Play title Gosho Zakura Horikawa no Youchi  In Japanese
Imperial Palace Cherry Blossoms and the Horikawa Night Attack [1]
Authors Matsuda Bunk˘d˘
Miyoshi Sh˘raku

The play "Gosho Zakura Horikawa no Youchi" was originally written for the puppet theater (Bunraku) and staged for the first time in the 1st lunar month of 1737 in ďsaka at the Takemotoza. It was adapted for Kabuki many years later and staged for the first time in the 4th lunar month of 1762 in ďsaka at the Naka no Shibai [casting].


"Gosho Zakura Horikawa no Youchi" was a 5-act maruhonmono. Two scenes have survived : "Benkei J˘shi" (kiri of the third act) and "T˘yata Monogatari" (kiri of the fourth act).

Key words Genpei Kassen
Gidayű Ky˘gen
Hana Yoten
Kajiwara Kagetaka
Kajiwara Kagetoki
Minamoto Yoritomo
Minamoto Yoshitsune
Musashib˘ Benkei
Sato Gozen
Taira Tokitada

Act III, last scene: Benkei J˘shi (Benkei the Emissary)
--> A dedicated summary: "Benkei J˘shi"

As general of the Genji clan, Minamoto Yoshitsune has won fame and glory through his successful pursuit of the enemy Heike but through the vicious slander of Kajiwara Heiz˘ Kagetoki, his brother Minamoto Yoritomo becomes suspicious of his brother's true motives. Yoshitsune and his pregnant seishitsu Ky˘-no-Kimi are forced to shelter at the house of Jijű Tar˘ Morikuni [2] in Ky˘to at Horikawa where she has been brought up as a child. Yoritomo's suspicions, though groundless, are based on the fact that Ky˘-no-Kimi is the adopted daughter of Taira no Tokitada, an enemy general of the Heike clan. Moreover, the evil Kajiwara Kagetoki has falsely alleged that Yoshitsune was plotting a rebellion in conclusion with the Imperial Court. Yoshitsune protests his innocence, but Yoritomo demands Ky˘-no-Kimi's head as proof of his brother's good faith, and sends Musashib˘ Benkei as an emissary (j˘shi) to Horikawa to deliver the order.

When Jijű Tar˘ hears of the purpose of Benkei's visit, he consults with his wife the okugata Hananoi and they decide to find a substitute for Yoshitsune's wife. Because of her close physical resemblance to Ky˘-no-Kimi, a koshimoto named Shinobu, is chosen, but the girl's mother, Owasa, refuses to allow her daughter to be sacrificed. She reveals, for the first time, a secret connected with her birth. Eighteen years before, Owasa has made love with a young man but has not seen his face because of the dark. Shinobu is the result of that incident. During the succeeding years Owasa has brought her daughter up to be a seamstress and dressmaker. As a keepsake from that meeting, she shows the man's kimono sleeve, that she has treasured ever since. Until she meets her father, Owasa explains that Shinobu cannot be sacrificed. She takes her hand and makes to leave but Shinobu is cut down from behind the sliding doors. Benkei appears. He shows a sleeve identical to the one of Owasa; in other words, Benkei is the father of Shinobu. Owasa is stunned and demands to know why Benkei has killed the girl. He explains that he did it for his master, Minamoto Yoshitsune and manages to convince Owasa and win her approval. He cries the first time in all his life (˘toshi). Benkei orders Jijű Tar˘ to decapitate the girl which he does, but Jijű Tar˘ then commits seppuku himself, reasoning that two heads being better than one, Yoshitsune will stand a better chance of proving his innocence if both are presented to Yoritomo. Benkei expresses his gratitude, takes the heads in both arms and strides off to display them to the Genji leader in Kamakura.

Act IV, last scene: T˘yata Monogatari (T˘yata's Story)
--> A dedicated summary: "T˘yata Monogatari"

In this act Ky˘-no-Kimi is disguised as a household maid to keep her identity hidden. To allay Genji suspicions yet further, Yoshitsune has installed his mistress in the household, the beautiful dancer Shizuka Gozen [3], and all seems well until Shizuka's brother, T˘yata, comes to visit. T˘yata is a rascal who has been disowned by his father, and although he has recently performed some service for which Yoshitsune is indebted to him, he is still in collusion with the evil general Kajiwara. On his current spying mission he realises the true identity of the maid, (i.e. Yoshitsune's wife), and is in the middle of writing to inform Kajiwara when Shizuka stops him and they fight. This does little good however, and it is not until their mother appears and stabs T˘yata that he has a profound change of heart, confesses his past sins and lets them know of an enemy attack due to take place that night. T˘yata's mother then reinstates him as a full member of the family and, though mortally wounded, T˘yata goes off to do battle with the enemy forces in a grand, tachimawari fight scene.

Act IV is courtesy of Paul M. Griffith


[1] The title "Imperial Palace Cherry Blossoms and the Horikawa Night Attack" comes from Samuel Leiter's "Historical Dictionary of Japanese Traditional Theatre".

[2] Jijű was not a family name but a court title (jijű). The jijű Tar˘ Morikuni was a fictitious character, which was specifically created for "Gosho Zakura Horikawa no Youchi".

[3] Shizuka Gozen was both Minamoto no Yoshitsune's sokushitsu and a talented shiraby˘shi dancer.

The actors Ogawa Kichitar˘ III (top/left), Ichikawa Danz˘ V (top/right), Nakamura Utaemon III (center/the warrior with the box), Arashi Tomisabur˘ II and Nakamura Matsue III playing the roles of Yoshitsune, Ise no Sabur˘, Musashib˘ Benkei, Shinobu and Owasa in the drama "Gosho Zakura Horikawa no Youchi", which was staged in the 10th lunar month of 1828 at the Naka no Shibai (cover of the illustated banzuke)

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