This little corner of the world has been dedicated to a gentleman who is probably my favorite single character in all of English literature (sorry, Hobbits!), and that is Koko the Lord High Executioner of Titipu, who lives in a highly fictious Japan, created by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. His story may be told in full elsewhere, but suffice it to say that this charming little fellow won my heart at a very tender age, long years before I ever heard of Middle Earth (that other fabulous land of make-believe), and he still holds a big place in my heart.
So who the heck is Koko, and what's he all about?
Well, if you are not familiar with Gilbert & Sullivan's musical comedy,"The Mikado", then I suggest you find a copy and read it — better yet, get a copy of a good recording and listen to it — or better still, see it on stage or in a DVD/video (there are several versions available) and you will see how some actors have portrayed him. While he has been interpreted in numerous ways, I will start you off with a few basics:
KOKO IN A NUTSHELL
He isn't brave, but he's no coward, either.
He isn't handsome, but he's lovable.
He's quick to panic and jumps to conclusions quickly, but he never completely loses his head (forgive the pun!), and is actually quite adept at wriggling out of impossibly difficult jams.
He is snubbed and taken advantage of, but he's not a fool.
He has a weakness for pretty girls, but in the end knows a real woman - once he gets over his initial fear and revulsion.
He is also the luckiest man alive, cheerfully skirting disaster after disaster and somehow making lemonade out of some very real lemons..
Yum-Yum made a big mistake, but Yum-Yum is about as appealing as wasabi sauce, once you scratch past her pretty exterior..
"...if you really mean what you say, and if you are absolutely resolved to die, and if nothing whatever will shake your determination — don't spoil yourself by committing suicide, but be beheaded handsomely at the hands of the Public Executioner! Observe: you'll have a month to live, and you'll live like a fighting-cock at my expense. When the day comes, there'll be a grand public ceremonial — you'll be the central figure — no one will attempt to deprive you of that distinction. There'll be a procession — bands — dead march — bells tolling — all the girls in tears — Yum-Yum distracted—then, when it's all over, general rejoicings and a display of fireworks in the evening. You won't see them, but they'll be there all the same."
"I can't conceive of anything more distressing than to have one's marriage broken off at the last moment. But you shan't be disappointed of a wedding — you shall come to mine."
"... My good sir, as Lord High Executioner, I've got to behead him in a month. I'm not ready yet. I don't know how it's done. I'm going to take lessons. I mean to start with a guinea pig and work my way up through the animal kingdom till I come to a Second Trombone. Why, you don't suppose that, as a humane man, I'd have accepted the post of Lord High Executioner if I hadn't thought the duties were purely nominal? I can't kill you — I can't kill anything! I can't kill anybody!"
"Flirting is the only crime punishable with decapitation, and married men never flirt."
"Is this a time for airy persiflage?"
"Here's a How-de-do!"
"Suicide is a capital offense."
"Very glad to have my opinion backed by such a competant authority."
"As some day it may happen that a victim must be found, I've got a little list..."
"Don't laugh at him, he can't help it -- he's under treatment for it."
"I don't see how a man can cut off his own head."
"Self-decapitation is an extremely difficult--not to say dangerous--thing to attempt."
"Can't you see I'm sililoquoizing? You have interrupted an apostrophe, sir!"
I beg to offer an unqualified apology."
"If he finds you alive, I shall have the greatest difficulty in persueding him that I've beheaded you."
"...in spite of all my meekness, if I have a little weakness, it's a passion for a flight of thunderbolts!"
"Will you refrain from putting in your oar?"
"Your Majesty's word is law."
"Go on--don't mind me."
"Thank you--it's simple torture."
"Do you think you are sufficiently decayed?"
"Oh, bother the flowers of spring! Tra la."
My good sir, I decline to pin my heart upon any lady's right heel."
"Oh, Yum-Yum, Yum-Yum! Bother Yum-Yum! Take Yum-Yum and marry Yum-Yum, only go away and never come back!"
"Well, a nice mess you've gotten us into!"
"Is a maiden all the better when she's tough?"
"Your notions, though many, are not worth a penny, the word for your guidance is "Mum" — you've a very good bargain in me."
"THE MIKADO" - THE COMPETE TEXT: The complete libretto of "The Mikado", according to Daisy. If you have trouble visualizing stage directions, here they are in glorious detail. Guaranteed to enhance your reading pleasure, with my own personal slant.
THE MIKADO HOMEPAGE: A big site with all kinds of good stuff on "The Mikado", including puzzles and many surprises. Great fun, and very classy-looking.
A SOURCE OF INNOCENT MERRIMENT:
A wonderful Mikado production in England, designed to introduce kids to theater,
to Gilbert & Sillivan, and to have a great summer adventure. Buy the DVD.
Oh yeah...you might recognize the illustrations, too.
THE COSTUMER'S MANEFESTO: So you want to stage "The Mikado". This is a very> cool site with everything you ever want to know about Japanese costuming.
THE ONLINE TEAHOUSE
and THE IMMORTAL GEISHA: Find out all about the famous geisha and maiko at these two wonderful sites. The maiko are the exquisite teenage girls of Japan who were the direct inspirations for Yum-Yum, Peep-Bo and Pitti-Sing. Immortal Geisha in particular has lovely pictures. If you visit her forum, I am "Nekochan".
THE REAL TOWN OF TITIPU:
And you thought it was just a fairy tale, didn't you!
This town in Japan claims to be the real Titipu, and this is
There are other pages on Chichibu Japan, but this is a good
place to start. Photos of their version of "The Mikado" seem to
have been taken down, and I can no longer find their English
language version, but they have their own web server which is
sort of fun to see--HERE,
as well as a really beautiful site on
Saitama Prefecure,which has several translated pages, and
some very interesting photos that give you a good idea of the region.
These sites are usually in Japanese, so when necessary, I
recommend running them through a web translator such as
. It isn't perfect, but at least it helps you navigate.
THE JAPANESE "HOUKAN":
Koko actually comes from a very long tradition of Japanese comedians
or court jesters, best known to westerners as the "fool" in
the famous movie, "RAN". They were actually the predecessors
of the modern Geisha! Read more about them
This really has nothing whatsoever to do with "The Mikado",
but I can't help thinking Koko would approve of it.
ALL ABOUT JAPAN:
Some of the coolest links about Japan, many of them excellent
GILBERT & SULLIVAN NOTECARDS
- delightful packets of original notecards by artist Tyson Vick,
exclusive for sale at this site. Includes not only "The Mikado",
but everything from "The Sorcerer" to "The Grand Duke".
Reasonably priced, and attractive. Check 'em out.
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The perfect-looking Koko in the photo at the top of this page was played by Stephen O'Brien
of the New York Society of Gilbert & Sullivan Society.
The pictures of the "three little maids from school" shown above came from the movie TOPSY-TURVEY
and one of several "Kabuki-style" productions that have gained great popularity.