Tokiwazu is a style of Joruri narrative music that is used in the Kabuki theater for dances and dance plays. It never appears with puppets. There are several styles of singing that ultimately derive from a style called Bungo Bushi. These styles include Tokiwazu, Tomimoto, Kiyomoto and Shinnai. Of these styles, Tomimoto has virtually disappeared and Shinnai almost never appears in the theater. So Tokiwazu is the oldest of the Bungo Bushi styles performed in Kabuki today. Technically Tokiwazu, Tomimoto and Kiyomoto are much the same, but they differ in atmosphere since their repertory reflects the tastes of the ages that produced them and the personalities of the singing stars that originally performed them.
Bungo Bushi takes its name from Miyakoji Bungo-no-Jo who traveled from Kyoto to Edo, and became famous for his beautiful voice and fashionable clothing. He appeared in Kabuki, and seems to have mostly performed love suicide plays that were reworked versions of masterpieces by Chikamatsu. But love suicide plays were banned by the shogunate and, broken hearted, Bungo-no-Jo returned to Kyoto and in 1740, soon died.
Tokiwazu began when one of Bungo-no-Jo's students who remained in Edo began performing under the name Tokiwazu Mojitayu (1709 - 1781). The first period of greatness for Tokiwazu was in the 1750's with long, colorful dance dramas like Tsumoru Koi Yuki no Seki no To (The Snowbound Barrier) and Modori Kago Iro no Aikata (The Returning Palanquin), both created to feature the dancing skills of Nakamura Nakazo I (1736 - 1790). In the first play, he appears as a boisterous barrier guard who is actually a pretender to the imperial throne. In the second play, he appeared as a palanquin bearer who is also actually a larger-than-life villain. Before Nakazo, dance was considered the exclusive preserve of the onnagata female role specialist and the music was usually Nagauta, but Nakazo opened the way for dances featuring male characters that used other styles of music.
The second great period of Tokiwazu came at the beginning of the 19th century when there was a craze for "hengemono" or "transformation dances." These were sets of short dances each featuring a particular character and usually were performed by a single actor making fast changes from character to character. Most of the Kabuki dances performed today to the accompaniment of Nagauta, Tokiwazu and Kiyomoto come from this period.
While the Gidayu chanter must make the words understandable and must speak the lines of all the characters, since the Tokiwazu chanter performs together with live actors, he only speaks lines on rare occasions. Therefore the singing style is much lighter and more lyrical than Gidayu. Also, while the texts of Gidayu plays are usually straightforward and very logical, Edo style music pieces tend to be much lighter, witty and allusive. This also brings the Kabuki styles of Joruri closer to the lyrical utamono styles.
This dance scene is the concluding act of a full-length spectacle first performed in 1836 at the Ichimura-za in Edo. It was a dramatization of a comic book about the exploits of the heir of Taira no Masakado, notorious as a rebel who tried to become emperor and was a master of magic. This particular scene takes place at Masakado's ruined palace. Minamoto no Yorimitsu (also known as Raiko) is famous for vanquishing spirits and other villains and he sends his lieutenant Mitsukuni to investigate. There a mysterious woman suddenly appears from a pond and claims to be a courtesan from Kyoto that has fallen in love with him. She tells the story of how she fell in love with him in one of the most famous passages of Tokiwazu music, which is the part of the play in this recording. Mitsukuni is still suspicious so he tells the story of how Masakado died in battle. The woman suddenly collapses in tears, but she continues to pretend to be innocent. There is a lively dance with the two together, but then, the red banner of Masakado's clan falls from her kimono. She is actually Takiyasha, the daughter of Masakado, who is trying carry on his quest to conquer Japan.. She wants to seduce Mitsukuni into joining her cause, but if that fails, she will vanquish him herself. At the end of the fight, the mansion collapses and Takiyasha appears on the roof with the banner as Mitsukuni looks up at her furiously from below.
Mitsukuni: There have been reports that the deserted palace of the imperial pretender Masakado has become the home of monsters and evil spirits that are causing great harm to the people. My lord, Yorimitsu, has ordered me, Mitsukuni, to come and investigate. I dozed momentarily, and now, suddenly, I am in this unfamiliar parlor. Indeed, this must be the work of some evil spirit!
Takiyasha: Hear me, hear me, Mitsukuni.
Mitsukuni: Evil spirit, come to be vanquished!
Tokiwazu: Mitsukuni approaches to discover the true identity of this spirit. The woman quickly rushes to stop him.
Takiyasha: I must tell you who I am to dispel your suspicions. I am a courtesan named Kisaragi from the Shimabara pleasure quarters in Kyoto.
Mitsukuni: Nay; that is even more suspicious. Kyoto is far over the waves from here. How could a courtesan travel so far and dwell here? If by some chance you are really a courtesan from Kyoto, how do you know who I am, when I have never met you?
Takiyasha: Even if you didn't ask, I must tell what is in my heart. It happened last spring.
Takiyasha: Please listen to me.
Tokiwazu: "Saga and Omuro were full of flowers in full bloom.
Lovesick butterflies added their colors to the blossoms. I was taken there by the people of the pleasure quarters. It was rare for me to be able to go on an outing and how surprising and delightful the sight of Mt. Arashiyama. Do you remember that time? You wore hakama trousers dyed a beautiful pastel color. But your warrior's heart was strong and bold. I fell in love with you at first sight. Secretly I kept the thought of you in my heart. That was when I learned that your name was Mitsukuni and have thought of nothing else day and night since then. Now my wishes have been granted and we are able to meet. Please clear away your suspicions." She rushes to his side and clings to him, then, face reddening, she hides in embarrassment, concealing her face with her sleeve.
Tokiwazu Komatayu (Lead Singer), Tokiwazu Mojibei (Lead Shamisen)