, op. cit., pp. 75-80, 85-86.

33Ibid., pp. 81-85.

34Ibid., pp. 78-80.

35As classified in the Nihon bungaku daijiten (1933, 4 vols.), 2.1022a, edited by Fujimura Tsukuru, the fifteen shinjumono are the following: Sonezaki shinju (1703), Shinju nimai ezōshi (1706), Uzuki no momiji (1706), Uzuki no iroage (1707), Shinju Kasane-izutsu (ca. 1708), Shinju mannen-gusa (1708), Tamba Yosaku (1708), Shinju yaiba wa kōri no tsuitachi (1709), Imamiya shinju (1710), Meido no hikyaku (1711), Nagamachi onna harakiri (1712), Ikutama shinju (1715), Hakata Kojorō nami-makura (1718), Shinju Ten no Amijima (1720), Shinju yoigōshin (1722). There are of course other systems of classification, as for example Takano Tatsuyuki's in his Edo bungaku shi (1935, 3 vols.) 2.461-491 (vol. 8 in Nihon bungaku zenshi).

36The nine are: Satsuma uta (1704), Horikawa nami no tsuzumi (1707), Yodogoi shusse no takinobori (ca. 1708), Gojunenki uta-nembutsu (1709), Yugiri Awa no Naruto (1712), Daikyōji mukashi goyomi (1715), Yari no Gonza kasane katabira (1717), Nebiki no kadomatsu (1718), Onna koroshi abura no jigoku (1721).

37This is typical of virtually all of the domestic plays in Tokugawa jōruri and kabuki literature. For numerous examples see Mitamura Engyo, Shibai to shijitsu (The Theater and Historical Fact) (1911), and Sakamoto Kizan's work of the same title (1947).

38Many of the wealthiest merchants were ruined during the latter part of the seventeenth century when their property was confiscated, or when feudal lords refused to repay loans. Famous cases were those of the merchants Yodoya Tatsugorō, Ishikawa Jian, Tsuji Jirozaemon, and Nawaya Kuroemon. See Tokutomi, op. cit. 19.24-42; and Takekoshi Yosoburo (sic), The Economic Aspects of the History of the Civilization of Japan (London, 1930, 3 vols.), 2.251-255, 258-261.

39Other terms used for the gay quarter tell the other side of the story, as for example akusho, "evil place."

40Tokutomi, op. cit., 19.139-140.

41Koman in Tamba Yosaku, Acts 2 and 3.

42The most complete compilation of these terms is in an amateurish study by a Miyatake Gaikotsu entitled Baishunfu imei shu (1936, 125 pp.).

43See Takano Tatsuyuki, "Chikamatsu jidai no Ōsaka no irozato oyobi yujo" ("Osaka's Gay Quarters and Prostitutes in the Age of Chikamatsu"), an article written in 1906 and published in his Nihon engeki no kenkyu (1916, 2 vols.), 1.163-216. Another Osaka quarter, the Horie, opened in 1698, is mentioned in Chikamatsu but is not the locale of any scene.

44For a discussion of this term see translation note 122.

45For a discussion of this term see translation note 13.

46Shinju is frequently translated "double suicide," which is inappropriate only when one of the lovers survives the attempt. The two characters for shinju, form the character chu, "loyalty," the cardinal feudal virtue. For this reason it is said that the Tokugawa officials evolved another word to use as a legal term for love suicides, calling it aitaishi or aitaijini, "mutual death." The modern term, jōshi, did not gain wide currency until after the Meiji Restoration (1868). See Miyamori Asatarō, Chikamatsu to Shekusupiya (Chikamatsu and Shakespeare) (1929), p. 74.

47These methods are described in the chapter on shinju in the Shikidō ōkagami (Great Mirror of the Way of Sex), by Hatakeyama Kizan (1628-1704), (date unknown, 18 kan, of which 9 are lost), kan 6, in Zoku enseki jisshu, 2.509-522, in Kokusho kankōkai, Series 1.

48Shuzui, op. cit., p. 48.

49An extended pun in the last phrases of this quotation contains the meaning that these tragedies will occur "in the Asuka River's deeps and shoals." The Shinju ōkagami, a work of 5 kan by Shohōken (pen name, otherwise unidentified), is in Kinsei bungei sōsho 4.181a, in Kokusho kankōkai, Series 2, 1911. Another work which contains descriptions of love suicide is the Nansui man'yu (1810's, 15 kan), kan 2, by Hamamatsu Utakuni (1776-1827), in Shin gunsho ruiju, 2.483, Kokusho kankōkai, Series 1.

50On the development of shinju as an institution, see Serge Elisséev, "Le double suicide (Shinju)," Japon et Extrême-orient, No. 9 (September 1924), 107-122; Ōmichi Waichi, Jōshi no kenkyu (1911, 526 + 92 pp.); and Tanaka Kagai, Edo jidai no danjo kankei (1926, 340 pp.), pp. 86-151.

51Shinju had been dramatized in kabuki as early as 1674, but the first important play on the subject was written about 1695. (Nihon bungaku daijiten, 2.668d.) As jōruri love-suicide plays became more common, the theaters vied to be the first to open a performance of a play based on a recent suicide. According to one tradition, the Toyotake-za began the performance of Shinju niharaobi on the 5th day of the 4th month, 1722, only four days after the suicide was committed. See Fujii Otoo, Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1904, 288 pp., vol. 1 in Kinsei bungaku sōsho), p. 88. An even faster staging of a love-suicide play, (Oriku Jubei) Amayadori beni no hanagoza (1751), is reported by Kobayashi, op. cit., p. 98.

52Wakatsuki, op. cit., pp. 88-89, 129, 139.

53For a discussion of suicide motives in Chikamatsu's sewamono see Maejima, op. cit., pp. 173-202, and Fujimura Tsukuru's chapter, "Chikamatsu sewa-jōruri kenkyu," in Katō Junzō, Kuroki Kanzō, and Fujimura Tsukuru, Chikamatsu kenkyu (1936, 137 pp.), pp. 124-128 (in the series Shinchō bunko, No. 174).

54Ruth Benedict in The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1946) has attempted to deal with the role of obligations in modern Japanese life. Her description of the ethical system might be considered to be better as the ideal pattern of the late nineteenth century than as the behavioral pattern of the twentieth century.

55The conflict of giri and ninjō was not used as the dominating theme by Chikamatsu, however, to nearly the extent it was by later popular writers of the Tokugawa period. In general, Chikamatsu placed more emphasis on giri in his history plays, and on ninjō in his domestic plays. See Fujimura Tsukuru's booklet, Chōnin bungaku (November 1934, 47 pp.), p. 21 (in Nihon rekishi, Iwanami kōza, Booklet 4 in Box 14).

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420036049