Play title Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami  In Japanese
Authors Takeda Izumo I
Miyoshi Sh˘raku
Namiki Senryű I
Takeda Koizumo I (Takeda Izumo II)

The play "Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami" was originally written for the puppet theater (Bunraku) and staged for the first time in the 8th lunar month of 1746 in ďsaka at the Takemotoza. It was adapted for Kabuki the following month and staged for the first time in Ky˘to at the Kitagawa no Shibai, produced by Nakamura Kiyosabur˘ I [casting]. It was also performed for the first time in Edo, at the Ichimuraza, in the 3rd lunar month of 1747 [casting].

This great play is based on the life of Sugawara no Michizane (845~903), a renowned scholar who was promoted up to the prestigious rank of udaijin ("Right Minister", one of the 2 close advisors of the Emperor). Falsely accused by Fujiwara no Shihei, the "Left Minister" (sadaijin), of trying to hatch a plot with Prince Tokiyo to seize the power, Sugawara no Michizane was exiled to Kyűshű. He dedicated his last years in writing poems, expressing both his homesickness and his innocence. After his death, the Emperor's residence was often struck by lightning and people thought it was done by the vengeful spirit of Sugawara no Michizane. A shrine was built in Ky˘to to appease the spirit, the Kitano Tenmangű, and Sugawara no Michizane was revered as a the God of calligraphy. In the play Sugawara no Michizane is called Kan Sh˘j˘.


"Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami" is made up of 5 acts. "Tenpaizan" is a short scene which opens Act IV.

Key words Aragoto
Daigo Tenn˘
Fujiwara Tokihira
Gidayű Ky˘gen
Heian Jidai
Kan Sh˘j˘
Sugawara Michizane

Shiratayű, the father of the triplets Matsu˘maru, Ume˘maru and Sakuramaru, left his village to visit his former master in his place of exile (on Kyűshű island) to report the terrible events which hit his family. He bumps into Kan Sh˘j˘, who, on top of a cow, is going to the Anrakuji temple. Shiratayű greets Kan Sh˘j˘ and asks him where he is going. The exile answers that he made a strange dream last night. He wrote some times ago a poem about his favourite plum tree, imploring the transfer of his tree to Kyűshű. According to his dream, it seems that the tree has answered Kan Sh˘j˘'s call. The two men arrive at the temple and meet its Superior, who tells them that he made a strange dream, similar to Kan Sh˘j˘'s one, and found in the morning an unknown plum tree in the Anrakuji garden. Kan Sh˘j˘ is delighted to meet up with his tree again. Suddenly, two fighting men appear. One is Kan Sh˘j˘'s former retainer (and Shiratayű's son) Ume˘maru. The other is Shihei's henchman Washizuka Heima, sent by his master to assassinate Kan Sh˘j˘. The exile flies into rage and beheads Washizuka Heima with a single plum branch hit. Then, he climbs on top of Mount Tenpai (Tenpaizan in Japanese) and transforms himself into a kind of God of Thunder, spitting plum petals from his mouth and turning them into flames. The scene ends here but it is said that Kan Sh˘j˘'s revengeful spirit rushes to Ky˘to.


The "Tenpaizan" scene is always staged in a full-length Bunraku performance of "Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami" and the audience loves it. In Kabuki, this scene was also quite popular during the Edo period and was sometimes staged with the same actor performing the roles of Kan Sh˘j˘ and Ume˘maru (hayagawari). For some unknown reasons, it lost its popularity when Japan entered the modern times and it is rarely staged nowadays. Here are the stats for the second part of the 20th century:

Date Theater Casting
September 1962 T˘yoko Hall (T˘ky˘) Kawarasaki Gonjűr˘ III (Kan Sh˘j˘), Band˘ Kamesabur˘ IV (Ume˘maru) and Ichikawa Yaoz˘ IX (Shiratayű)
December 1966 National Theatre Ichikawa Chűsha VIII (Kan Sh˘j˘), Nakamura Kichiemon II (Ume˘maru) and Band˘ Mitsugor˘ VIII (Shiratayű)

The actor Band˘ Mitsugor˘ III playing the roles of Kan Sh˘j˘ (top) and Ume˘maru (bottom) in the "Tenpaizan" scene of the drama "Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami", which was performed in the 5th lunar month of 1823 at the Nakamuraza (print made by Utagawa Kunisada I)

The actors Ichikawa Danjűr˘ VII and Segawa Kikunoj˘ V playing the roles of Kan Sh˘j˘ (top) and Ume˘maru (bottom) in the "Tenpaizan" scene of the drama "Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami", which was performed in the 9th lunar month of 1831 at the Kawarasakiza (print made by Utagawa Kunisada I)

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