Love Letters from the Pleasure Quarters


Kuruwa Bunsho

Lover’s quarrel between a young man and Osaka’s star courtesan

Whereas Edo Kabuki was typified by bravado masculine characters like Sukeroku, Osaka Kabuki-goers enjoyed more modest and gentle types like Izaemon, who had no money or power but abundant charm. The story, amounting to little more than a lover’s quarrel between the pouting Izaemon and the glamorous courtesan Yugiri, has remained an audience favorite for centuries.


by Iizuka Misa

The paper kimono

Youngsters are busy preparing for New Year’s in front of the Osaka geisha house Yoshidaya,. A man appears wearing an old, dusty straw hat and paper kimono, looking very cold. He requests a meeting with the owner. Everyone mocks him, saying this is not a place for such a humble person. The owner of Yoshidaya emerges and discovers that the man is Izaemon, the son of Osaka’s biggest merchant, and immediately invites him inside.

【Left】Izaemon(Kataoka Nizaemon) May 2013 Kabukiza Theatre
【Right】[from left]Kizaemon(Kataoka Gato)、Izaemon(Sakata Tojuro) November 2008  Kabukiza Theatre


VIP room inside geisha house

Izaemon spent a large amount of his father’s money on the famed courtesan Yugiri. He was thus disowned and now has no money or place to stay. He heard a rumor that Yugiri was ill worrying about him, and came to see her despite his reduced status.

【Left】Izaemon(Sakata Tojuro) December 2012  Kabukiza Theatre
【Right】[from left]Kizaemon(Bando Yajuro)、Okisa(Kataoka Hidetaro)、Izaemon(Kataoka Nizaemon) May 2013 Kabukiza Theatre


Lover’s quarrel

Izaemon is upset to learn that Yugiri is entertaining a customer and laments at her unfaithfulness. Yugiri comes into the room wearing a hair band signifying that she has been sick. The lovers immediately begin to quarrel. Yugiri tearfully admonishes Izaemon for his hurtful talk, but their doubts soon disappear, and they make up. A money box is delivered from Izaemon’s family announcing that they have finally approved of the courtesan and will accept her into the family. Ahead of the new year the next day, the Yoshida shop is full of joy.

【Left】Yugiri(Bando Tamasaburo) May 2013 Kabukiza Theatre
【Center】[from left]Yugiri(Nakamura Kaishun)、Izaemon(Sakata Tojuro) November 2008  Kabukiza Theatre
【Right】[from left]Izaemon(Kataoka Nizaemon)、Yugiri(Bando Tamasaburo) May 2013 Kabukiza Theatre