Play title Kiri Hitoha  In Japanese
A Single Paulownia Leaf
Author Tsubouchi Shy

Tsubouchi Shy's drama "Kiri Hitoha" was initially serialized in the magazine Waseda Bungaku (literally "Waseda Literature") from November 1894 to September 1895. It was premiered in Kabuki in February and March 1904 at the Tkyza [more details]. The opening day was the 27th of February 1904.


"Kiri Hitoha" was in 6 acts, which were divided into 16 scenes.

Key words Cha Bzu
Ishikawa Sadamasa
Kataoka Jnish
Katagiri Katsumoto
Kimura Shigenari
Nagara Zutsumi
Oda Jshin
Oda Nobukatsu
no Dken
no Harunaga
no Harutane
no Shrinosuke
Seki-ga-Hara no Tatakai
Tokugawa Ieyasu
Toyotomi Hidetsugu
Toyotomi Hideyori
Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Watanabe Kuranosuke
Watanabe Tadasu


In 1600, the Battle of Seki-ga-Hara took place in which Tokugawa Ieyasu was able to more or less wrest power from the Toyotomi Clan, which has previously ruled the country. For a while afterwards, however, a period of uneasy truce prevailed during which Toyotomi Hideyori (son of the late Toyotomi Hideyoshi who has established the Toyotomi regime) remained the nominal political ruler of Japan, ruling from saka Castle. Tokugawa Ieyasu, however, from Edo Castle waited for the opportunity of establishing himself as military ruler of Japan using the most trivial of imagined wrongs to take umbrage against Toyotomi Hideyori. In 1614 Ieyasu's chance came and he attacked saka Castle in what has become known as the Winter Siege. Rival factions within the crumbling Toyotomi regime also hastened its fall, a situation exacerbated by Yodogimi, the late Hideyoshi's mistress and the mother of Hideyori. Katagiri Katsumoto, a loyal Toyotomi retainer, fears the worst, if a battle with Tokugawa Ieyasu were to take place, and tries to prevent a direct confrontation with the Tokugawa forces. His attempts to do so, however, are met with suspicion by Yodogimi who is headstrong and arrogant and Katagiri's rivals take advantage of the situation to engineer Katagiri's fall thus playing into Ieyasu's hands.

Act III, Scene 1: saka Jnai Tamari no Ma
The Conference Chamber within the saka Castle

To provoke his own retainers against the house of Toyotomi, Tokugawa Ieyasu has given out that a certain temple bell, ostensibly set up in the name of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, in fact bears a curse against Ieyasu. The warlord of the eastern armies summons Katagiri Katsumoto, a senior Toyotomi retainer, to Edo for interrogation and demands that Yodogimi be handed over as a hostage. Katagiri reluctantly consents but Yodogimi, unaware of what is going on in Katagiri's mind, is furious and convinced that he is trying to remove her from the powerful position she occupies as the mother of Toyotomi Hideyori. Those who seek her favour play upon her suspicions.

Katagiri has returned to saka from Edo and is making his report to Hideyori and Yodogimi who interrogate him severely. Meanwhile, outside the room, retainers wonder what is going on and, when the cha bzu Chinpaku emerges from the conference chamber they ask him for news. Their idle gossip finished, they withdraw and the daimy Ishikawa Izu-no-Kami Sadamasa [1] then emerges much displeased but does not stay.

Katagiri, himself, then enters and is met by Oda Jshin, a former warrior who has retired from military life and entered the priesthood. Oda warns Katagiri that no Dken and his brother Shrinosuke, are plotting to assassinate him and he advises him to be on his guard. Ishikawa, who is impetuous and rather dim in that he trusts Dken, returns in the room. He accuses Katagiri of being a spy (kanja) at the service of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Katagiri insists that his apparent acquiescence to Ieyasu's demands is a strategy to prevent an all-out attack on saka Castle by the Tokugawa forces.

Finding his explanation unconvincing, Ishikawa Sadamasa tries to kill Katagiri who asks for his life to be spared. Ishikawa is disgusted at Katagiri's apparent lack of pride and stalks off baffled and contemptuous. Watanabe Kuranosuke, another member of the conspiracy against Katagiri makes to go after him but he is stopped by no Shrinosuke.

Act III, Scene 2: Kuro Shoin Hygi
The Consultation in the Inner Audience Chamber

A heated debate relating to Katagiri Katsumoto's behaviour takes place with no Dken, his brother no Shrinosuke and Watanabe Kuranosuke. They almost all agree that Katagiri is plotting to take over the Toyotomi house. This view is opposed only by Oda Jshin, who trusts Katagiri. Kimura Nagato-no-Kami Shigenari [2], who has been ill, rushes in to forestall any rash action against Katagiri. Kimura insists that Katagiri be called for further questioning before anything more is done. Toyotomi Hideyori agrees but his mother, Yodogimi, enters and insists that Katagiri is guilty of treason. Despite this hysterical out-burst, Kimura's reasoning prevails and he is sent by Hideyori to summon him to the castle.

Act III, Scene 3: Katagiri-tei Jshi
A Messenger in the Katagiri Mansion

Katagiri Katsumoto is deep in thought while his wife, Hitoha-no-Mae, worries about recent events. The arrival of the messenger (jshi) Kimura Shigenari is announced and Ishikawa Sadamasa hides himself to eavesdrop the important conversation between Katagiri and Kimura. On Kimura's insistence, Katagiri reveals that he has agreed to Ieyasu's demand to hand Yodogimi over only on condition that a castle first be built for her at Shinagawa just outside Edo. As the castle is to be built by the Toyotomi side, they can delay the transportation of materials from saka at will and also the actual construction work. In the meantime leyasu is far from young... Katagiri hints that they need only wait for the situation to resolve itself. Kimura is impressed and Ishikawa emerges from his place of hiding where he has been keeping an eye on things. He apologizes for having been blind to Katagiri's superior qualities and would kill himself to atone but for the other two who urge him to support them and work for the revival of the house of Toyotomi.

Act V, Scene 4: Yodogimi Shinjo Chinpaku shi
The Accidental Death of Chinpaku in Yodogimi's Bedroom

no Shrinosuke, who has long been intimate with Yodogimi, visits her in her bedroom where he finds her burning with a paranoid rage. She is convinced that all are against her. Shrinosuke does his best to comfort her and they discuss ways of dealing with Katagiri Katsumoto. But Yodogimi becomes agitated again and imagines she sees the angry ghost of Toyotomi Hidetsugu (Toyotomi Hideyoshi's son whom she caused to commit suicide) and lunges at it with her dagger. The unfortunate cha bzu Chinpaku makes the lethal mistake of entering at that moment and soon gets accidentally killed (shi).

Act VI, scene 1:Katagiri-tei Okushoin
At the Remote Study Room in the Katagiri Mansion

Hitoha-no-Mae, who has been away, returns earlier than expected to the mansion to find that her husband has been summoned to saka Castle. Katagiri's retainers have heard that there is a plot afoot against their master and, anxious for his life, they urge him not to go. Katagiri pays no heed.

Another retainer, Motomura Seiz, arrives to announce that no Dken has sent a force of some three hundred men to attack them. Katagiri realizes that all his plans have come to naught and that, just as Tokugawa Ieyasu has hoped, the Toyotomi are bringing about their own ruin through internal fruitless fights and rivalries.

Ishikawa Sadamasa enters the study room, prepared to defend Katagiri who however, gives strict orders that no resistance is to be offered to the attackers. Ishikawa kills himself in despair, realizing that Katagiri's cause is lost. Looking out into the garden, Katagiri sees a last lingering leaf on a paulownia tree fall slowly to the ground. Katagiri's own name incorporates the ideogram for paulownia (kiri) and he sees in the falling leaf a symbolic expression of his own situation.

Act VI, scene 2:Nagara Zutsumi Ketsubetsu
The Parting at the Nagara River Embankment

Katagiri Katsumoto is now in flight to his own castle at Ibaraki. Beside the Yodo River [3] at the Nagara Embankment (tsutsumi), he pauses to look back at saka Castle in the distance and recalls the various events that precipitated this outcome. He realizes that there is now not much time before the castle falls to Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Kimura Shigenari arrives on horseback to meet Katagiri and they both regret the short-sighted policies of the rival faction led by the no brothers, now in the ascendant, and the temperamental behaviour of Yodogimi that will only hasten the end of the Toyotomi Clan. Kimura vows that he will defend saka Castle to the last and Katagiri advises him as to the best strategy to adopt. The two men then part (ketsubetsu) sorrowfully knowing that they will not meet again.


[1] Ishikawa Sadamasa, kami of Izu.

[2] Kimura Shigenari, kami of the province of Nagato.

[3] The Old Yodo River, not nowadays Yodo River.

Illustration from a tsuji banzuke for the October 1910 production of "Kiri Hitoha" at the Kabukiza with Nakamura Shikan V and Kataoka Nizaemon XI in the roles of Yodogimi and Katagiri Katsumoto

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