The Cherry Trees of the Imperial Palace

Heike Genji Heian period

御所桜堀川夜討

ごしょざくらほりかわようち

Goshozakura horikawa youchi

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Characters


Written by Bunkodo Matsuda and Shoraku Miyoshi, this play was first staged at the Takemotoza Theatre in 1737.


The Visit of Benkei

弁慶上使

As the curtain rises on the scene of denkei Joshi, Benkei visits the house of Taro Jiju, husband of Kyo-no-Kimi's nurse, where Kyo-no-Kimi is temporarily staying. Benkei, who has been ordered by Yoritomo to behead Kyo-no-Kimi, withdraws to an inner room with Taro and his wife to tell them of his mission. Before his withdrawal he notices the presence of Kyo-no-Kimi's maid, Shinobu, who closely resembles her mistress, and her mother, Owasa.

While Shinobu and Owasa are talking, Taro and his wife appear from the inner room to inform them of Yoritomo's order to kill Kyo-no-Kimi and Benkei's plan to use Shinobu as Kyo-no-Kimi's substitute. Shinobu agrees out of her loyalty to her mistress but Owasa objects, saying she cannot allow her daughter to be killed until Shinobu meets her father, whom the has never seen.

Owasa then tells of her tryst in the dark eighteen years previously which led to Shinobu's birth. She adds that she has been looking for Shinobu's father ever since with a red sleeve of his kimono, which he had left with her, as the sole clue.

At this moment a sword thrust through the sliding door fatally stabs Shinobu. Benkei suddenly appears from the next room with the blood-stained sword and tells Owasa and her dying daughter that he is the girl's father. As proof, he shows a red sleeve of the same pattern as that held by Owasa. Benkei has thus knowingly sacrificed his daughter as Kyo-no-Kimi's substitute.

To aid Benkei's deception Taro commits suicide in an attempt to convince Yoritomo and his followers that the killed woman is truly Kyo-no-Kimi. Benkei leaves for Yoritomo's palace, carrying the severed heads of Shinobu and Taro in his arms.


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