The League of the 47 Ronin / Kanadehon Chūshingura / 仮名手本忠臣蔵
Act 8

From Chushingura: The Treasury of Loyal Retainers by Takeda Izumo, Miyoshi Shōraku, and Namiki Senryū; translated by Donald Keene. Copyright © 1971 Columbia University Press. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

NARRATOR: Who was it first spoke of the floating world? Like the pools of Asuka River, the clear sailing of the samurai quickly gives way to shoals, and they become “wave men” with nowhere to turn. Enya’s crime has set a weir in the stream of love for the betrothed: Rikiya, the fiancé of Konami, Kakogawa’s daughter, refuses now even to accept the engagement presents, and the jilted girl abandons herself to gloomy thoughts; but at her mother’s suggestion they set off for Yamashina, counting on the love of Rikiya, the intended bridegroom, to gain them admission to his house. Uncertain whether he will marry her and live up to his obligations or continue to refuse, and fearful of gossip, mother and daughter leave together, taking neither servant nor palanquin, and set their course for the capital. In the cold air Konami’s snowy skin is tinged with the color of the winter plum blossom, and her fingertips are numb with chill as they climb Frozen Slope and head for Satta Pass. She looks back and sees the smoke from Fuji disappearing traceless into the sky; her own uncertainty will be dispelled only when she sees the gate fires lit to celebrate her marriage. They pass the pine forest of Miho and next they see along the avenue of pines a great procession that crowds the road. She does not know whose procession this is, but feels envy as she thinks, “If things were as they used to be, I should now be traveling in just such splendor and luxury for the great occasion of my life.” They pass Fuchū in Suruga, and when they have left the castle town behind, her mother, to raise their spirits, says cheerfully:

TONASE: Once you’ve drunk the marriage cups you’ll share bedchamber endearments and sweet whisperings that neither your mother nor your child will ever know about, and twined together like the ivy along this road, how happy you’ll be!

NARRATOR: She takes the girl by the hand, but Konami at Ball River rolls aside her mother’s all too open words. Passing Utsu Mountain she feels at once afraid, ashamed, and happy as she thinks of first sharing in reality her bridegroom’s pillow. At Seto the colored rice wafers are crisp, but heavy worries weigh on her as they reach the Ōi River.

KONAMI: They say a man’s heart is like a flowing stream. I wonder if his feelings have not changed? Has not some other flower blossomed even in the shade?

NARRATOR: She speaks her thoughts aloud to dispel her fears as they reach Shimada, famed for its coiffure. Nobody knows my griefs, she thinks, as they cross the bridge at Shiratsuka. Further on they hear the voices of the women enticing customers at Yoshida and Akasaka.

If you’d like a bride,

Visit the Kiyomizu Temple,

Plunge in the Fall of Otowa,

And pray each day for me!

Shishiki gankō gakai rei nyūkyū.

The dancers’ drums awaken her from her nap. How she longs to see her sweetheart in the capital and confide to him the pains she’s known! “If Mother is there to bring us together, but nobody else, we’ll have the Shrine at Ise to thank.” Even the rustic songs at Narumi Beach seem a good omen. Is that the Atsuta Shrine over there? The boatman hoists the sail for the seven-mile crossing, and the rowers keep time at their oars. Is the creak of the rudder a bell cricket? No, it’s a grasshopper that chirps this frosty night, as in the old poem.

TONASE: That poem tells of a scene late at night, but we have only till dusk to catch the last boat. We must hurry.

NARRATOR: When the mother runs, the daughter runs too. Hail falls from the sky and they cover their heads with wicker hats. The passengers on the boat they met now pass them on the road, now fall behind. They go by Shōno, Kameyama, and stop at Seki where the road forks between Ise and the East. They cross Suzuka Pass, where the bell of the imperial messenger still rings. At “Tsuchiyama in between the rain is falling,” everybody says at Minakuchi. At the quarry in Ishibe she gathers big stones and small stones and rubs them in her hands because they remind her of her husband -may they soon meet! Next they pass Ōtsu and cross beneath the foot of the Miidera, and now they hurry on to Yamashina, not far away.

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