Volume 2, June 2011

Table of Contents


Research Article


Chikamatsu and the State in the Kyōhō Era: The Journey to Kanhasshū Tsunagiuma

Author Hiroaki Kubori
Keywords early modern Japanese theater, ningyō jōruri, Chikamatsu Monzaemon, Tokugawa shogunate, Kanhasshū Tsunagiuma

Explanatory Note

Aconflation of puppeteering and chanted narrative (jōruri), the puppet theatre (ningyō jōruri) became estab­lished in the early 17th century and enjoyed a steady output of performances during Chikamatsu’s time in Ja­pan’s three great centers of Kyoto, Osaka, and Edo. Playwright of the Edo period (1603-1867), Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1724) initiated his training as a writer under Uji Kaganojō, the eminent jōruri chanter of Kyoto, and came to work, in addition, as a kabuki dramatist. In the second year of Hōei (1705), however, he became the exclusive playwright of the Takemoto-za theatre (the ningyō jōruri theatre founded by Takemoto Gidayū) in Dōtonbori, Osaka, and, by the time of his death in the ninth year of Kyōhō (1724), amassed an impressive corpus of works as a writer of solely jōruri plays. We will be taking his later works into consider­ation, particularly those historical pieces performed at the Takemoto-za during the Kyōhō era (1716-1736).

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Today, jōruri plays are generally divided into two genres: Historical plays and domestic plays. Chika­matsu is known particularly for his pieces belonging to the later categorization, including his well-known Sonezaki Shinjū (The Love Suicides at Sonezaki). Interestingly, however, it is the historical plays that would comprise the majority of a day’s program of performances. While domestic plays employed daily happenings of Edo-period city life in their plots, historical plays relied on pre-Edo history and traditions. This lends to the common belief that domestic plays are “modern” while historical pieces are “antiquated”; such a simple compartmentalization, however, is unsatisfactory. As contemporary content was grafted to a great extent into historical plays, Chikamatsu’s contemporaries viewed the dramatic landscape unfolding therein as one over­lapping with their own. In that regard, historical plays also entered the domain of modern pieces.

Even traditional Chikamatsu research has pointed out embellishments within his historical plays that are satirical of the contemporary political climate, a representative example being Sagami Nyūdō Senbiki no Inu, which is implicitly critical of the Shōrui Awaremi no Rei – Shōgun Tsunayoshi’s infamous Laws of Compassion. Taking clues from Confucian scholar and politician Arai Hakuseki’s Shōtoku no Chi po­litical reforms, Chikamatsu introduces an evil-vanquishing dog named “Shiroishi,” which, to a Japanese audience, would register as a clever alternative reading of the Chinese characters of Hakuseki’s name.

Content critical of the contemporary administration in Chikamatsu’s works begins to appear generally from the Shōtoku era (1711-1716). For the most part, however, research heretofore presented has considered this criticism only within the confines of a particular play. While taking our lead from past research, panning away from Chikamatsu’s critiques of individual policies in order to adopt a more comprehensive vantage point of his Kyōhō era work will put into focus Chikamatsu’s concern with State-level politics and the role of the administra­tor. We will then touch upon Kanhasshū Tsunagiuma, Chikamatsu’s final work, which tells the story of Mina­moto no Yorihira, the youngest brother of Shōgun Minamoto no Raikō (Minamoto no Yorimitsu). Siding with an enemy of the Court, Yorihira finds himself at odds with his elder brother. This unorthodox content has engen­dered manifold interpretations regarding the drama surrounding Yorihira and has been discussed and treated from various perspectives in Kabuki: Kenkyū to Hihyō by Uchiyama Mikiko (Volume 8), Matsuzaki Hitoshi (Volume 19), and Hara Michio (Volume 23). Through an analysis of Chikamatsu’s jōruri plays of the Kyōhō era, we will consider this final oeuvre within a new context in order to arrive at a revealing conclusion.

In this paper, I stress the importance of considering both the nature of the contemporary State and the corresponding public sentiment when discussing the period jōruri plays of Chikamatsu’s later years and offer a new light in which to cast Chikamatsu research.

Research Article

When Women are Kings: Cross-Gendered Expression in an All-Female Central Javanese Court Dance-Drama and Its Public Reception

Author Kaori Okado
Keywords cross-gendered performance, traditional style, Javanese dance-drama, women, public reception


This paper explores the expression of cross-gendered performance in a Javanese traditional dance-drama known as langendriyan from the perspectives of performer, movement, costume, and song. It also examines the relation between the circumstances surrounding the genesis of this dance-drama and the expression of cross-gendered performance. Finally, it considers its reception by the artistic community in Surakarta.

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Langendriyan is a traditional Javanese dance-drama that was created in the late-19th century and developed at Mangkunegaran, one of two royal palaces in Surakarta, Central Java; it has been performed continually up to the pres­ent day. The most distinguishing feature of this dance-drama is that all roles are played by women. Although the cross­gendered performance of the langendriyan was validated by its stereotypical and traditionally differentiated “style” of movement and costume, it did not completely follow the “traditional style.” Unlike other traditional Javanese dance forms, in which roles are typecast, in langendriyan, beautiful women portray ugly, evil characters. This feature of langendriyan symbolically challenges social norms and established hierarchies.

Although the artistry of langendriyan has favorably influenced many other forms of the performing arts in Sura­karta, its studied disregard for typecasting has often been criticized as being unsuitable and perhaps subversive, espe­cially by the local artistic community, after the Republic of Indonesia achieved independence. This subversion so threatened the local artistic community that langendriyan, with its cross-gendered expression, has rarely been seen beyond the confines of Mangkunegaran, where it was originally created. However, a movement has recently begun to rediscover the value of cross-gendered expression in langendriyan.

Editorial Note

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