Written by Izemo Takeda, Shoraku Miyoshi and Senryu Namiki, "Yoshitsune Sembon Zakura" was first staged at the Takemotoza Theatre in 1717. Together with "Kanadehon Chushingura" and “Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami." this play is known as one of the three masterpieces of Bunraku and Kabuki. It deals with episodes centering around Yoshitsune, younger brother of the Shogun Yoritomo, and the fugitive generals of the Heike Clan, Koremori and his uncle Tomomori, after its defeat by the Genji Clan headed by Yoritomo. The Sushiya and Michiyuki scenes in this play are especially famous.
YoshItsune, younger brother of the Shogun Yoritomo, accompanied by Benkei and other retainers, pays a call on the Retired Emperor Goshirakawa at the Imperial Palace to report his force’s decisive victory over the Heike Clan.
As a reward for his valor the Retired Emperor presents Yoshitsune with a valuable hand-drum made of fox-skin and called Hatsune-no-Tsuzumi, which Yoshitsune has long been eager to possess. Tomokata Fujiwara, Minister of the Left, who acts as the Imperial intermediary in the delivery of the hand-drum, tells Yoshitsune that the Imperial message that goes with the present is that the two faces of the drum represent Yoritomo and Yoshitsune. Yoshitsune, though estranged by Yoritomo in spite of his signal exploits, ventures to interpret the ambiguously-worded Imperial message as a suggestion for harmony between the two brothers. But Tomokata, who is wicked and eager to see the Genji Clan weakened through an internal strife, says that the Retired Emperor meant he is willing to support Yoshitsune should he rise in revolt against Yoritomo. In spite of this instigation, Yoshitsune accepts the hand-drum simply as a mark of Imperial favor for past deeds and has no intention to antagonize his brother.
Wakaba-no-Naishi, wife of Koremori, one of the principal defeated Heike generals, and her son Rokudai are hiding in a nunnery at Kitasaga in Kyoto. They are in precarious circumstances because by Yoritomo's order the Genji force is trying to exterminate not only all the Heike warriors but also the entire families of all the Heike leaders. To make matters worse, Tomokata, Minister of the Left, is covetous of Wakaba-no-Naishi and has sent his right-hand man, Dainoshin Inokuma, for her capture.
Kokingo. a retainer of Koremori, in disguise of a sedge-hat vendor arrives at the nunnery to protect Wakaba-no-Naishi and Rokudai. Immediately after his arrival Dainoshin Inokuma appears with his men to look for Wakaba-no-Naishi. While Dainoshin is asking questions of a nun pinioned by his men in an inner room, Kokingo lead, Wataba-no-Naishi and Rokudai out of hiding and makes them enter each of his two sedge-hat containers and carries them away on a pole to a new hiding place.
(Although Yoshitsune is in fact completely loyal to the Genji cause and to his elder brother Yoritomo, now, as Shogun, the effective ruler of Japan, he is feared by the jealous Yoritomo who has noted that his is brother's valor and skill in the war of the Heike Clan have won the admiration and respect of many in their own clan. With the Heike crushed it is always possible that Yoshitsune may become the form of an opposition to Yoritomo and this the Shogun is determined to prevent. Barely has Yoritomo secured power when he begins to plot against the life of his quite innocent brother Yoshitsune. At the end of the war against the Heike Clan Yoshitsune travels for Kamakura to report to Yoritomo on the war but Yoritomo refuses to receive him, compelling him to turn back at Koshigoe, a short distance west of Kamakura.)
Yoshitsune lives in a splendid mansion in Horikawa in Kyoto. To him comes Taro Kawagoe, an emissary from Yoritomo in Kamakura. The Shogun has sent Kawagoe to demand of Yoshitsune the answers to three questions:
In answer to the first question Yoshitsune says that the fate of the three leaders is not known but he shares the belief that they drowned to death. What he did was done to demonstrate their death as publicly as possible so that those still hostile to the victorious Genji might not use the rumor of the survival of the three leaders to rally Heike sympathizers against Yoritomo.
In answer to the second question, Yoshitsune asserts that in accepting the hand-drum he had not the least intention of allying himself with any faction hostile to his brother. The drum was nothing more than a mark of personal favor from the Retired Emperor and any other construction placed on the gift by others (such as Tomokata) is completely mistaken.
As for the third question, Yoshitsune says he is astonished to hear Kawagoe pose it, for they both know that Kyo-no-Kimi is a Heike only by adoption and her real father is none other than Kawagoe himself, who is surely a loyal supporter of Yoritomo. “Why" asks Yoshitsune, “have you not told the Shogun that this is so on that I am therefore your son-in-law?” Kawagoe appears much ashamed and admits that he kept silent in order not to divert Yoritomo’s suspicions of Yoshitsune to himself. Kawagoe says that such cowardice is unworthy of samurai and he draws his sword in order to commit suicide.
His daughter, Kyo-no-Kimi, has overheard this and runs into the room, wrests his sword from him and plunges the weapon into her own throat before her husband or her father can prevent her. In this way Yoshitsune can produce an undoubted Heike head to his jealous brother and at least one of Yoritomo's suspicions may be firmly set at rest. Kyo-no-Kimi dies, happy in the thought that by her sacrifice she may have reconciled her beloved husband with his brother.
Husband and father are deeply moved but their grief is cut short by the sounds of fighting and Yoshitsune realizes that this is an attack on himself by the retainers of his brother. Kawagoe confirms that the attack is led by Unno and Tosanobo, two of Yoritomo's men, but begs Yoshitsune to avoid a fight if possible so that he may patently appear in no way antagonistic to Yoritomo. Yoshitsune follows this advice but learns that the hot-tempered Benkei has already led his men to the fight. So he sends his two other retainers, Kamei and Suruga, and his mistress, Shizuka-Gozen, to appease Benkei. Kamei and Suruga soon come back to report to Yoshitsune that Benkei has slain Unno.
Shocked by the news, Yoshitsune leaves the mansion, accompanied by Kamei and Suruga, in order to avoid his involvement in the fight. Soon after this, Benkei appears in pursuit of Tosanobo and in the subsequent fighting he pulls off Tosanobo’s head and throws it away. Benkei then runs off to join Yoshitsune and his party.
Accompanied by Kamei and Suruga on his flight from the capital, Yoshitsune arrives at a forest near the Inari Shrine at Fushimi on the outskirts of Kyoto. Shizuka-Gozen and Benkei arrive separately to join him there.
Yoshitsune sternly rebukes Benkei his for his impetuous act in killing Yoritomo's retainers Unno and Tosanobo which has shattered Yoshitsune's hopes of reconciliation with Yoritomo. Benkei apologizes to his master with genuine grief and Yoshitsune, having warned his headstrong retainer against further rashness, pardons him.
Dearly though he loves his mistress, Yoshitsune cannot allow Shizuka-Gozen to accompany them because her presence will be too conspicuous and may lead to the arrest of the whole party by Yoritomo's troops. Yoshitsune, seeing that Shizuka-Gozen cannot bring herself to part with her lover, orders his men to bind her to a tree to prevent the grief-stricken girl from following them. He himself is deeply moved at leaving her behind and gives her his cherished hand-drum as a parting gift when he and his men press on to take refuge in Kyushu.
Tota Hayarni, one of the men of Tosanobo (whom Benkei killed in the fight in Kyoto), has been following Yoshitsune's party and arrives on the scene to discover the helpless Shizuka-Gozen. He is about to take her back to Kyoto as his captive when suddenly there appears before him Tadanobu Sato, a loyal retainer of Yoshitsune. Tadanobu soon overcomes Tota and frees Shizuka-Gozen from her bonds. His valor is rewarded, for Yoshitsune has witnessed the fight front a place of concealment and now comes forth. He is greatly surprised to see Tadanobu, for he had thought him to he living In a far distant province hut he is deeply grateful for his retainer's opportune return and presents Tadanobu with a handsome suit of his own armor. Yoshitsune asks Tadanobu to escort Shizuka-Gozen back to Kyoto and leaves once more for the journey to Kyushu.
Shizuka-Gozen leaves carrying the hand-drum. As Tadanobu starts to follow, the sound of the hand-drum is heard and a sudden change is seen in the man. He is in fact a fox-spirit who is impersonating Tadanobu in order to be near the possessor of the drum, for the skins of this are those of his parents and every time it sounds he must follow its call. His fox nature shows in his extravagant gestures as he goes after Shizuka-Gozen.
Having decided to escape to Buzen Province in Kyushu, Yoshitsune and his party ask a shipping agent at Daimotsu outside Osaka to transport them to Kyushu. Unfortunately it rains continually for a few days and the party is confined to the inn operated by the agent, Gimpei, waiting for the weather to improve.
Gimpei lives with what are believed to be his wife Oryu and their eight-year-old daughter Oyasu. In reality “Gimpei” is Tomomori Taira, one of the three Heike leaders whose alleged heads Yoshitsune sent to Yoritomo but who, according to this play, survived the victory of the Genji over their forces at Dannoura. The little girl, Oyasu, is in reality the boy Emperor Antoku who is believed to have been drowned in the same battle but who was rescued and hidden in the present disguise by Tomomori, his uncle. "Oryu” is Suke-no-Tsubone, a former lady-in-waiting at Court.
Benkei, who is now disguised as a Buddhist priest, comes out to the front room intending to go shopping. Oryu and Oyasu are resting there and he exchanges a few words with Oryu. To get to the door Benkei has to step over Oyasu who is asleep beside Oryu but as Benkei tries to do this his legs suddenly become paralyzed and for a brief while he is rather comically immobile. (The reason for this is that to straddle across someone was held to inflict a most grievous insult. The audience clearly understands the “divinity that does hedge a king” prevents Benkei, even unwittingly, from inflicting such an insult on the disguised Emperor.)
After Benkel has gone out a warrior who calls himself Goro Sagami, a retainer of the Shogun Yoritomo, visits the house and asks for a ship to enable him to pursue Yoshitsune who is reported to be on his way to Kyushu. Oryu refuses, saying the only ship available is already earmarked for other prospective passengers now staying in the house until the bad weather ceases. When Gimpei returns home Goro repeats his demand for priority in the use of the boat on the ground that he is carrying out an urgent mission for the Shogun. Goro is suspicious that the other passengers staying in the house may be the very people whom he is seeking and tries to enter their room to investigate. Gimpei stops him by force and eventually throws him to the ground. Goro retreats, discomforted and threatening revenge on the impudent tradesman.
Yoshitsune and his retainers Kamei and Suruga come out their room and commend Gimpei for his exploit. Gimpei urges them to sail immediately for the weather appears to be about to take a turn for the better and Gore will surely return soon with more men.
The three men leave to board a barge that will take them out to a larger ship waiting in the bay. No sooner have they gone than Gimpei goes off also, to reappear wearing full armor. With great respect he tells “Oyasu”, that he in in reality Tomomori and that “Oyasu” is the Emperor Antoku. Yoshitsune has been tricked into believing that Tomomori (as Gimpei) is a sympathizer with his cause but in fact "Goro" is one of Tomomori’s own men and the whole quarrel was deliberately devised to lull Yoshitsune’s suspicions and so render him an easier victim to Tomomori’s revenge for his clan’s defeat in battle.
Tomomori goes out and Oryu, herself changing into formal dress, clothes the “girl” in Imperial robes. They wait expectantly for Tomomori’s victory over their heated enemies, the Genji.
Tomomori’s messenger, the man who pretended to be Goro, hurries back from the scene of battle and tells Oryu (actually Suke-no-Tsubone, a lady-in-waiting to the Emperor) that the battle is going badly. Yoshitsune and his men, far from being caught unprepared, seemed to have expected the attack and are beating back Tomomori's forces. Suke-no-Tsubone begs “Goro” to go back and bring them more news
Suke-no-Tsubone opens the sliding screens of her room and watches the sea battle finally come to an end. The lights on Tomomori’s ship are extinguished and Suke-no-Tsubone knows then that it is Yoshitsune who has won. Tanzo Irie, a retainer of Tomomori, comes to report that Tomomori’s force has suffered a complete defeat and that Tomomori himself has almost certainly been killed. In a moving passage Tanzo tells Suke-no-Tsubone that he has come to lead her and the boy Emperor on the final journey, which is the destiny of them all. The little Emperor is puzzled by the talk of this journey, but assured that Suke-no-Tsubone will travel with him, he goes off with her to the seashore after reciting a farewell poem he has composed. With the boy in her arms Suke-no-Tsubone prepares to leap into the sea but Yoshitsune suddenly appears and seizes them both.
Tomomori, a wounded and dying man, confronts Yoshitsune and his captives. He calls on Yoshitsune to fight but Yoshitsune halts him and tells him of his great admiration for all that Tomomori has done for the Heike cause and for the nobility and valor with which he has fought. As for the Emperor, Tomomori need have no fear, for he, Yoshitsune, will respect the Imperial House. The young Emperor intervenes to plead with Tomomori to recognize Yoshitsune's sincerity and Suke-no-Tsubone, in a last desperate gesture, cuts her throat, bidding Tomomori with her last breath to cease all resistance. His own death stealing over him, Tomomori gives way and tells Yoshitsune to be the guardian of the Emperor in his place. Yoshitsune swears he will he true to this chare and moves away with the child.
Tomomori looks after them and then, tying the rope of a huge anchor about him, hurls himself into the sea to die among his men.
The Heike General Komemori (one of the three whose alleged heads Yoshitsune had sent to his brother, Yoritomo) is believed to be still alive and in hiding and his wife, Wakaba-no-Naishi and son, Rokudai, escorted by a loyal retainer, Kokingo, are trying to find him and at the same time escape themselves from Yoritomo's forces who will certainly kill them if they are discovered.
The three pause on their journey to rest on the bench in front of a tea stall at Shimoichi along the Yoshino River in the present Nara Prefecture. Since Rokudai is unwell they ask the tea stall mistress for some medicine. The kind-hearted mistress, Kosen, says she will fetch same and goes off to do so. While she is away her ne'er-do-well husband, Gonta, returns. He is a gambler who is always short of money and sees in the travellers a chance to make some.
At the time of Gonta's arrival Rokudai is gathering, at Kokingo's suggestion, horse chestnuts on the road together with Wakaba-no-Naishi and Kokingo to divert his mind from his illness.
Gonta kindly offers help by throwing pebbles at branches of the tall horse chestnut tree and thereby causing fresh nuts to fall to the ground.
The title of this scene is ''Shiinoki" (pasania) in spite of the fact that characters in this scene gather horse chestnuts, not acorns of the pasania.
While the three persons are gladly gathering the fresh nuts, Gonta manages to exchange a parcel of his own for one that Kokingo has left on the bench. He then goes off carrying Kokingo’s parcel to return a moment later with profuse apologies for his “mistake”. Taking up his own parcel again, he looks inside it to make sure it is his own and then turns on Kokingo claiming that 20 ryo which were in it are now missing and accusing Kokingo of stealing the money. Kokingo hotly denies this and the two men come to blows. Wakaba-no-Naishi hurriedly intervenes, reminding Kokingo that they must do nothing to draw attention to themselves or their identity as Heike fugitives may be discovered. Kokingo has to swallow his pride and suffer the fraud that Gonta has imposed on him. He pays over the 20 ryo and the three hurry away.
It is dusk on a lonely road in the village of Shimoichi as Kokingo and his two charges enter on their way to Mount Koya where the three intend to hide. Hard behind them come Dainoshin Inokuma and his men ordered by Tomokata, Minister of the Left, to capture Wakaba-no-Naishi, whom Tomokata wants to have as his concubine. Soon the three are surrounded by their pursuers. Kokingo fights fiercely and Wakaba-no-Naishi and Rokudai help him by throwing pebbles at his enemies. Kokingo manages to kill Dainoshin and repulse the others but he, too, is mortally wounded. As Wakaba-no-Naishi and Rokudai care for Kokingo, Kokingo advises Rokudai to seek his father in the famous temple on Mount Koya, leaving his mother at the post town of Kamiya, for Kokingo believes that Koremori, Rokudai’s father, may now have become a priest and live in that temple. The mother and son reluctantly leave the dying Kokingo when they notice the approach of several persons, whom they suspect to be the pursuers. No sooner has the faithful Kokingo seen his master’s wife and child leave on their journey than he falls back dead.
Yazaemon, father of Gonta and the proprietor of a sushi shop in the neighborhood, appears with a lantern, accompanied by several villagers. He is on his way back from the quarters or a visiting samurai from Kamakura who summoned him. After exchanging a few words with his companions he parts with them. As he proceeds toward his home alone he notices the body of Kokingo lying on the road. He prays for the repose of the deceased’s soul and goes on a few steps but, an idea apparently flashing in his mind, he turns back, hastily cutting off the head of the corpse and goes off with it.
Yazaemon is a decent, hardworking owner of a sushi shop in the village of Shimoichi where sympathies are all with the defeated Heike clan. (Today there is actually a fairly big sushi restaurant called Yasuke Sushi in Shimoichi. The shop dates back to the middle of the 17th century. The writers of “Yoshitsune Sembon Zakura” probably visited this sushi shop and took it into the play. There is a tombstone for Gonta not far from the restaurant.)
The Heike General Koremori taken shelter with Yazaemon and has been passed off as Yazaemon’s apprentice named Yasuke. Since Yazaemon’s own son, Gonta, is known to be a wastrel and gambler, Yazaemon has even gone so far as to let it he known that he is going to marry “Yasuke” to his daughter Osato and to adopt the man as his son. Osato has fallen completely in love with “Yasuke” and is eager for the wedding to take place. Koremori himself, still yearning for the wife he already has but who has been parted from him for so long, is very reluctant to carry his disguise as a simple apprentice as far as marriage though he already has relations with Osato, but with Yoritomo’s men searching everywhere for him he cannot afford not to play out his part as fully as possible.
As the curtain rises on the scene of Sushiya, Koremori comes back from an errand to Yazaemon’s sushi shop and Osato who is busy there finds her over fond welcome of the man who is to be her husband strangely rebuffed. Gonta, her brother, then enters and seeks out his old mother to try to persuade her to let him have some money. She scolds him for his wicked ways but when he falsely tells her that he has had his money stolen she becomes indulgent as she has done some many times before and says she will let him have the money he needs. The big money box, however, is locked. He puts the money into an empty sushi tub for its transportation when he hears someone approaching. Quickly he replaces the sushi tub on the shelf and runs off into a back room together with his mother.
Yazaemon hurries in and Koremori comes out to meet him. The old man, unnoticed by Koremori, unwraps his grisly bundle. From its wrapping he takes out the head he severed from Kokingo’s corpse and hides it in an empty sushi tub--the one next to that in which Gonta hid his money.
Yazaemon tells Koremori of the intensive search now going on for him. The danger of discovery grows greater every moment. The old man has thought of a scheme that may save Koremori. If they can persuade the authorities that the head he has obtained is that of Koremori the search will be called off and Koremori saved.
Osato, who does not know Koremori’s true identity, enters and when Yazaemon retires to Ieave Osato alone with Koremori, Osato prepares a bed in the next room and invites Koremori for the consummation of their proposed marriage. Koremori refuses, revealing to her for the first time he is already married. At this moment Koremori hears a soft knocking at the door and opens it to see his own wife Wakaba-no-Naishi end son Rokudai who have learned of Koremori’s whereabouts on their way to Mount Koya. Their reunion in joyful and they talk over all that has separately befallen them since they parted. Osato overhears them and the poor girl realizes that her hope of becoming “Yasuke’s” bride is only en empty dream.
A messenger enters to announce that Kagetoki Kajiwara, Shogun Yoritomo’s emissary charged with the execution of Koremori and the other Heike leaders and their families, is coming to the house to march for the fugitives who are re-ported to be M the neighborhood. Osato, whose love can be shown now only in loyalty, shows Korernori and his family a way of escape but Gonta, who also learned the identity of “Yasuke,” bursts into the room and stopping only to grab a sushi tub—the one with the head instead of the one with the money—runs off, shouting that he will tell Kagetoki everything and claim the reward promised by Kagetoki.
Osato is horrified at her brother’s treachery. She calls her parents and Yazaemon has just taken up his sword to run after Gonta when Kagetokl reaches the house. Kagetoki demands that Yazaemon produce the head of the “traitor” Koremori if he wishes to save his own. Yazaemon is nervous but goes to place before the suspicious Kagetoki the tub containing, as he thinks, the head he hopes to pass off as Koremori’s. His wife, however, saw Gonta steal the money and hide it in that same tub and now tries to prevent her husband finding out what Gonta has done. Before either can have their way Gonta himself appears with the tub which really contains the head and leading a woman and child, bound and gagged. He offers the head to Kagetoki as that of Koremori and the woman and child as Wakabe-no-Naishi and Rokudai. Yazaemon, still thinking that he has the false head in the tub he is holding, is convinced that the head which Gonta has produced must be that of Koremori and is sickened at Gonta’s wickedness. Kagetoki is also convinced and accepts the head as genuine. The prisoners are led away. Kagetoki hands to Gonta a robe as a reward and leaves.
Yazaemon watches Kagetoki depart and then turns on a strangely silent Gonta and stabs him with his sword. Gonta collapses but silences his father's imprecations by revealing that far from frustrating Yazaemon’s attempt at deception he has in fact carried it out. When he opened the sushi tub he had run off with and found it contained a head and not the money he expected he suddenly realized what Yazaemon intended to do and simultaneously was ashamed to understand the depth of his father's loyalty to Koremori. In a change of heart he had sought to atone for all his past evil and for his betrayal of the men his father so honored by carrying the deception over the head and strengthening it by producing a “Wakaba-no-Naishi” and a “Rokudai.” In fact the woman and child were his own wife and son who had offered to sacrifice themselves to remove all doubt from Kagetoki’s mind.
Koremori appears from an inner room and takes the garment that Kagetoki had presented to Gonta. He cuts at the lining with his sword and from it falls a priest’s robe. The message is clear: Kagetoki had not been deceived after all but intended this as a sign from Yoritomo that though he could not withdraw the edict of execution on the Heike generals, if Koremori would enter the priesthood his life would be spared. (Yoritomo when young had been saved from death at the connivance of a Heike general and this was his way of paying back the debt.)
Gonta dies, happy in his reconciliation with his grieving parents. Koremori dons the robe that will finally take him away from all worldly struggle to the temple on Mount Koya.
Shizuka-Gozen is travelling to join Yoshitsune who, she believes, has fled to his birthplace in the north to escape the henchmen of his vindictive brother, Yoritomo. Acting as her escort is Tadanobu, in reality a fox-spirit who has taken on the form of this man in order to be near the magical hand-drum which Shizuka-Gozen carries. The pair have now reached Mount Yoshino where the cherry trees are in full bloom.
Shizuka-Gozen is resting alone beneath the flowering branches, while her escort is away exploring the path they are to take. She begins to play the hand-drum which her lover gave her before she left. At the first sound the fox-Tadanobu is drawn to her side and they dance together as the story of Shizuka-Gozen’s love-inspired journey is sung by the joruri chanter. Reminded of all that she and Yoshitsune have suffered and the long hard journey that must take place before they are reunited, Shizuka-Gozen becomes depressed and to raise her spirits "Tadanobu” arranges the armor he received from Yoshitsune to use it as a representation of their absent lord. “Tadanobu” then dances for her in mime the story of the real Tadanobu’s heroic elder brother, Tsugunobu, who died in Yoshitsune's arms after defending him in the fierce battle of Yashima.
Inspired by this tale of loyalty unto death, Shizuka-Gozen leaves with her escort to continue her travels.
Yoshltsune, who has changed his destination from Kyushu to Tohoku, takes refuge on his way in the mansion of Kawatsura Hogen, supervisor of Buddhist priests on Mount Yoshino. A servant brings him news of Tadanobu's arrival. When Tadanobu enters Yoshitsune immediately asks for news of Shizuka-Gozen whom he is supposed to be escorting. Tadanobu looks blank and says be knows noshing of Shizuka-Gozen but has come straight from his home in a far province to which he had been confined until recently by illness. Yoshitsune, remembering (as he supposes) how Tadanobu (i.e., the fox-Tadanobu) had come to the rescue of Shizuka-Gozen in the fight outside Kyoto and been there charged with the duty of bringing her safely to him, becomes furious at thls blatant denial of any knowledge of his concubine’s whereabouts. He leaps to the conclusion that Tadanobu has betrayed Shizuka-Gozen to Yoritomo and orders his men to take Tadanobu captive. Tadanobu, surprised at this strange reception, protests to the men who try to seize him.
At this moment all are puzzled to hear the arrival announced of Shizuka-Gozen and “Tadanobu”. Shizuka-Gozen enters alone carrying the magical hand-drum. Yoshitsune greets her with great joy and relief and then asks where is the Tadanobu who should be with her. She says he arrived with her, and is a little puzzled that he is not in the room with her now. Yoshitsune then brings forward she real Tadanobu and Shizuka-Gozen is now really puzzled. This man looks just like her escort but it is not the same man and their kimonos are of different patterns. However, since her escort has always appeared immediately after she has struck her drum she will summon him by this means now. Yoshitsune and Tadanobu withdraw out of sight after Yoshitsune has given his love a sword to defend herself against one who now is seen to be an imposter.
Shizuka-Gozen strikes the drum and, as always before, “Tadanobu” appears before her. Shizuka-Gozen tells him he must appear before Yoshitsune but he refuses and, frightened by the strangeness she now senses him, she strikes at “Tadanobu” with her sword. He evades her thrust and she then tells him that his impersonation has been discovered and he must reveal his true identity.
The false Tadanobu tells her that he is really a fox whose parents were killed to provide skin for the drum she now carries, a drum which was originally made as a magical instrument to bring rain to a drought-stricken province. Ever since that day he has been bound to follow the drum and to answer its call when struck. In the present case he assumed the form of Tadanobu, who was conveniently absent, to that he might be able to accompany Shizuka-Gozen, the present owner of the drum. But his loyalty to his parents has brought trouble to the real Tadanobu to whom he wishes no harm and he will therefore go away. In hearing his story and seeing how deeply moved the fox is leaving, Shizuka-Gozen forgets her fears at his supernatural origin in pity and calls to Yoshitsune who steps forward. The fox sadly bows to both and departs. Yoshitsune tells Shizuka-Gozen to call the fox back but when she strikes the drum it is quite silent.
Yoshitsune muses on the fox’s great loyalty and then the fox suddenly appears before him again. Yoshltsune now has the chance to thank the fox for restoring Shizuka-Gozen safely to him and presents him with the drum which means so much to him. The fox vows eternal gratitude and vanishes with his reward.
Copyright 2015 panthorstudios.com