Okaru's name immediately associates her with the mistress, also named Okaru, that Kuranosuke took up residence with while living in Yamashina. However, aside from her presence at the teahouse Ichirikiya and Yuranosuke's brief feint at courting her, there are few, if any, comparisons, thematic or otherwise, to draw between the two. It is safe to say that, while the name may have been chosen for the historical resonance it brought to the text and the character, the two Okarus represent two distinctly different personas.
Okaru has no counterpart within the Teiheiki.
Other Literary Models:
Agemaki (Oni kage musashi abumi)
Kokonoe (Ch?shin kogane tanzaku)
If Hayano Kanpei is someone who is inadvertently tempted by passion to commit a transgression against his lord, then it is Okaru who performs the role of the temptress. She is the central female character in a play that, more often than not, portrays women as nothing better than mere obstacles to samurai duty and virtue. And while it might be anachronistic and heavy-handed to judge Ch?shingura as misogynistic, Okaru, through her actions and influence, without a doubt achieves much the same textual status that Eve does in the Old Testament version of Genesis.
Even before she appears on stage in act three, Okaru has tempted: she persuades Kaoyo to allow to her deliver the letter box to Enya that morning, instead of waiting for a less politically charged, volatile occasion. It is this event that ultimately triggers Moronao's vindictive anger. A short while later, she also manages to entice Kanpei to forsake his duties and abandon his lord at what becomes a crucial moment. Through these two actions, Okaru succeeds in, albeit unintentionally, cursing Enya to death, not once, but twice - in fact, it could be said that Okaru plays far more of an active role in Enya's death than even Moronao does. Her presence is made all the more insidious by her sexual nature and the fact that both acts of temptation were either motivated or carried out by sexuality. In one final act of persuasion at the end of act three, she persuades Kanpei not to take his own life and to return home with her, thereby preventing him from dying honorably and, ultimately, causing the death of her own father, Yoichibei. Okaru, then, is a temptress in the truest sense, one who reliance on, and utilization of, emotion sets her up as an entity in direct opposition of the warrior virtue that is expounded throughout the rest of the play. It is especially symbolic that Okaru, in an effort to help Kanpei make his way in the world as a samurai, sells herself to a brothel, becoming the professional embodiment of the sexuality that succeeded in dooming the men around her.
The literary coup de gr?ce is delivered to Okaru's character at the end of
act seven, the last time she appears on stage. Unlike the tragic endings of
Kanpei and Honz?, which serve to paradoxically elevate their actions and justify
their mistakes, Okaru is denied the chance to kill herself. Instead she is
ordered to by Yuranosuke to live out her life in order to offer prayers for
the repose of her brother's spirit. In a play that treats suicide as the ultimate
means to prove ones self worth and virtue, this inability to die acts like
a curse that condemns all of Okaru's actions up to that point. Although many
characters within Ch?shingura commit tragic mistakes, Okaru, along
with Moronao, are the only ones that are not granted forgiveness in the end.