The inspiration for the play Igagoe norikake kappa (A raincoat and riding at the Iga crossing: 伊賀越乗掛合羽) lay in an actual vendetta that took place in 1634 at Iga Ueno (between Nagoya and Nara), when Watanabe Kazuma and his brother-in-law, Araki Mataemon (a skilled swordsman), sought vengeance against Kawai Matagorô, the murderer of Kazuma's father, Watanabe Yukie. Dramatizations of Watanabe's vendetta took various forms, categorized as Igagoe mono (Igagoe plays: 伊賀越物). The Iga katakiuchi mono (plays about revenge killings: 敵討物) constitute one of the three most frequently performed stories, the others being Chûshingura mono (plays about the treasury of loyal retainers, or "Forty-seven rônin": 忠臣藏物) and Soga mono (plays about the Soga brothers: 曾我物). The first known kabuki staging of an Igagoe mono took place in 1725 (Iga Ueno katakiuchi) in Osaka. Bunraku staged its first performance in 1776. Igagoe norikake gappa (1777) written by Nagawa Kamesuke, was staged for bunraku in 1778, and presented for kabuki in Edo (1784) and Osaka (1793). The standard version, a ten-act drama scripted by Chikamatsu Hanji with Chikamatsu Kasaku in 1783 for the Takemoto puppet theater, Osaka, is Igagoe dôchû sugoroku (Crossing at Iga along a sugoroku journey: 伊賀越道中双六). In English, the story was retold by Algernon B. Mitford (Lord Redesdale, 1837-1916) in Tales of Old Japan, where it is called Kazuma's Revenge.
The dramatizations change the names but retain the original story in broad strokes. After various intrigues and complicated plot twists, Wada Shizuma takes his revenge at Iga Pass against his cousin Sawai Matagorô, who had tricked him into pawning a family heirloom sword (resulting in Shizuma's being disinherited) and murdered his father, Wada Yukie. Gofukuya Jûbei is a dry goods merchant and an ally of Matagorô; he also carries a powerfully effective medicine for curing injuries that belongs to Matagorô. At one point, he encounters a beautiful young woman names Oyone, who happens to be Shizuma's lover and, unknown to each of them at first, Jûbei's sister. Thus, Jûbei is faced with an untenable conflict of loyalties. Oyone and their father (Heisaku) are tracking down Matagorô and realize that Jûbei might lead them to the villain. Jûbei knows this, but when his father commits suicide to pressure him for the information, Jûbei divulges the whereabouts of Matagorô. He also allows them to give the medicine to Shizuma, who has gone blind, in the hope that he might then be obligated to the man whose medicine cured him. Shortly before the final vendetta scene, Shizuma slays Jûbei, who asks that Shizuma care for his sister Oyone. The play culminates in a tachimawari ("standing and going around," i.e., choreographed fight scenes: 立回り) in which the two adversaries and their cohorts engage in a bloody fight and Shizuma kills Matagorô.
Sasaki Tan'emon (佐々木丹右衛門) is the emissary (shisha: 使者) of Lord Uesugi who is maneuvering to gain favor with the shogun. In the conflicts that ensue, Tan'emon does not survive.
The Waseda University Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum has an alternate state by Kunisada's teacher Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825, signed Toyokuni ga, 豊国画) with Bandô Mitsugorô (坂東三津五郎) in the same role for an earlier performance at the Ichimura-za, Edo in 5/1811. The Toyokuni version shows significant block wear. Our version, by Kunisada, involved the reuse of the blocks, on which the signature was changed along with the actor's head and various details in the robes. Thus, our Kunisada impression is from a second, partly recut version (ireki, "Inserting wood," 入木), to commemorate Osaka-based Utaemon III in the role from 8/1814 in Edo. As such, it represents a fascinating example of ireki early in Kunisada's career.
- See our Kunisada I Biography.
- Also see https://viewingjapaneseprints.net/texts/ukiyoe/kunisada.html.
- There is also a website devoted to Kunisada: http://www.kunisada.de/index.htm.
- Ihara, Toshirô (伊原敏郎): Kabuki nenpyô (Chronology of kabuki: 歌舞伎年表). Vol. 5. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten (岩波書店), p. 472 (1811 performance) and p. 548 (1814 staging).
- Leiter, Samuel: New Kabuki Encyclopedia — A Revised Adaptation of Kabuki jiten. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1997, pp. 74-76.
- Waseda University Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum, no. 100-6193 (early 1811 version).
There are many publications on the works of Kunisada. A good introduction in English is by Sebastian Izzard (with essays by J. Thomas Rimer and John Carpenter): Kunisada's World. New York: Japan Society in collaboration with Ukiyo-e Society of America, 1993.