H06 Chunori (Kobata Koheiji)

"Koheiji Borei" "Adachi Sakuro"
Artist: Toyokuni the third Oban, Color print Triptych
Performance: 17 September, 1853(Kaei 6) at Kawarazaki-za theatre in Edo
Ritsumeikan Art Research Center (arcUP2372~2374)

This actors print depicts the scene that the ghost of dead Kobata Koheiji appears on the stage as he floats in the air. The stage effect which enables an actor to float in the air is called "Chunori".
There are various versions of legend related to Koheiji. A murdered traveling actor Koheiji whose wife committed adultery and was killed by her lover appeared before them as a ghost.
A novel titled "Fukushu Kidan Asaka no Numa" written by Santo Kyoden in 1803(Kyowa 3) was based on this legend. In this story, a hand-drum player Adachi Sakuro fell in love with Koheiji's wife Otsuka and he killed Koheiji. He cheated the husband on a performance tour to Oshu (northern east part of Japan) and took him to Asakanonuma marsh to immerse him. When Sakuro came back to Edo and visited Otsuka, Koheiji who should have been murdered was in home and took his ease. Kyoden's novel made a tale of Koheiji's ghost so famous that it was adopted into Kabuki program titled "Iro Eiri Otogizoshi" written by Tsuruya Nanboku the forth and performed for the first time in May 1808(Bunka 5) at Ichimura-za theatre in Edo. After that, this ghost story became popular as a horror subject of Kabuki. Among horror stories of Kabuki, there are more female ghosts rather than male, so Sakura Sogoro and this Kobata Koheiji is a representative male ghost.
It is written that the stage effect "Chunori" utilized here was performed before audiences for the first time in "Dainihon Tekkai Sennin" at Morita-za theatre in Edo. At this performance, this stage effect was used when a warrior hero Soga Goro (acted by Ichikawa Danjyuro the first) summoned Nenriki Goro (acted by Danjyuro's son Ichikawa Kyuzo). In January 1761(Horeki 11), a performance "Kiritaro Tengu no Sakamori" (written by Namiki Shozo) at Kado no Shibai in Osaka gained a outstanding reputation because of Kiritaro (acted by Nakayama Shinkuro) in a Tengu costume spectacular entering above the audiences.
Among horror programs, the gimmick were frequently used to represent supernatural phenomenon and also adopted to more illusory effects such as an actor emerges from lantern or Shamisen and floating in the air with "Chunori". (,)

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