Ichikawa Somegoro – Koi-Tsukami: Fight with a Carp

koi tsukami

There are two stories which explain the tale of Koi Tsukami in Japanese kabuki theater. The details differ slightly but the story endings are the same. Please enjoy this masterpiece of Japanese folklore complete with a video presentation of the show which includes famous Japanese kabuki actor Ishikawa Somegoro performing this Kabuki Spectacle at the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Koi Tsukami Story 1:

koi tsukami
Painting by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1849

The sword Ryujinmaru, the heirloom of Tsuri family, is lost and the chief retainer Shinomura Jiro Kimimitsu is looking for it. Princess Kozakura of Tsuri family longs for a page whom she met in Kiyomizu temple. As Shinomura and his wife Kuretake promise her to seek him, she feels relieved and falls asleep.

Her surroundings are lit up with the glow of fireflies as she wakes up. The glow tempted her to walk. A big carp comes up to the surface and a beautiful page comes out piping. He is Takimado Shiganosuke whom the princess longs for. She is pleased with this dreamlike reunion with him and they embrace each other.

But this was a dream. She is a little disappointed as she talks about her dream. There comes Shiganosuke. She is rejoiced to see him believing him to be the real Shiganosuke and meets him in private according to Kuretake’s advice. Katada Gyobu, an envoy from Shinoda family comes and requests that the princess be married into their family. Shinomura declines this and answers that he will present the sword Ryujinmaru, the missing heirloom, to Kanpaku (chief adviser to the Emperor). As he draws it, its virtue and influence blow up a storm and the shadow of the princess and big carp falls on a paper sliding door of the inner room.

Seeing this, Gyobu denounces her as an adulteress, so Shinomura slayed him. Then princess and Shiganosuke appear there accompanied by Kuretake. This Shiganosuke is the incarnation of the spirit of a carp of the Lake Biwa and plots to destroy Tsuri family out of grudges for years. An arrow strikes it which is shot by the real Shiganosuke.He chases it to the Lake Biwa where he fights with it in a heavy rain, until at last he puts an end to its life.

Koi Tsukami Story 2:

Tawara no Tota Hidesato fights against a giant centipede at Mt. Mikami in Omi Province due to the Imperial order. Setsu Orihime, the guardian deity of Lake Biwa, appears and gives him a treasure sword Ryujinmaru. Tota slays the centipede masterly with the sword.

In Lake Biwa the Golden Carp, Carp King’s son, was about to turn into a dragon and its new start was celebrated. But the Golden Carp becomes corrupt by the poisonous blood of the slain centipede flown into the lake and loses its hope to turn into a dragon. Carp King resents that and vows to curse Tawara family eternally.

Years have passed and the sword Ryujinmaru is now the heirloom of Tsuri family whose ancestor is Tawara family. Setahei, a footman of Tsuri family, detects the retainers plotting to take over the family and struggles to prevent it. Princess Kozakura of Tsuri family longs for Takimado Shiganosuke, a page whom she met in Kiyomizu temple. As they meet secretly in the residence of Tsuri family, an envoy of Kanpaku (chief adviser to the Emperor) comes. As the chief retainer of Tsuri family unsheathes Ryujinmaru to present to him, the shadow of the princess and a big carp falls on a paper sliding door of the inner room by the power and virtue of the sword.

This Shiganosuke is in fact the incarnation of the spirit of a carp of Lake Biwa and plots to destroy Tsuri family out of grudges for years. An arrow strikes it which is shot by the real Shiganosuke. He chases it to Lake Biwa where he fights with it in a heavy rain, until at last he puts an end to its life.

View Koi Tsukami presented by the famous Ichikawa Somegoro

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