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" is made up of 5 acts. The most famous scene, "Tonbŕ Sumika" ("at Tonbŕ's House"), is 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.

Act II, scene 2: Nitta Yakata
At the Nitta Mansion
This scene is no more part of the current Kabuki repertoire

Nitta Yoshioki, who supports the Southern Imperial Court (nanch˘) established by Emperor Godaigo in Yoshino, is at war with Ashikaga Takauji, who supports the Northern Imperial Court (hokuch˘) established by Emperor K˘gon in Ky˘to. Yoshioki has his mansion at Nitta in the province of J˘shű. When Yoshioki is in the battlefield fighting against Takauji, Minato, the wife of his chief retainer Yura Hy˘gonosuke Nobutada, visits his castle with her infant son Tomochiyo to congratulate Tsukuba Gozen, the wife of Nitta Yoshioki, on a reported victory of Yoshioki's forces. Accompanied by her infant son Nitta Tokujumaru, Tsukuba Gozen receives Minato and praises the exploit of Shinozuka Hachir˘ Shigetora, Minato's younger brother, on the battlefield. Minase Rokur˘ Munezumi, head of the retainers remaining in the castle, also presents himself to offer his congratulations to Tsukuba Gozen.

Presently Yura Hy˘gonosuke comes back from the battlefield, looking displeased. He says he was discharged by his lord, Yoshioki, when he advised Yoshioki to refrain from a foolhardy attempt to attack the enemy headquarters at Kamakura. Hachir˘ also comes back to report that Yoshioki was defeated and forced to kill himself while crossing the Tama River at Yaguchi. According to Hachir˘, Takezawa Kenmotsu Hidetoki, a treacherous retainer of Yoshioki, caused his master's ferry to be scuttled in midstream of the Rokug˘ River and shot him with arrows from the river bank. As soon as he finishes reporting Hachir˘ kills himself by stabbing his own throat with a dagger.

As Kenmotsu's troops approach the castle apparently to capture it for Ashikaga Takauji, Rokur˘ asks Hy˘gonosuke what he plans to do. In reply Hy˘gonosuke declares that he is going to surrender to the enemy. When his wife Minato accuses him of his faithlessness, he ties her with a rope to a pillar, saying he will divorce her if she continues to blame him. When left alone, Minato struggles so hard that the rope breaks to set her free.

Kenmotsu and his men rush into the castle. Hy˘gonosuke meekly surrenders, while Tsukuba Gozen and Minato flee from the castle. Rokur˘ fights the enemy for some time but, realizing that his chances of victory are low, he prefers to wait for another opportunity to recover the castle, goes out with Tokujumaru in his arm.

Act III, Scene 2: Yura Hy˘go Yakata
At Yura Hy˘go's Mansion [1]

Hy˘gonosuke now lives in a magnificent mansion, having been generously rewarded by Ashikaga Takauji for his desertion of Yoshioki's camp to join his side. As the curtain rises, Hy˘gonosuke comes back to his mansion from a visit to Takauji, accompanied by Eda Hangan Kagetsura, another turncoat from the Nitta clan now serving Takauji and the Northern Court. Hangan tells Hy˘gonosuke to be wary of a possible attempt by Yoshioki's younger brother Nitta Yoshimine to attack Takauji's headquarters by rallying the remnants of the Nitta army. He asks Hy˘gonosuke to kill Yoshimine if he locates him.

After Eda Hangan has left the house, Tsukuba Gozen and Minato come to the doorway to ask for a night's lodging. Hy˘gonosuke refuses not only to let them stay but also to allow Minato to meet her son Tomochiyo, whom Hy˘gonosuke has brought from Nitta's castle. After the disappointed ladies have gone, Minase Rokur˘ arrives, carrying Tokujumaru in a box on his back. Having been heavily wounded by the Ashikaga soldiers on his way to the house, Rokur˘ asks Hy˘gonosuke to let him take shelter as he ís being pursued by the enemy. When Hy˘gonosuke is off his guard, Rokur˘ tries to slash at him with his sword but Hy˘gonosuke easily foils his attempt and allows Rokur˘ to take rest in an inner room.

A group of men including an umakata (nick)named Negoto no Ch˘z˘ arrive to arrest Rokur˘ and Tokujumaru. Soon Takezawa Kenmotsu also arrives to demand that Hy˘gonosuke behead Tokujumaru. Hy˘gonosuke immediately takes up a bow and arrow and shoots at the inner room in which Rokur˘ and Tokujumaru are staying. Rokur˘ appears from the room with Tokujumaru to fight but Hy˘gonosuke handily subdues him and beheads Tokujumaru. Kenmotsu gladly receives the child's head in a kubioke and goes away.

Tsukuba Gozen and Minato come back and attack Hy˘gonosuke with daggers to avenge Tokujumaru's death. Hy˘gonosuke flees into an inner room when Ch˘z˘, who has been hiding himself, appears and tries to run away to report to Kenmotsu the presence of the two ladies in the house. He is, however, killed instantaneously by a knife thrown at him by Hy˘gonosuke from inside his room. Hy˘gonosuke reappears with a child in his arm. The two ladies are surprised to recognize the child as Tokujumaru. In fact it was not Tokujumaru but Tomochiyo who was killed by Hy˘gonosuke. Rokur˘, though heavily wounded, tells the two ladies that in an effort to save the life of Tokujumaru he and Hy˘gonosuke secretly exchanged Tokujumaru and Tomochiyo. When he left Nitta's castle, Rokur˘ took with him Tomochiyo disguised as Tokujumaru. Hy˘gonosuke took care of Tokujumaru and disguised him as his own son Tomochiyo. Now that he has succeeded in saving the life of his late lord's heir, Rokur˘ commits seppuku to end his life. Hy˘gonosuke, who in fact has remained heartily loyal to his late master Nitta Yoshioki, promises his dying colleague that he will for sure carry out his wish to avenge his master's death.

Act IV, Scene 1: Michiyuki Hiyoku no Sode
The Under-kimono Sleeve Travel Dance
This scene is no more part of the current Kabuki repertoire

Nitta Kotar˘ Yoshimine, younger brother of late Nitta Yoshioki, travels along the T˘kaid˘ highway toward Edo together with the keisei Utena, a courtesan from the Kuj˘ pleasure quarters in Ky˘to, with whom he is in love.

Act IV, Scene 3: Tonbŕ Sumika
At Tonbŕ's House
--> A dedicated summary: "Tonbŕ Sumika"

There is at the Yaguchi ferry on the Rokug˘ River the house of Tonbŕ, the ferryman, who has received a large sum of money as a reward from Ashikaga Takauji when he helped to kill Nitta Yoshioki by scuttling his ferry. As three neighbors, Shikkari Sorobŕ, Santome no Jűz˘ o and Nizoro no Pinsuke, come to tell him that they have lost all their money in gambling, Tonbŕ readily lends them 200 ry˘ of money each, suggesting to them to try their luck again. A messenger from Takezawa Kenmotsu comes to tell Tonbŕ that he is called by his master. Tonbŕ goes out with the messenger, telling his servant Rokuz˘ to signal with a bonfire if any Nitta fugitive visits the house.

Rokuz˘, taking advantage of Tonbŕ's absence, tries to make advances to Tonbŕ's beautiful daughter Ofune but he is interrupted by Hachisuke, another servant of Tonbŕ, who has come to take Rokuz˘ to the ferry landing to work with him. Nitta Yoshimine visits the house with Utena and asks Ofune to provide them with a ferry to cross the river. Ofune says that it is prohibited to carry fugitives across the river. Yoshimine then asks her to let them stay overnight as his companion is ill. Ofune readily consents, for she ís, apparently attracted by the handsome youth.

Soon after they have settled down in an inner room, Yoshimine alone comes back to ask for a cup of hot water with which Utena is to take her medicine. Ofune [2] asks Yoshimine whether his companion is his wife or sister. In reply Yoshimine falsely tells her that she is his sister. Ofune can't miss this opportunity and she begins to seduce Yoshimine. When Yoshimine embraces her, however, both tremble violently and pass out, being cursed by the ghost of late Nitta Yoshioki. Alarmed by the strange noises, Utena comes out of her room and tries to make them drink water but in vain. She then takes a flag out of Yoshimine's bosom and unfolds it. Soon both come to, Yoshioki's spirit having been apparently propitiated. Yoshimine tells Utena that he has let Ofune seduced him in order to learn from her why her father has such a splendid house unbecoming to a ferryman.

As soon as Yoshimine and Utena withdraw to their room Rokuz˘ appears and tries to enter the room to assassinate Yoshimine. Ofune desperately interferes and, by falsely promising to yield to his amorous advances, succeeds in dissuading him. Ofune locks the front door and withdraws.

Late at night Tonbŕ [3], who is anxious to kill Yoshimine to receive a handsome reward from Takezawa Kenmotsu, appears from a bamboo bush. Asking Rokuz˘ to keep watch outside the house, Tonbŕ tries to open the front door. As it is tightly locked, however, he cuts a hole in the wall beside it with a sword. He enters the house in the dark and thrusts his sword through the ceiling, wounding what he believes to be Yoshimine sleeping upstairs. In fact the victim proves to be Ofune, his own daughter, who has already let Yoshimine and Utena flee by boat after obtaining Yoshimine's promise to make her his wife in the next world of the afterlife. She says she has deliberately fallen victim in his place, being eager to go to the next world to join him there. Angry at Ofune's intervention, Tonbŕ dashes to the river bank to light a bonfire to signal Yoshimine's escape from his house. Ofune struggles her way to reach a drum hanging from the tower and begins to beat it, for she knows that the drum beat is a signal for the arrest of the fugitives. The false signal would enable Yoshimine to escape safely.

Tonbŕ leaves by a row boat to pursue Yoshimine, while Rokuz˘ comes upstairs to deprive Ofune of her drum-stick. She takes his sword to stab him. As Rokuz˘ falls into the river, she frantically beats the drum with the sheath of Rokuz˘'s sword.

Act IV, scene 4: Watashiba
At the Ferry

As Tonbŕ crosses the river and lands from his boat he is attacked by Nitta Yoshimine. Defeated by Yoshimine, Tonbŕ is about to be beheaded when Rokuz˘ suddenly appears, carrying Utena with him. Taking advantage of Yoshimine's distraction, Tonbŕ rises again and with the help of Rokuz˘ beats and kicks both Yoshimine and Utena.

The fugitives are miraculously saved, however, as two white arrows flying from nowhere kill their assailants by piercing their windpipes. Yoshimine draws the arrows from their throats and recognizes them as those of his late brother Nitta Yoshioki. He also finds a strip of paper attached to one of them. Inscribed on it is Yoshioki's statement that he has recovered the arrows from the enemy thanks to his occult power. Yoshimine makes up his mind to rally his supporters and defeat the enemy with the supernatural help of Yoshioki's spirit.


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


[1] "Yura Hy˘gonosuke Shin Yashiki" was revived in November 2015 at the National Theatre with Nakamura Kichiemon II in the role of Yura Hy˘gonosuke Nobutada. It had not been staged for more than 100 years as the previous production was in July 1915 at the Kabukiza with Nakamura Kichiemon I in the leading role.

[2] 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".

[3] 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.

Illustration from a tsuji banzuke for the staging of "Shinrei Yaguchi no Watashi" in the 9th lunar month of 1843 at the Nakamuraza

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