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Main » 2009 » March » 5 » Portrayed of Women In Japanese Bunraku Drama
Portrayed of Women In Japanese Bunraku Drama
2:54 AM



            Bunraku or doll drama is a uniquely Japanese cultural form that combines three distinct and highly refined artistic disciplines: Joruri or ballad narration, Shamisen or the instrumental music and Ningyo Tsukai or the art of puppet manipulation. Bunraku is a puppet story telling accompanied with musical instrument. The true magic of Bunraku is revealed when the three independent components of movement, words and music come together – it is the awe inspiring ensemble work that evokes such deep emotion and wonder. This is extraordinary, multidimensional performance, displaying complexities not found in any other theater in the world. One of the examples of Bunraku Drama is the Love Suicide at Sonezaki. It is a love-suicide play by Chikamatsu. The play shows the adventure of Tokubei and Ohatsu and now it is said to be one of Chikamatsu’s domestic tragedies.

            Japanese tends to interpret the role of women in various plays according to their customs and tradition. In the story, The Love Suicide at Sonezaki, the women played an important role. Ohatsu and Tokubei’s Stepmother are the women who contributed a lot for the story to be interesting and a little bit complicated. Ohatsu acts as an understanding and faithful courtesan whom Tokubei is in love while Tokubei’s Stepmother is possessive and self-centered woman. In one way or another, the story portrayed the value of women in the society through what Ohatsu have done for Tokubei.


Love Suicide at Sonezaki





            Tokubei together with an apprentice are making rounds of the firm’s costumers when they encounter Ohatsu who berates him for his coldness in not visiting or writing her and also for not confiding in her his troubles. Moved by her plea, Tokubei tells her everything. Tokubei’s Uncle convinced him to marry his Wife’s Niece but he had tried to politely refuse. His Uncle proposed the match to Tokubei’s stepmother who immediately agreed and returned to her village taking with her the dowry the uncle provided. This agreement remains unknown to Tokubei’s until his Uncle tries to force him into the marriage. Tokubei makes his refusal categorical and absolute this time that made his Uncle infuriated. He fires Tokubei from the firm and demands the return of the dowry which Tokubei does not have. Tokubei went to their village and forced the silver out of his Stepmother. On his return, Tokubei is collared by Kuheiji “the oil merchant”

who tells Tokubei that he desperately needs a loan or else he will go bankrupt. Since Tokubei is so kind hearted, he loans the two kamme but unfortunately Kuheiji denies the existence of any such debt when Tokubei ask to repay the now-overdue loan. Tokubei realizes that he has been perfectly swindled by Kuheiji, that’s why he attacks Kuheiji but he is trounced and beaten by Kuheiji and his followers. While recovering, Tokubei returns dejectedly to Ohatsu’s place. Ohatsu hides Tokubei but Kuheiji and some of his friends arrogantly stride in. They boast of now Tokubei and Ohatsu communicate through their hands and feet and decide to die within the day together. They sneak past the sleeping servant guarding the exit and travel to the “Wood of Tenjin”. By unusual tree in the Sonezaki Shrine, they do the grim deed!




            In the sort of Love Suicide at Sonezaki, women played an important role. Ohatsu, a courtesan whom Tokubei is in love contributed a lot to make the story an interesting one as well as Tokubei’s Stepmother who is so greedy and self-centered. Ohatsu made the sense of the story. Though Tokubei is the main character, Ohatsu puts spices in the story. She is the reason why Tokubei keeps on refusing to his uncle’s match. It is one of the reasons why they decided to die. Without Ohatsu, the story would be dull and boring because there will be no longer conflicts to happen. Some characters in the play tried to set them apart for their personal intentions. The love the have served as a foundation for them to be strong in every trials they have encountered. Ohatsu shows the real value of woman through the things she have done to Tokubei. She chose to die with him that to be in other’s arms. She shows the true essence of love! On the other hand, Tokubei’s Stepmother is also important. If she happens not to exist in the story, it won’t have any twist and conflicts. The story would flows boring. The scene with Tokubie’s Stepmother shows the greediness of one’s person that made the story a little bit complicated.




            Based on the story, I conclude that if it is not our own flesh and blood you treat them different compare to our own! There is really a difference in treating them in the story. Tokubei and his Stepmother served as an example. His stepmother immediately agrees to his uncle’s agreement without knowing Tokubei’s plan and feelings. In general, parents showed too much love and care to their real child than to others which is too unfair!


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