Translation by Professor Karen Santry as told by Heisei Nakamura-za
PLAYED BY TAMASABORO
Courtesan Yugiri is a woman who really existed in Shinmachi, Osaka. She was one of the most famous women in the Century Japan for her beauty, solitude, and elegant sensuality. She was a star loved by the people.
She died of illness at the age of twenty-seven on Jan 6 1678. Many legends were born after her death. Based on these legends, Saikaku, a representative novelist of the time, wrote novels, playwright Chikamatsu wrote dramas, and the great actor Tojuro Sakata played her lover’s role, Izaemon Fujiya, in a love story about Yugiri. 300 years hence, Yugiri lives on in today’s Japanese theater.
In the days of Edo, courtesans represented a culture, Yugiri has been loved by people for as long as 300 years naturally because of her beauty and love. But more than that, Yugiri as a courtesan evokes the culture of a Japan which has been long lost to us. She represented the culture of Osaka, a commercial city.
One glance at her is enough to prove this to anyone. A mysterious hairdo called Tatehyogo, tens of ornamental combs, and hairpins, magnificent over-garment, costumes embroidered with golden and silver thread, and the purple head band which outlines her white forehead. The headband shows that she is lovesick for Zaemon. She is a courtesan who sleeps with a number of men in one night, yet she suffers from love-sickness for a man. That shows the tenderness and passion of the woman. Moreover, her lover has become bankrupt because of his association with her and is penniless.
This is the pattern of love in Osaka and this pattern enchanted the people. Tamasaburo’s Yugiri, with the slender and tall figures reeling precariously, presents a vivid image of “Love-sickness” which seems to have gone out of fashion into today’s world.