Play Kinmon Gosan no Kiri  In Japanese
Sanmon Gosan no Kiri  In Japanese
Author Namiki Gohei I

The drama "Kinmon Gosan no Kiri" was written directly for the Kabuki by the playwright Namiki Gohei I and was produced for the first time in the 4th lunar month of 1778 by the zamoto Ogawa Kichitar˘ I in ďsaka at the Kado no Shibai [casting]. The roles of Ishikawa Goemon and his sworn enemy Mashiba Hisayoshi were played by Arashi Hinasuke I and Onoe Kikugor˘ I. The play was performed in Edo under the title "Sanmon Gosan no Kiri" but kept its original title "Kinmon Gosan no Kiri" in the Kamigata theaters.


The play "Sanmon Gosan no Kiri" was originally in 5 acts. The "Nanzenji Sanmon" scene, commonly called "Sanmon", was part of the second act.

Key words Gosankiri
Ishikawa Goemon
Mashiba Hisayoshi
Tenchi no Mie

The play opens on the second floor of the magnificent Nanzenji temple vermilion gate, located on the eastern hills of Ky˘to and commonly called Sanmon. The king of thieves Ishikawa Goemon sits enthroned in the balcony, in the heart of a forest of cherry trees in full blossom. Lost in admiration for the beautiful scenery and enjoying a kiseru smoke, the outlaw delivers one of the most famous lines in Kabuki: "A peerless view. Magnificent. The spring view is worth a thousand gold pieces, or so they say, but 'tis too little, too little[1]".

A white hawk settles on the wooden guardrail of the balcony, holding a bloodstained white cloth. Goemon takes the cloth and carefully examines it. It contains a message written by S˘ Sokei, a high-ranking Ming official who secretly came to Japan in order to plan the invasion of the country. Mashiba Hisayoshi thwarted the plot and S˘ Sokei had to commit suicide, writing his last message to his son S˘ Soyű. Goemon realizes that he is S˘ Soyű and therefore S˘ Sokei was his father. Goemon was separated from his real father when he was a child and received the upbringing of Takechi Mitsuhide, who later on rebelled against Mashiba Hisayoshi, was defeated and killed. Goemon has the double obligation to take revenge on the Mashiba clan and kill Hisayoshi, the man responsible for the death of both his father and his adoptive father.

The Sanmon gates starts to rise on stage, revealing the first floor of the structure, a purification stone basin and ů a pilgrim, who is none other than Mashiba Hisayoshi. He writes on one of the pillar the following sentence: "The number of thieves is countless, as the sands of the shore of the beach of Shichirigahama". He sees Goemon through the reflection in the water of the stone basin. The thief recognizes his sworn enemy and quickly flings a dagger at him. Hisayoshi parries the attack with the handle of the basin dipper. Both actors strike their final pose: Hisayoshi challenges Goemon, who has one foot on the balcony guardrail, one hand on his sword and a menacing face[2], ending one of the shortest but most spectacular Kabuki plays.


How a common robber may become so picturesque that all his faults are forgiven is to be seen in the r˘le of Ishikawa Goemon. He had a Chinese father and a Japanese mother, and in punishment for his highway robberies he was finally boiled in oil. Goemon took up his quarters in the second story of the great red gate of Nanzenji, a Ky˘to temple, and made his depredations by night. In a huge black velvet costume, a loose outer garment of gold brocade, and the conventional wig of a villain, hair that stands on end like a chestnut bur, Goemon emerges from his place of concealment to the gallery above the entrance gate and surveys the scene, smoking his pipe peacefully. Then the man searching for him appears out of the nether region of the stage, catches the reflection of the robber's face on the surface of the water in a bronze temple-urn, and exclaims that so long as there is sand on the seashore there will be robbers in the world.

ZoŰ Kincaid in "Kabuki, the Popular Stage of Japan"


[1] From Kawatake Toshio's book "Kabuki: Baroque Fusion of the Arts".

[2] This is the famous tenchi no mie.

Nakamura Shikan II (top) and Ichikawa Ebiz˘ V (bottom) playing the roles of Ishikawa Goemon and Mashiba Hisayoshi in the drama "Kinmon Gosan no Kiri", staged in the 3rd lunar month of 1834 at the Kado no Shibai (print made by Hokuei)

Matsumoto K˘shir˘ V (top) and Seki Sanjűr˘ II (bottom) playing the roles of Ishikawa Goemon and Mashiba Hisayoshi in the drama "Sanmon Gosan no Kiri", staged in the 3rd lunar month of 1826 at the Nakamuraza (print made by Utagawa Toyokuni II)

Prints & Illustrations
More details about Ishikawa Goemon
"Sanmon Gosan no Kiri" on YouTube: February 1950 [Kabuki Historical Recordings]
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