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 Tonbŕ were created by Ichikawa Danjűr˘ VII in the 5th lunar month of 1831, when "Shinrei Yaguchi no Watashi" was staged at the Kawarasakiza; the role of Ofune was played by Sawamura Gennosuke II.


"Shinrei Yaguchi no Watashi" was made up of 5 acts. The most famous scene, "Tonbŕ Sumika" ("at Tonbŕ's House"), was the 3rd scene of the 4th act.

Key words Ashikaga Takauji
Gidayű Ky˘gen
Godaigo Tenn˘
K˘ga Jisshu
Kumode Takoashi no Hikkomi
Nanbokuch˘ Jidai
Nitta Yoshioki
Yaguchi no Watashi


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 Rokug˘ 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 Tonbŕ's House

Three neighbors, Sorobei, Jűji and Pinsuke visit the house of Tonbŕ, the ferryman at Yaguchi, to borrow money as they have lost all the money in gambling. Tonbŕ lends 200 ry˘ to each of them to enable them to try their luck again. Asked by them why he is so rich, Tonbŕ 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 Tonbŕ 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. Tonbŕ's daughter Ofune, 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, Ofune asks him who his companion is Yoshimine falsely says that she is his sister. When Ofune makes advances to him [1], 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 Ofune realizes who he is. Yoshimine hastily retreats into the inner room.

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

At night Tonbŕ [2] 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 Ofune instead of Yoshimine. Told by Ofune that she has already helped Yoshimine and Utena to escape by boat, Tonbŕ dashes to the riverbank to light a bonfire to inform the villagers of Yoshimine's escape. Ofune, 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. Rokuz˘ hears her and hurries in to prevent her giving the signal. Ofune loses the drumstick, but she pulls Rokuz˘'s short sword from his belt and in the ensuing struggle she stabs him, and he falls into the river. Ofune, 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. Tonbŕ 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 Tonbŕ, is, of course, one of the two magic arrows of the Nitta come miraculously to Yoshimine's aid. The second arrow kills Rokuz˘ 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 Shűzabur˘, with elements added from "The Kabuki Handbook"


The role of Ofune belongs to the K˘ga Jisshu collection of roles.


[1] The role of Ofune in this part of the play is often performed as a ningy˘buri. This is one of the highlights of "Shinrei Yaguchi no Watashi".

[2] In this scene, the actor performing the role of the old and wicked Tonbŕ has to do the famous kumode takoashi no hikkomi when he pursues Nitta Yoshimine to kill him. His feet imitate the movements of an octopus while his hands imitate the movements of a spider. The sword hilt is specially designed to make a ringing sound when the actor performs the kumode takoashi no hikkomi.

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

Search this site powered by FreeFind
  Site map | Disclaimer
Contact | Main | Top | Updates | Actors | Plays | Playwrights | Programs | Links | FAQ | Glossary | Chronology | Illustrations | Prints | Characters | Derivatives | Theaters | Coming soon | News