Tokyo audiences are enjoying one of the most popular works of the Kabuki theater this month. Kanadehon Chushingura (The Treasury of 47 Loyal Retainers) is being staged in commemoration of the 250th anniversary of its premiere. The show runs through the end of March.
Kanadehon Chushingura is an eleven act "historical" play that was first published in 1748. It is based upon events that occurred in 1701-02 when Asano Naganori, lord of the provincial fief of Ako, was put in charge of the reception at the shogun's castle in Edo (now Tokyo) for imperial envoys from the court in Kyoto.
Asano, who is unfamiliar with protocol, seeks instruction from the master of court ceremony, Kira Kozukenosuke. However he fails to provide the customary bribe to Kira who then insults and humiliates him. Asano responds by attacking Kira with a sword, and slightly injuring him. As a result of this incident Asano is forced to commit ritual suicide and his lands are confiscated. Several months later a group of Asano's retainers attack and kill Kira in his mansion.
One particularly compelling aspect of this play is its remarkable realism. This is in sharp contrast to most other plays which are similarly derived from the more fanciful Bunraku (Japanese puppet theater). The show being staged at the Kabuki-Za is a full length performance of the most famous acts of the play featuring some of Kabuki's most popular performers including Living National Treasure Tomijuro, Koshiro, world- famous "onnagata" Tamasaburo and Kikugoro, and younger actors such as Kankuro, Fukusuke and Hashinosuke.
Program A (daily from 11:00 am)
Acts 1 & 3: The Helmet Appraisal and The Sword Incident Act 4: Enya Hangan's Suicide Travel Dance: The Fugitives Program B (daily from 4:30 pm)
Acts 5&6: Kampei's Suicide Act 7: The Ichiriki Teahouse Act 11: The Attack on Morono's Mansion
The Kabuki-za offers a free English brochure. Those wanting a more detailed explanation can pick up a full English program for an additional ¥1,000. Taped English audio guides with commentary are also available for ¥1,650. For information in English call (03) 3541-3131
--By Carter Witt