Sayaate (the scabbard clashing)

Onoe Kikugorō, Suketakaya Takasuke as Nagoya Sanza & Ichikawa Danjūrō as Fuwa Banzaemon in the Sayaate part of the play “Ukiyozuka Hiyoku no Inazuma”, 1879/6

The sayaate scene is one of the most famous confrontations in kabuki theatre, in the play Ukiyozuka Hiyoku no Inazuma and in fact it is often just performed on its own. The scene always features the characters Nagoya Sanza and Fuwa Banzaemon, who were celebrated enemies, both in love with the courtesan Katsuragi. The stage is set to represent Nakanochō Street in the Yoshiwara pleasure district.

Nagoya Sanza is always pictured in his kimono called “Amorous Swallows” while Fuwa Banzaemon wears his kimono, “lightning-in-the-clouds”. They appear from different parts of the stage wearing green sedge hats as a form of disguise, which they are using to sneak into the pleasure quarters unnoticed by the other. They pass each other and their sword hilts touch, making both men lift off their hats and draw their swords. There are usually other people in the scene who step in to break up their standoff – such as Katsuragi, the mistress of the neighbouring tea house or a tea house bantō (head clerk). 

Other representations

Onoe Kikugorō V, Iwai Hanshirō VIII & Ichikawa Danjūrō IX in the dance “Mukashi Moyō Sato no Sayaate” at the Shintomi-za theatre from 28th May 1879
Suketakaya Takasuke IV, Onoe Kikugorō V & Ichikawa Danjurō IX in the Sayaate dialogue performed at the Shintomi-za from May 1879

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