It is January 6, 1724, in the Echizen Province, Japan. Mountains and forest life surrounded some small villages and towns. The ocean could be seen from afar, where fishermen would go fishing for their families and businesses. The land and seas have blessed the people within the province. Snow began to fall from the cloudy skies, and the people in the province were either in their homes or out doing work.
In a particular house that was apart from a village. The house walls were made of wood; a stone-made gate surrounded the house. The house also looked as if it was hidden among the trees and plant life. The house’s interior was lit and warmed by a fireplace in the center of the building. The house’s interior was also filled with portraits of calligraphy, mountains, and the sea. There were also cooking utensils, empty pots, and pots with plants. In a room near the kitchen sat an older man who was seventy-one years old. His face was filled with wrinkles and many small moles, and his eyes were dark as the earth but held wisdom. His thin hair was white that let out a shine whenever light hit it. He wore a black kamishimo and hakama.
The older man’s name is Sugimori Nobumori, but he was well-known by his other name, Chikamatsu Monzaemon. Chikamatsu was born into a family of medics that served Daimyo Matsudaira. Medics were given samurai status; Chikamatsu also wrote a book about healthcare. Eventually, his father lost his position as the Daimyo’s medic and became a ronin, a masterless samurai. It was difficult for the family. The family moved to Kyoto, and Chikamatsu continued his writing. When he sold his story as a vendor, it became popular among the people. When he wrote another one and sold it, it had the same result.
The young Chikamatsu gained the confidence to sell his work to a more professional setting, the art of Bunraku, which was puppeteer performances. He also became a playwriter for Kabuki actors. Many who knew Chikamatsu’s work were surprised that he would give some of his work to Kabuki.
A female priestess first invented Kabuki, Izumo no Okuni. She made a female troupe and other performances, leading to Kabuki’s invention. However, female actresses created a stir since many men fought and killed for their attention and love. Female actresses were forbidden to act, and men were given the position of Kabuki actors. The most beautiful men with feminine features were chosen as Kabuki actors.
The playwriter eventually stopped writing for Kabuki and concentrated on puppeteering. At the moment, Chikamatsu was looking out the window and the snow. The older man loved the sight of snow; it soothed him and gave him many ideas. However, in his old age, he couldn’t think as clearly as he used to when he was in his youth.
“Monzaemon-sama, it is Torakichi! May I enter!?”
Chikamatsu let out a weak laugh. “Come inside, lad! No need to ask! It is cold outside!” A young man in his mid-twenties opened the entrance sliding door. His hair was pitch black and died in a knot. His eyes were dark brown, and he stood five feet tall. The young man was a little overweight; his face had small scars that showed his survival from the pox. The young man also had slight buck teeth that made others speak of him. However, the people stilled their tongues when Chikamatsu took the young man as his student.
Torakichi was born into a peasant family and didn’t have many opportunities. However, when Chikamatsu returned to the place of his birth, he saw a hidden talent in the young man and took him in as a student. As a student, Torakichi showed his teacher that he had writing talent. He used his experiences and emotions in living in poverty and the difficulties of not being accepted in society.
Torakichi entered the house and closed the door. “I have returned, master. As requested, I sent your play to the messengers; they will travel to Kyoto soon.”
“Well done, my pupil. Forgive me for asking such a favor, especially when snow falls.”
“There is no need to apologize, master. It is an honor. Although, I am surprised you decided to write another play; for the Kabuki actors no less.”
Chikamatsu took a sip of tea. “I ended that long ago, but I changed my mind. This will be my last play.”
Torakichi’s eyes became wide. “Master, don’t say such things! You-!”
“I will not live forever, Torakichi-san. I know my time is coming to an end which is why I wrote my last piece.”
“B-But for Kabuki? If I may be so bold, why? You know that Kabuki actors do not have the best reputation; they are in the pleasure district.”
The older man was silent for a moment as he took another sip of his tea. “Have you read my work during your travels?”
“Never, master. I respect your work and feel it is improper to read it in secret. It is not my place.”
Chikamatsu chuckled. “You always have been a kind heart, Torakichi-san. Would you like me to tell you what I have written?”
“Do you think it is not best to wait to watch the play?”
The older man shook his head. “No, I will not be able to watch it. I am not strong enough to travel. However, I would like to speak it.”
Torakichi felt intrigued as he sat before his master. “Please. I do love hearing your stories. What did you write, master?”
Chikamatsu looked at the snow as memories flooded into his mind. “It is about a man. A man who hid behind a painted face. A man who became Kabuki.”