Kanpei (勘平) (role )

Kampei (an alternate spelling of Kanpei)
Hayano Kanpei

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Biography:

The figure of Kanpei was a major role in the puppet and kabuki productions of the Chūshingura. Haruo Shirane wrote:

Particularly important to the history plays is the fallen low-status figure. Each play is set in a historical "world" (sekai) with a cast of well-known, prominent figures. The crucial and climactic third act, however, centers on marginal low-status characters (such as Kanpei and Kumagai), who represent an "innovation." These marginal figures, who are fallen or weak and include women, become the exemplars of virtue inspired by the samurai code of honor, loyalty, and self-sacrifice. Kanpei and Kumagai (in Chūshingura and Ichinotani, respectively) each have made serious mistakes in the past and thereby atone for them through extreme self-sacrifice. For the puppet playwrights, who were not allowed to depict contemporary events, the medieval period became a means both to uphold samurai values and to comment indirectly on contemporary society and bakufu policy.
On page 180 of Early Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology 1600-1900 Shirane says:
Although Ōishi Kuranosuke, the leader of the forty-seven conspirators, who appears in the play as Ōboshi Yuranosuke, is the focus of those interested in the factual history of the vendetta, the core climactic scene in the play, the sixth act, which is translated here, centers on the lowest figure, Hayano Kanpei, whose indiscretions are thought to be one of the reasons for his lord's disgrace and who consequently has been kept out of the vendetta group. Hayano Kanpei's name is taken from the historical figure Kayano Sanpei, of the Akō Domain, who committed suicide before the vendetta, but the Hayano Kanpei in the play is essentially fictional. The same is true of two other lowly figures in the sixth act: Okaru, a farmer's daughter in the service of Lord Enya and the lover/wife of Kanpei, and her brother Teraoka Heiemon, named after the historical Terasaka Kichiemon, also of the Akō fief, who mysteriously disappeared after the vendetta attack. Significantly, the playwrights concentrated on two men, Kanpei and Heiemon, who were low foot soldiers (ashigaru) and who had to sacrifice themselves in order to regain their proper samurai status. Okaru and her two elderly parents also sacrifice themselves for the cause.

The nineteenth-century kabuki version, which is presented here, makes several changes in the original jōruri text, two of which alter the interpretation of the action. In the original jōruri, immediately after Kanpei stabs himself, he says that he intended to commit suicide if his request to join the vendetta were denied. The kabuki rendition, however, omits this line and creates the impression that Kanpei commits suicide to atone for the murder of his father-in-law, Yoichibei (Okaru's father). Also in contrast to the jōruri text, which presents a severe view of samurai honor as an absolute ideal, the kabuki version humanizes Kanpei. In both the jōruri and kabuki versions, the irony of Kanpei's death is that it was necessary for the restoration of his samurai position but also unnecessary, since he did not kill his father-in-law.

A review of Kanpei's actions earlier in the play is essential to understanding act 6. In act 3 Kanpei is on duty at the palace, the only attendant for his lord, Enya Hangan, representing the historical Asano. Okaru, in service to Lady Enya (Kaoyo) and in love with Kanpei, arranges for them to meet while on duty. Enya's attack on Kō no Moronao (representing the historical Kira) in the palace occurs while they are together. This lapse of duty is the cause of Kanpei's disgrace and of his exclusion from the vendetta group. In act 5 Kanpei, now a hunter trying to make a living, meets Senzaki Yagorō (a member of the vendetta group) at night and hears about the plan to raise money for a memorial to Lord Enya. He promises to raise money for the cause and asks to be allowed to join the vendetta. Then Yoichibei, father of Kanpei's wife, Okaru, returns along the same road at night from Kyoto to Yamazaki with fifty ryō in gold, half the agreed sale of Okaru to to a Gion brothel for a five-year contract. Yoichibei has taken this initiative to help Kanpei raise money for his cause, though without Kanpei's knowledge but with the consent of his own wife and daughter. He encounters the thief Sadakurō, a former Enya retainer but now a villain, who kills Yoichibei and steals the money. A wild boar runs near by, and two shots fire out, instantly killing Sadakurō. Kanpei runs up, thinking that he has killed the boar, discovers in the dark that it is a man, finds the money, decides to accept it as a gift from heaven, and rushes off with the money to give it to Yagorō.

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