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What is “Kabuki-tic sentiment”?・U

Following to the grave and Sacrificing oneself instead for someone

「かぶき的心情」とは何か・その2  〜殉死と身替り



1)Following to the grave and Kabuki-tic sentiment


At first, Following to the grave that is to commit suicide upon the death of one’s lord is picked up as the act arising from Kabuki-tic sentiment. In 1663, Ietsuna (家綱) the 4th Shogun issued a ban on Following to the grave. According to this ban, Following to the grave was the act that was “unrighteous and useless" and severe disposals have been done when someone broke this ban and followed his boss to the grave. However, Following to the grave have originally been considered to be Samurais’ good custom indicating their loyalty to their lord. Why has it been prohibited with severe punishments?


There are convincing theories that impure reasons like forcing Following to the grave by people or suiciding according to “Giri” that means social duty increased and able human resource was lost. If it was true, the ban was surely the open, liberal and right judgment. However, there was a never-ending string of cases in which Samurais were willing to suicide or “Seppuku” and followed their bosses in defiance of the ban as facts.


The novel "Abe clan" (阿部一族) by Ougai Mori (森鴎外) is the novel which took up the theme of Following to the grave. “Gosuke” who was a servant was one of those who followed their lord to the grave. He has been in favor with his lord at the time of the lord’s hunting. That was why he followed in spite of the warning of those around him. This act was the one to show off the strength of the bond between lords and low-class people. But this relation was unlikely by nature. Gosuke tried to find the ground for his identity on the strong bond with his lord. When we touch Gosuke’s feeling, we will recognize “Kabuki-tic sentiment” that Kabuki-mono did not regret to throw their own lives for the object they devoted themselves to. This was “Individual assertion” that was intrinsically different from the relation between lords and servants.


For the feudalism the ground of which was hierarchical ranking, such an act was very obstructive. Edo Shogunate thought that these feeling would have collapsed the feudalism from the inside if it did not take measures. Therefore Edo Shogunate prohibited Following to the grave as a harmful act.


This situation could be understood by the fact that the ban on Following to the grave and the oppression to“Kabuki-mono” were carried out at the same time. Edo Shogunate arrested them before the ban. It was the next year 1664 of the ban when the oppression was strengthened remarkably and Jurozaemon Mizuno who was the chief of representative hooligans called as “Hatamotoyakko” was ordered “Seppuku”.



2) Action as a substitute 〜 The Case of “Mastuou” at “Terakoya”

*Introduction:“Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami”〜“Terakoya”


In other words Following to the grave was the outcome of Individuality’s claim and was obviously the act of “Kabuki-mono”. This moral sense of Edo era backed by Kabuki-tic sentiment penetrated as concepts of “Taimen” or “Iitbun” that mean “face” or “honor” in Samurai world, of “Giri” that means social duty or “Vindicating one’s honor” in Townspeople world.

For example, we look at “Terakoya”(The Village School 寺子屋) which is Fourth Act of “Sugawara Denju Tenara Kagami” (Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy 菅原伝授手習鑑). Kan Shusai, the son of Kan Shojo (菅丞相) who lost his position was chased strictly by Shihei Fujiwara who was Kan Shojo’s political adversary. Although Kan Shusai (菅丞相) was sheltered in the house of Takebe Genzou (武部源蔵) who had been Kan Shojo’s pupil, the pursuit was already close to there and he was in a desperate situation. Therefore Mastuoumaru (松王丸) who felt a favor for Kan Shojo secretly sent Kotaro (小太郎), his only son and made him a sacrifice as the substitute of Kan Shusai. This act can be interpreted by “Kabuki-tic sentiment”. When Mastuoumaru confessed his feeling to Takebe Genzou and his wife, he said as follows.


“My master Kan Shojo thought of my feeling and wrote the tanka poetry which meant ‘there is no the reason why Mastuoumaru could be insincere for me.’ However people interpreted this by mistake which meant Kan Shojo grieved and wrote ‘why Mastuoumaru was insincere for me’. And those criticized me. Please understand my chagrin, Mr. Genzou.”


Kan Shojo was the godparent of the three brothers including Mastuoumaru who felt the obligation Kan Shojo. However at that time Mastuoumaru unfortunately served Shihei Fujiwara who was Kan Shojo’s political adversary and therefore people thought Mastuoumaru a bad guy. Kan Shojo wrote the poem “there is no the reason why Mastuoumaru could be insincere for me.” Mastuoumaru understdood that poem which was the message to him saying “Kan Shojo beleaved that Mastuoumaru would show his loyalty someday although he looked a villain”. Kan Shusai was in a desperate situation and Mastuoumaru thought that it was the time to show his loyalty and he made Kotaro his son a sacrifice as a substitute. The acting as a substitute was to prove the strong bond with Kan Shojo. This was because there was Mastuoumaru’s identity on the strong bond with Kan Shojo.


At this point we have to consider the question “to whom did Mastuoumaru show his identity?” If the acting as a substitute was open to public, the acting became meaningless. So we realize that his act was to satisfy his ethical demand in his mind. This feeling is the foundation of “Kabuki-tic sentiment”.


In the case of Mastuoumaru, his identity was related to the family which he belonged to. If Kotaro refused the substitute with saying "your identity may be saved but how do you deal with my identity?" the play could not stand up. But such a thing would not happen. Mastuoumaru’s problem was Kotaro’s one because each individual identity was related to his family. The father and his son confronted this problem together.


When we consider Terakoya as a play which described a substitute, the important point is the fact that Genzou said that Kotaro had submitted his head with a good grace and died with smiling when Genzou explained to him that he was a substitute of Kan Shusai. The action as substitute was not only the will of Mastuoumaru and his wife but also Kotaro’s one. The mean of substitute (sacrifice) in the case that parent killed their child who refused with saying “I do not want to die!” is different with the case that their child became a substitute voluntarily. Although both actions as a substitute are the same, the mean is different completely. The fact that Kotaro became a substitute voluntarily shows that this action was carried out by Kotaro and his parents and they were comrades in a sense. Interpreting that Mastuoumaru and his wife cried thinking their dead “son” led to the feeling that Mastuoumaru and his wife could be like victims. Interpreting that they cried thinking their dead “comrade” led to the feeling that parents were sad but they accomplished their purpose with their son. This difference is huge. It is important to consider Terakoya through Kabuki-tic sentiment and we understand that their action was cooperating by comrades who shared the same value. By the way Yukio Mishima (三島由紀夫) the novelist wrote the following sentence.


“What I usually think of comrade union is not clinging to my comrade when he died in front of me. It is being able to testify that he is another person I do not know even in the court. This situation is possible by only keeping mind’s strain called as heartless solidarity. (middle omission) If there is the guarantee that death can be used effectively at the best time produced by own action that is the dramatic climax, it is not dying in vain.”

(Yukio Mishima ”my sense of being comrads”,1970)


In the scene of Kotaro’s “Kubi jikken” (首実検) that is to confirm whether dead person is Kotaro or not, Mastuoumaru met the head of my child who became a substitution. If Mastuoumaru cried to see his son’s head then, the acting as a substitute is found by “Shuto Genba” who was a prosecutor and Kotaro’ death becomes wasted. Although it was natural to cry through the parent’s feeling at this scene, Mastuoumaru had to declare that there was no doubt that this neck was Kan Shusai’s. This is equal to declaring "this is not a head of Kotaro" coolly and is a terrible act as a parent. There is the situation where Mastuoumaru was torn up, and there is “Terakoya”’s drama.



*Note "Giri" : Giri is a thing like a promise which is hold inside oneself and have to be executed in relationship with a partner. It sometimes happens to be a burden and tie oneself up mentally. If in it there is a relationship with the institution or community that oneself belongs to and it coincides with his identity, it is called Giri. Giri is one form of Kabuki-tic sentiment


Written by Yamamoto Kichinosuke
Translated by Rakunosuke
All rights reserved.

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