One of kabuki's most prolific playwrights, Tsuruya Nanboku, produced 120 dramas in the last 25 years of his life. This month, the Kabukiza, in Ginza, stages just two of them, a pair of remarkable sewamono (realistic plays) titled "Kamikakete Sango Taisetsu (A Pledge of Love to Sango)" and "Osome Hisamatsu Ukina no Yomiuri (News of the Love Affair of Osome and Hisamatsu)," generally known as "The Seven Roles of Osome."

Tsuruya Nanboku IV (1755-1829) was active during the Bunka-Bunsei era (1804-29), a time when kabuki flourished in Edo and a number of talented actors emerged.

Nanboku himself was quite some talent. He wrote by reworking popular 18th-century kabuki plays, incorporating elements drawn from earlier dramas (a method known as naimaze [mixing]). But the playwright was as much an innovator as a copyist, creating such interesting new roles as iroaku (handsome but wicked villains) and akuba (middle-aged women who can bluff, fight and swindle).