Soga Monogatari (The Tales of Soga)

Nakamura Fukusuke, Ichikawa Sadanji?, Ichikawa Danjūrō as Soga Goro, Nakamura Shikan as Nitta Jiro & Onoe Kikugorō in Act 8 of the play “Keisei Soga Haru no Fujigane”, 1888/6

Soga Monogatari is another very simple story that has spawned many variants and is a classic tale of revenge.

Soga Jūrō and Soga Gorō are brothers who were raised by their mother Mankō to avenge the murder of their father Kawazu Saburō. They have heard that the murderer, Kudō Suketsune, will be attending a hunting party of the shogun in the foothills of Mt. Fuji. 

They visit their mothers house and by chance find Zenjibō, their younger brother, born after their father’s death and raised as a priest in the temple. Kyō no Kojirō, the boy’s half brother is also there to visit his mother but is excited for the chance to meet the other brothers. Zenjibō leaves to visit the local abbot of the temple where his father is buried and after he is out of earshot Jūrō tells Kojirō their plans to kill Suketsune and asks for his help. 

Kojirō declines but does not want to stop the other brothers from their mission. He just explains that he cannot give his life for that cause when his father was not Kawazu. Jūrō is dejected but does not push his demands because he understands that Kojirō has a point. But Gorō who has been listening from behind a stone statue is angered and pushes the idol almost on top of Kojirō, coming out and accusing Kojirō of cowardice. Jūrō restrains Gorō and asks Kojirō not to reveal their plans at least. 

In the meantime Zenjibō returns from the abbot and says that he had presented the brothers a gift of swords. He suspects that the gift was because the brothers will pursue their vendetta soon and he asks them if he can come with them. The brothers refuse because Zenjibō has been raised a priest and would only get in their way. They deplore the fact that the brother who they wanted to accompany them has refused; while the one they must refuse has offered to help. 

Jūrō and Gorō leave for the Mt. Fuji hunting grounds knowing that, as it has always been, they will do this on their own.  Zenjibō & Kojirō see them off and Kojirō wavers but eventually stays. Zenjibō takes out a prayer text and begins to pray in front of the stone buddha, while Tora, geisha sweetheart of Jūrō, comes to the scene. She had come to give her last farewell and is resigned to the parting and makes no effort to stop them. 

Kunisada III: Ichikawa Sadanji I, Onoe Kikugorō V, Ichikawa Danjūrō IX & Onoe Eizaburō V in the “Juni-toki kaikei Soga” (12 o’clock meeting) at the Kabuki-za theatre in May 1893
Chikanobu: Nakamura Mitsujijuro, Iwai Hanshirō VIII & Ichikawa Danjūrō IX in the play “Youchi Soga Kariba no Akebono” performed at the Shintomi-za theatre from the 29th June 1881

Notes

In yakusha-e Soga Jūrō is normally depicted wearing a kimono with swallows and Soga Gorō wears a kimono with butterflies. 

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