|Play title||Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura
Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees
|Authors||Takeda Izumo II
Namiki Senryű I
The play "Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura" was originally written for the puppet theater (Bunraku) and staged for the first time in the 11th lunar month of 1747 in ďsaka at the Takemotoza. It was adapted for Kabuki the following year and staged for the first time in the 1st lunar month of 1748 in Ise with Kataoka Nizaemon IV (Tokaiya Ginpei, Yokawa no Zenji Kakuhan) and Yamamoto Koheiji (Tadanobu). It was performed for the first time in a city licensed theater in the 5th lunar month of 1748, in Edo at the Nakamuraza [casting].
In modern times, this scene was revived a few times as an opening scene of "Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura". Here is the list of all performances from the end of WWII to 2014:
Yashima no Tatakai
The general Yoshitsune, accompanied by the priest Benkei and other retainers, calls upon the retired Emperor Goshirakawa at his Sent˘ Palace. To Fujiwara no Tomokata, Sadaijin (Minister of the Left), Yoshitsune gives an account of his victory over the Heike forces at the Battle of Yashima. Included in his tale are the famous anecdotes about the death of Sat˘ Tsuginobu, who was killed by an arrow meant for Yoshitsune, Nasu no Yoichi's feat of marksmanship in hitting a fan displayed on a Heike boat, the "armor-pulling" scene between the Heike warrior Kagekiyo and Mionoya Shir˘, and the death of the warrior Taira no Tomomori, all anecdotes familiar through military epics such as The Tale of the Heike and the plays of the N˘ theater. Tomokata asks why, despite this victory, Yoshitsune's brother Yoritomo refused to receive Yoshitsune at Koshigoe near Kamakura. Benkei claims that his master was the victim of slander, but Yoshitsune quiets him, saying that even he is obligated to follow the orders of the Sh˘gun Yoritomo, no matter how unjust they may seem. Tomokata goes to report the results of this conversation to the Retired Emperor, Tomokata's retainer Inokuma Dainoshin appears and accuses Yoshitsune of having let Wakaba no Naishi, wife of Taira no Koremori, escape because he was in love with her. At this, Benkei angrily subdues him.
The blinds of state are raised and Tomokata appears once more, saying that the Retired Emperor has decided to reward Yoshitsune's battle exploits with a hand-drum (tsuzumi) named Hatsune no Tsuzumi. Tomokata says that the two faces of the drum are meant to represent the brothers Yoshitsune and Yoritomo. Yoshitsune would prefer to interpret this gift as a signal that the Retired Emperor wishes him to be reconciled with Yoritomo, but Tomokata, who wants to deepen the rivalry between the brothers, claims that the message behind this gift is the Retired Emperor's desire that Yoshitsune should assassinate Yoritomo. Faced with this dilemma, Yoshitsune decides to accept the drum as a sign of Imperial favor, while at the same time reasoning that as long as he does not beat the drum ("beat" and "kill" having the same pronunciation in Japanese), he is under no obligation to kill his brother.
Source: Valerie L. Durham
Next scene: "Kitasaga Anshitsu"
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