Play title Shinrei Yaguchi no Watashi  In Japanese
Author Fukuuchi Kigai (Hiraga Gennai)

The play "Shinrei Yaguchi no Watashi" was originally written for the puppet theater (Bunraku) and staged in the 1st lunar month of 1770 in Edo at the Gekiza. It was adapted for Kabuki many years later and staged for the first time in the 8th lunar month of 1794 at the Kiriza. The current kata for the role of Tonbę were created by Ichikawa Danjûrô VII in the 5th lunar month of 1831, when "Shinrei Yaguchi no Watashi" was staged at the Kawarazakiza; the role of Ofuna was played by Sawamura Gennosuke II.


"Shinrei Yaguchi no Watashi" is made up of 5 acts. The most famous scene, "Tonbę Sumika" ("at Tonbę's House"), is the final scene of the 4th act.

Key words Gidayû Kyôgen
Godaigo Tennô
Kôga Jisshu


During the reign of the Emperor Godaigo, the wicked Ashikaga Takauji attempted to dethrone the Emperor and set up a pretender in his place. A great battle was fought on the Plain of Musashino, near what later became Edo. The commander of the Imperial army was Nitta Yoshioki, a famous soldier. He and his troops fought courageously, but were defeated through the treachery of a man whom Yoshioki believed to be his friend. Yoshioki himself was murdered by this same false friend at Yaguchi, where a ferry crossed the Tama River.

Nitta Yoshioki had a younger brother named Yoshimine who did not take part in the battle. Yoshimine had been ordered to remain behind and guard the Emperor. In his charge his brother left the family heirloom, two magic arrows which had once been the property of Minamoto Yorimitsu, the ancestor of the Nitta family. Ashikaga Takauji desired to gain possession of these arrows and his spies succeeded in making Yoshimine drunk and stealing them while he slept. Yoshimine, in despair, tried to commit suicide, but was dissuaded by his devoted concubine, Utena. The two set out together to seek the lost treasure. While they were upon the road, they heard the news of the defeat of the Imperial army and the death of Yoshioki. Yoshimine determined to rally his brother's troops and march against Ashikaga. He therefore turned his steps towards his ancestral home at Nitta as being the best point of assembly for fugitives from Musashino. On their way, he and Utena came to the ferry at Yaguchi, where Yoshioki had died.

At Tonbę's House

Three neighbors, Sorobei, Jûji and Pinsuke visit the house of Tonbę, the ferryman at Yaguchi, to borrow money as they have lost all the money in gambling. Tonbę lends 200 ryô to each of them to enable them to try their luck again. Asked by them why he is so rich, Tonbę tells them that he was rewarded handsomely by Ashikaga Takauji, a warlord, for his help in killing Takauji's enemy, Nitta Yoshioki, by scuttling the ship Yoshioki boarded.

Later when Tonbę is absent, having gone to the village headman's office, Yoshioki's younger brother Nitta Yoshimine comes to the house, accompanied by his sweetheart Utena, to ask for a ferry service across the river. Tonbę's daughter Ofuna, attracted by Yoshimine at first sight, lets them stay overnight in the house as it is too late.

When Yoshimine comes out of his room upstairs to ask for a cup of hot water for Utena to take medicine with, Ofuna asks him who his companion is Yoshimine falsely says that she is his sister. When Ofuna makes advances to him, he does not repulse her. He takes her in his arms, but the movements dislodges the Nitta banner which he is carrying in his bosom. It rolls across the floor and Ofuna realizes who he is. Yoshimine hastily retreats into the inner room.

Tonbę's assistant Rokuzô, wishing to assassinate Yoshimine to get a handsome reward, tries to go to Yoshimine's room but is persuaded by Ofuna to give up on condition that she will accept his amorous advances. Ofuna then locks the front door and goes upstairs.

At night Tonbę comes back from the village headman's office, where he was ordered to arrest Yoshimine. As the front door is locked, he cuts a hole in the wall beside it to enter the house. He thrusts his sword through the ceiling in the dark, seriously wounding Ofuna instead of Yoshimine. Told by Ofuna that she has already helped Yoshimine and Utena to escape by boat, Tonbę dashes to the riverbank to light a bonfire to inform the villagers of Yoshimine's escape. Ofuna, who knows that a drumbeat will signify arrest and therefore make the villagers stop searching for the criminal, furiously beats a drum in spite of her serious wound. Painfully she drags herself to the drum tower and feebly succeeds in striking the drum. Rokuzô hears her and hurries in to prevent her giving the signal. Ofuna loses the drumstick, but she pulls Rokuzô's short sword from his belt and in the ensuing struggle she stabs him, and he falls into the river. Ofuna, with the last of her strength, beats the drum with the empty scabbard. As she falls dead a small boat, rowed by her father, appears on the river. Tonbę is rapidly approaching the further bank when an arrow wings its way from out of nowhere and strikes him dead. Here the scene ends. The arrow which kills Tonbę, is, of course, one of the two magic arrows of the Nitta come miraculously to Yoshimine's aid. The second arrow kills Rokuzô who, in spite of his wound, is swimming across the river. Thus Yoshimine recovers the family heirloom and is able to rally the Imperial troops and lead them to victory.

Introduction from "The Kabuki Handbook"
Main text written by Hironaga Shûzaburô, with elements added from "The Kabuki Handbook"


The role of Ofuna belongs to the kôga jisshu collection of roles.

The actors Nakamura Jakuemon I and Ichikawa Udanji I playing the roles of Tonbę and Ofuna in the drama "Shinrei Yaguchi no Watashi", which was staged in 1868 in Ôsaka (print made by Sadahiro)

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