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Japanese Drama Database
Japanese Title: Hitachibo Kaison
English Title: Kaison the Priest of Hitachi
Author: AKIMOTO, Matsuyo
Author's Profile: AKIMOTO Matsuyo was born in Yokohama in 1911 and became a member of Society for Drama Studies, run by playwright MIYOSHI Juro. Her first play, "Light Dust," was published in 1947 in "Gekisaku," a playwriting magazine. Another work of AKIMOTO's, "Morning Suit," which was also published in "Gekisaku" in 1949, gained public recognition when it was performed by a workshop for the study of new plays put on by the Actors Theatre Company. Akimoto received the Art Festival Encouragement Prize in 1960 for her work, "The Life of Muraoka Iheiji" and, in the category of radio script, for her radio drama, "Kaison the Priest of Hitachi." She made this radio drama script into a play, which was first staged in 1967 and was chosen for the Art Festival Award in 1968. In the following year Akimoto was awarded the Mainichi Art Prize for her play, " Our Lady of the Scabs."
AKIMOTO's depiction in her plays of the underlying nature of Japanese people continued to impress and has been regarded highly, as is evident by the many awards she has received, including the Kinokuniya Drama Award in the Individual Category for "The Song of the Ship Adios" (first performed in 1975) and the Yomiuri Prize for Literature for "Seven Spirits" (first performed in 1976).
AKIMOTO wrote and published "Chikamatsu Suicide Story" in 1979 based on the works of CHIKAMATSU Monzaemon. The play premiered under the direction of NINAGAWA Yukio and achieved critical acclaim, bringing her the Kikuta Kazuo Drama Award Grand Prize in addition to the Art Festival Grand Prize in 1981. "Chikamatsu Suicide Story" has been performed regularly since its debut, and by 2001 the number of performances had surpassed one thousand. AKIMOTO Matsuyo received the Purple Ribbon Medal in 1979 and died in 2001.
First Performance:   1967
Performance time:  
Acts / Scenes: 3 acts 7 scenes
Cast: 25 (19 men, 6 women) and other extras appear as tourists

This play is set near the end of the war in a mountainous region where an ancient priest, Kaison, has been worshiped for many generations.

It depicts the events of the lives of two boys who have been taken to a village in the mountains, and their fateful meeting some ten years later.

Keita and Yutaka are taken to the countryside like many young students who are being evacuated from Tokyo. One day, when they run away from the village, they meet a mysterious yet beautiful girl named Yukino. The boys are bewitched by the girl and her mother, Obaba, an old shaman who can cast spells, when they are told that if they call the name of Kaison, they will be reunited with their beloved mothers. Obaba saw Kaison when she was young and was so inspired by the divinity of his spirit, she wanted to pass on and keep alive the worship of the monk. On the night of a severe snowstorm, a schoolteacher tells the children of a huge air raid in Tokyo that burned the whole city. Keita and Yutaka overhear a conversation between the teacher and the Kotobukiya shop owner and find out that their families have been killed. Missing his mother, Keita starts to visit Obaba more often. Obaba, conniving to arrange for Keita to marry Yukino, takes good care of him and sometimes even comforts him by appearing as his mother, saying that his mother's spirit has descended into her.

One day, a prostitute, Toragozen, and a major general come running out of the village. They say that they have been banished from the village, being told that in this day and age being involved in an unethical business that stirs people up cannot be tolerated. Then the village authorities and police start cracking down on prostitutes, shamans and mountain priests. A monk named Tosen, who comes to warn Obaba of this, thinks that she now has a young boyfriend and becomes jealous. As the monk leaves, he says that any man who is loved by Obaba will be unhappy and corrupted for the rest of his life.

When the war is over, the orphans are left behind. The teacher has been missing since he left for Tokyo to check on what was happening. The village council calls for families to adopt the children, but on the day when the children are to be handed over to their foster families, Keita disappears. Yutaka cries and calls out the name of Kaison. There, Kaison appears as a middle-aged man.

About ten years later, Yutaka, who is now an adult, comes to a shrine near a cape to look for Keita, whom he has not seen since the day he disappeared. Keita is now a servant to Yukino, who has become a priestess, and he tends to her child. Yukino tells Yutaka that he has actually come to see her, and Yutaka starts to become attracted to Yukino.

This time, Yutaka is taken by Yukino right in front of Keita, who abhors her yet still cannot leave her. Being bullied and discarded by the woman, Keita cannot stand it anymore and shouts the name of Kaison. Kaison appears in a business suit and tells Keita that he too is a Kaison. The two Kaisons vanish—one going north while the other goes south.