Play title Funa Benkei  In Japanese
Authors Kawatake Mokuami (lyrics)
Hanayagi Jusuke I (choreography)
Kineya Shôjirô III (music)

The dance-drama "Funa Benkei" was premiered in November 1885 at the Shintomiza [casting]. It was adapted for Kabuki from Kanze Kojirô Nobumitsu's eponymous drama by Kawatake Mokuami.

Key words Dan-no-Ura
Minamoto Yoritomo
Minamoto Yoshitsune
Shin Kabuki Jûhachiban

After the Genji clan extinguished the Heike clan at the Dan-no-Ura battle, Minamoto no Yoshitsune who is a commander of the Genji army has been cornered. Minamono no Yoritomo, an elder brother of Yoshitsune, decided to exclude Yoshitsune from the Genji clan. Yoritomo thought that Yoshitsune was too able as a combat commander, and that Yoshitsune might become the next enemy of him. Yoshitsune will get away from his brother to Kyushu on a sea route. Benkei who is the first retainer of Yoshitsune is waiting for his master Yoshitsune at the port Ômo-no-Ura.

Yoshitsune and the big four of him arrived to an inn where Benkei was waiting. His mistress Shizuka, a professional dancer, came there together, and she is in another room now. Benkei suggests to Yoshitsune to make Shizuka go back to Kyôto. Yoshitsune agrees with Benkei. Yoshitsune has been thinking that it wasn't a good matter for Shizuka to go with him. His company has gotten away from the enemy, and they will be in the battle in the near future. There is no choice anymore. That's why he accepted Benkei's proposal.

Benkei meets Shizuka, and says that she has to go back to Kyôto alone. Shizuka is surprised very much, and says she would like to answer to Yoshitsune directly. Benkei takes her to Yoshitsune's room. Yoshitsune talks silently, and Shizuka accepts to leave from him unwillingly. Yoshitsune requests Shizuka to show a farewell dance.

Shizuka wears a formal headwear of Yoshitsune, and starts dancing beautifully. When Shizuka finishes dancing, the headwear falls down from her head. She feels that it might be an evil signal. Shizuka leaves there bringing a formal headwear as a memento of Yoshitsune. Yoshitsune had almost stopped her departure, but his retainers didn't allow him of it.

Then a head boatman comes there, and says that he has finished to ready of a boat. Yoshitsune's company boards the boat, and begin their trip of getting away. Sky has been covered by cloud suddenly, and strong winds and wild waves attack the boat. Yoshitsune and his retainers find many ghosts over there. The ghosts seem the dead spirit of the Heike clan people. One of them goes heading to the boat. It's the vengeful spirit of Taira no Tomomori.

Tomomori's vengeful spirit dances angrily, and Yoshitsune and his retainers tries to defend with a sword. However Benkei knows that there is no method to fight against an evil spirit except by praying. As a result, Tomomori's vengeful spirit is eliminated by Benkei's praying. Tomomori's vengeful spirit and the others ghosts disappear into the waves.

This summary has been written by Sekidobashi Sakura (June 2002) and edited by Shôriya Aragorô

The actors Ichikawa Danjûrô IX (front 1st print), Nakamura Shikan IV, Nakamura Fukusuke IV, Ichikawa Sadanji I (front 3rd print) and Ichikawa Ebizô VIII playing the roles of Tomomori (front 1st print), Mihodayû, Mondo Iwamatsu, Benkei (front 3rd print) and Yoshitsune in the dance-drama "Funa Benkei", which was staged in November 1885 at the Shintomiza (print made by Toyohara Kunichika)

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