The Cherry Trees Along the Hidaka River

Heian period supernatural serpent

日高川入相花王

ひだかがわいりあいざくら

hidakagawa iriai zakura

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Written by Hanji Chikamatsu, Koizumo Takeda, Saburobei Takemoto, etc., this play was first staged at the Takemotoza Theatre in 1759.


The Hidaka River

Because of illness the Emperor Suzaku planned to abdicate the throne in favor of his younger brother, Prince Sakuragi, but a revolt led by Tadabumi Fujiwara caused the prince to flee for his life and to assume the guise of a travelling monk and the name of Anchin.

During his travels he stays for a short while in the house of a village headman whose daughter, Kiyohime, falls passionately in love with him. Kiyohime's expectations of happiness are short-lived, for Odamaki, Anchin's sweetheart, comes to rejoin him. Anchin and Odamaki leave the house to travel together to the Dojoji Temple. Her mind crazed with love and jealousy, Kiyohime pursues the couple. Anchin and Odamaki cross the Hidaka River on a ferry and, aware that he is being followed by Kiyohime, Anchin asks the boatman to refuse the girl a passage across the river when she reaches the ferry.

When the curtain opens on the scene of the Hidaka River, Kiyohime arrives at its bank and asks the boatman to ferry her across. He refuses and in spite of her increasingly distracted appeals he will not relent. Impelled by the fever in her heart the poor girl throws herself into the river and begins to swim but as she enters the water she is transformed into a serpent and it is in this terrifying shape that she crosses the wide river and reaches the road on the other side that will lead her to the unfortunate Anchin.


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