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It is 1703, 100 years since the Sengoku Period. Genroku culture is on the decline and the economy is slowing down. In this world where disparity is rampant, joruri (a form of puppet theatre that was the forerunner of bunraku) dramatist Chikamatsu Monzaemon has loss sight of what the masses want and is holing up in Tenmaya at Dojima Shinchi in the company of Osode, a prostitute past her prime. The leader of a small theatre Takemoto Gidayu is discouraged by the audience he is drawing and has threatened him to write something that will excite the public. His wife has fled. He is plagued by the nagging of his mother who lives with him. Nothing he writes is interesting and he is about to give up writing. Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, the ruler at the time, follows his edict on compassion for living things with recognition of filial piety. The Ako Samurai Incident is hailed as a moving tale of loyalty. But one man has little appreciation for that. He unapologetically says to the people around him, “What loyalty? They lost their lives! Fools!” This is how the mysterious gambler Mankichi and Chikamatsu meet for the first time. Mankichi does not pay the bills and is given the cold shoulder by the proprietress of Tenmaya. But he imposes himself and is popular with the prostitutes because he is skillful with the kitchen knife in the kitchen and plays an active part in moving sake bottles and in banquets. On the other hand, Takemoto bluntly tells Chikamatsu that he will be dismissed if he does not produce a hit. A despondent Chikamatsu has no energy to deal with Mankichi. However, by the time Chikamatsu realises it, he and Mankichi are partners and they face the settlement of thorny troubles created by the imperfect prostitute Ohatsu, the dissipated son Tokubei of a wealthy merchant, and others. Mankichi pokes his nose deeper and deeper into problems and circumstances get more complicated. Is he an angel or a devil? A fool or a genius? but Chikamatsu starts to discover the “hardiness of human life” and “true love”.

Aoki Munetaka as Mankichi
Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, the shogun at the time, encouraged filial piety that results in an unprecedented boom in being good to one’s parents. This catchphrase is even loudly paraded at street corners. Chikamatsu who has never even bought a kimono for his mother feels resignation from listening to their voices. At that moment, he shows up and stands out for dismissing filial piety as nonsense. He imposes on Tenmaya which Chikamatsu frequents and attaches himself to Chikamatsu at every opportunity. He is compassionate, pure of heart, hates dishonesty, risks his life once he decides on something and cannot leave those in trouble alone. Chikamatsu’s appropriate advice causes his unexpected behaviour and Chikamatsu is at his mercy each time. Is he an angel or a devil? A fool or a genius? This encounter with the unusual hero Mankichi, starts to change Chikamatsu’s fate.

Yuka as Osode
A prostitute past her prime whom Chikamatsu complains to when he finds that he has made his way to Tenmaya in Dojima Shinchi and sip alcohol. In contrast to the prostitutes who become excited about the wealthy, young gentlemen trying to buy them out of bondage, she is in some way unenthusiastic. Mankichi frequently stays over in her room and her words are the clue to solving the uproar. Chikamatsu soon grows to love her and wants to redeem and make her his wife, but … …

Koike Teppei as Hiranoya Tokubei
The heir of the wealthy merchant Chuemon and a prodigal son. That is to say, he is a hopeless fool. His father’s money is his money. He sows wild oats, drinks and makes merry with prostitutes at Tenmaya every day.「One day, his encounter with Ohatsu, a prostitute with secrets who has arrived at Tenmaya, changes his destiny. He treats Mankichi, who is similarly an admirer of Ohatsu, like an enemy and their face-off develops into an unexpected feud. There is antagonism between him and his father and Chikamatsu is the only one who notices the impotent anger in him.

Hayami Akari as Ohatsu
An imperfect prostitute who came from the Kyoto red light district of Shimabara. She is given the cold shoulder by the proprietress and fellow prostitutes because she is a “troublemaker” who will not take customers. But Mankichi, who is struck by her beauty, falls in love and sets about winning her. Before long, the uproar he creates brings about a fateful encounter between her and Tokubei, but it seems that she has a hidden past. Her presence soon triggers great tumult that will shake Tenmaya and also change Chikamatsu’s fate.

Kishibe Ittoku as Chuemon
A wealthy merchant who is one of the best in Osaka and obstinate head of the household who presides over Hiranoya. It is not just a wholesale soy sauce dealer but has branched out to the rice trade and moneylending business. Hiranoya is even the financial backer of Takemotoza where Chikamatsu is an in-house writer. However, he is embarrassed by his son Tokubei’s dissipation and feels frustrated. Although there are also bad rumours about Hiranoya in society, he has the pride as a merchant who has survived harsh times and hopes his son will succeed him someday. The encounter between Ohatsu and Tokubei soon sets off an uproar that will put Hiranoya’s very existence in jeopardy.

Fuji Sumiko as Kiri
Chikamatsu’s mother. She married the Sugimoris, a samurai family in Echizen, and raised three sons. Although two sons serve as samurais, she lives together with Chikamatsu, who became a joruri dramatist, in Osaka. She is astonished by her feckless son who has a writer’s block, meager earnings and a wife who ran away. Before she realises it, she is lecturing him. However, she worries about Chikamatsu more than anyone else. Although she does not say it, she privately prays that he will be successful as a writer. She likes the gambler Mankichi the moment she sets eyes on him and welcomes him like family regardless of the inconvenience to Chikamatsu.

Matsuo Suzuki as Chikamatsu Monzaemon
A rather troublesome guy who is quite indecisive, a little withdrawn, needs to be praised and very proud even though he has no self-respect. He met Takemoto Gidayu about 20 years ago and came to some attention as a joururi dramatist with the success of “Successful Kagekiyo”. But he is not well paid and does not have the status of an in-house writer. Neither a samurai nor a tradesman, he is a misfit. He has written nothing but the standard “history drama” which depicts loyalty to one’s master. However, now that he is past the age of 50, he does not find anything he writes interesting and is in a major slump. He has thought of giving up writing, but he soon produces a masterpiece “Sonezaki Lovers Suicide” and brought about a genre of puppet joururi called sewamono that would be a major event in Japan’s theatre world.

Fujimoto Yuki (Taira no Kiyomori, Meoto Zenzai)

#1: The Height of Chikamatsu’s Indecisiveness
#2: Troublemaker Hatsu
#3: Dissipated Son Tokubei
#4: Good or Evil Kuheiji
#5: Chuemon, the Target
#6: Gidayu’s Trifling Efforts
#7: Mother Kibbari’s Decision
#8: Mankichi’s Sonezaki Lovers Suicide

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About jadefrost

This blog contains information and musings on current and upcoming Japanese dramas but is not intended to be comprehensive.
This entry was posted in NHK, Winter 2016 Dramas and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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