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Role: Yūgiri (夕霧)

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The historical figure Yūgiri

"The first group of chapters examines urban entertainment, as centred on the pleasure quarters and theatres. Y. Teruoka presents a vivid account of the role of the pleasure quarters in popular culture, drawn from a wide range of original sources. The author, generally accepted as the doyen of this subject, argues that the seventeenth century was the golden age of high class pleasure-quarter culture when the famous tayū (first class courtesans) such as Yoshino and Yūgiri became symbols of ideal femininity in the popular mind because their reputations for beauty, taste and sensitivity reached far and wide through the novels of Saikaku and plays of Chikamatsu. He contends, however, that from the early 1700s the quarters gradually begin to lose their central place in urban culture. Nevertheless, they remained important throughout the eighteenth century: two notable examples being Shimabara's role as Kyoto's salon for literati (bunjin) artists, and the role of Edo's Yoshiwara in the development of shamisen music. The Kansei Reforms of the 1790s, however, put an end to Yoshiwara as a cultural centre."

Quoted from: 18th Century Japan: Culture and Society edited by Andrew Gerstle, p. xv.

"Another renowned tayu was Yūgiri of the Ogiya House, who fell sick and died at the age of 22 while still in the Shinmachi quarter. Saikaku seems to have actually met Yūgiri, and in his Women Haiku Poets (Haikai nyokasen, 1684), wrote next to her portrait:

A courtesan of the Osaka Shinmachi quarter, a master (sui) of all the arts. She always took compassion as the source for her verse and was famed throughout the land. Once when composing a hokku short poem, she used her own crest, the paulownia, as a theme. The time was autumn:

Kiri no ha mo
Somewakegatashi
Sode no man

This colourful paulownia leaf
Difficult to die as a crest
On my kimono sleeve

Early in 1678, just after Yūgiri died, Sakata Tōjūrō, the famous Kyoto Kabuki actor and master in lover roles (wagoto), came to Osaka to perform at the Kaneko Rokuemon Theatre, in the play Farewell to Yūgiri at New Year (Yūgiri nagori no shōgatsu). He played opposite the star female impersonator Itō Kodayū II in the part of Yūgiri. Tōjūrō, as Izaemon the effeminate lover, was a great hit, giving birth to the famous theatrical pair Yūgiri-Izaemon. The play was such a success that it was repeated several times during that year. Each time, over the eighteen different performances during his lifetime, Tōjūrō added or altered elements to the Yūgiri-Izaemon love story; through Tōjūrō's acting, the Yūgiri plays became an indispensible part of the Kabuki repertoire.

It has been suggested that Chikamatsu Monzaemon was the author of this long series of Yūgiri plays. Since Chikamatsu did write many plays for Tōjūrō, it is only natural to imagine him as the author of the early plays in the 1670s and 1680s. However, the 1687 Great Mirror of Lead-role Kabuki Actors (Yarō tachiyaku butai ōkagami says of Tōjūrō: 'He is a master of all the arts and since he writes plays too, he cannot be an illiterate.' Just like Ichikawa Danjūrō I (d. 1704) in Edo, who wrote Kabuki plays under the pen-name Sanshoya Heiko, Tōjūrō also acted in plays of his own composition. Again like Danjūrō, who wrote haikai in Enomoto Saimaro's school under the name Saigyū, Tōjūrō wrote poetry under the name Tōtei in in Saikaku's school. Further, since Tōjūrō made the role Izaemon his own hallmark, it seems reasonable to assume that Tōjūrō was the author of this series of Yūgiri plays."

Ibid., entry by C. Andrew Gerstle, p. 12. [More information will be added later.]