Play title Keisei Yamato Z˘shi [1]  In Japanese
Authors Namiki Gohŕ, Namiki Jűsuke, Tsutsui Hanji (drama)
Miyazono Mojidayű, Miyazono Kumidayű, Tsurusawa Otogor˘ (music)

The 6-act play "Keisei Yamato Z˘shi" was written directly for Kabuki by the playwright Namiki Gohŕ, with the help of Namiki Jűsuke and Tsutsui Hanji. It was produced in the 1st lunar month of 1784 by the zamoto Arashi Tanin in ďsaka at the Naka no Shibai [casting|more details]. The opening day was the 15th day of the 1st lunar month of the 4th year of the Tenmei era (1784), which was the 5th of February 1784 in the western calendar. The original musical accompaniment was in the Miyazono style. It changed to Gidayű when the drama was adapted to the puppet theater.

The drama and its michiyuki, "Ch˘ no Michiyuki", went to oblivion from the beginning of the Meiji era. "Ch˘ no Michiyuki" was revived for the puppet theater in October 1955 and, using the script written for the puppets, adapted for Kabuki in July 1956 at the Kabukiza, starring Matsumoto K˘shir˘ VIII and Nakamura Utaemon VI in the roles of Kond˘ Sukekuni and Komaki. Takechi Tetsuji revived "Keisei Yamato Z˘shi" (1 act;3 scenes) with two long-forgotten acts in June 1962 at the Kabukiza [more details].


The 1962 revival was made up of 1 act divided into 3 scenes. It was the 4th act in the original 6-act drama.

Key words Gidayű
Hoshino Kanzaemon
Tenmei Kabuki
Wasa Daihachir˘


The story is set in the province of Yamato. Two kar˘, Koshino Kandayű and Kond˘ Gunjibŕ, both belonged to families which faithfully served the Kitabatake clan. Gunjibŕ wanted to make his elder son Wada Raihachi (a son he had with a koshimoto), the heir of the Kitabatake family. Kandayű saw through the plot but in the end, due to the treachery of Wada Raihachi, the house of Kitabatake was accused of conspiracy against the court. Following the fall from grace of the Kikubatake clan, the two kar˘ became r˘nin. Moreover, Kitabatake Yukienosuke, the young heir of the clan as well as his bride, Princess Yayoi (who is the daughter of the Momonoi clan), have been condemned to death and are actively sought by the authorities. Kandayű's son Kanzaemon, who live with his mother Higaki and his sister Komaki, is a poor man with a beautiful garden of flowers while Gunjibŕ is a wealthy ˘sh˘ya. They are also neighbors.

Kanzaemon Sumika Hanazono
In the Garden of Flowers near Kanzaemon's Home

Kanzaemon, out of loyalty to the Kitabatake clan, is sheltering Princess Yayoi and Yukienosuke. The two lovers are in the garden enjoying the beautiful flowers. Princess Yayoi cuts with Yukienosuke's dagger a few blossoms. Oume, Kanzaemon's daughter, spots them and anxiously asks them to hurry back into hiding because they should not be seen in the garden by outsiders. In their hurry to return inside, the dagger is left out in the garden.

Two young people arrive in the garden: Komaki, Kanzaemon's younger sister, and Kond˘ Sukekuni, Gunjibŕ's son, who is Komaki's secret lover. Due to the past events, Gunjibŕ and Kanzaemon, although they used to serve the same master, are now enemies. Gunjibŕ, due to his unscrupulous ways, is rich and greedy, while Kanzaemon is living in poverty. Komaki and Sukekuni are enjoying each other's company when Higaki, Komaki's mother, suddenly returns to the house. Sukekuni hides in the garden. Then, a group of creditors come threateningly to the house. Sukekuni does not accept their arrogant attitude against Higaki and Komaki. He suddenly comes out to help them. Not having any money with him, he gives the creditors a promissory note. They have to go to his father's mansion to get paid back. Satisfied, the creditors leave the Koshino house to go to the Kond˘ house.

Higaki realizes that the young man is Komaki's secret lover. She also suspects his real identity. Presently, Kanzaemon too returns home. He has just been ordered by the authorities to kill the two fugitives, Princess Yayoi and Kitabatake Yukienosuke. Important things have to be discussed but, the three members of the family, looking at each other, can't speak the words. Each message will be said in an indirect way. For this purpose, each goes out into the garden to pick a single flower. Kanzaemon selects the iris, Higaki the white chrysanthemum and Komaki the yellow primrose. Each flower is related to one famous classic poem. Komaki's yellow primrose hints that she wishes to get married with her lover. If this marriage is not possible, she is resolved to die. Kanzaemon's iris refers to a poem that says that in the dusk it is difficult to tell one flower to the other. Higaki's white chrysanthemum refers to a poem that says that on an autumn morning it is difficult to discern between the white of the frost and the white of the flower. Higaki and Kanzaemon messages are the same: Komaki and Sukekuni should be the substitutes for Princess Yayoi and Yukienosuke. The severed heads of Komaki and Sukekuni have to be delivered to the authorities!

Kanzaemon and Higaki tell Komaki that they are aware of the identity of her lover. Although there is antagonism between the two families, Kanzaemon will consent to Komaki's marriage to Sukekuni at one condition: Sukekuni's father Gunjibŕ's approval. If Gunjibŕ refuses, Komaki says that she will kill herself.

The three different flowers are tastefully arranged in a flower vase. It will be given to Gunjibŕ as a gift. Then, Kanzaemon, Higaki and Komaki prepare to visit Gunjibŕ.

ďsh˘ya Gunjibŕ Sumika
At the Home of the Grand Village Headman Gunjibŕ

Gunjibŕ is an ˘sh˘ya with a lot of money but he is not a generous man. When the creditors of the previous scene come to claim the cash, showing Sukekuni's promissory note, he refuses to pay. Sukekuni finally urges his father to pay, saying that he has purchased a priceless object that should generate a huge profit when reselling it. Hearing the word profit, greedy Gunjibŕ finally hands over the money. Sukekuni gives Gunjibŕ the dagger which he has picked up in Kanzaemon's flowers garden. It is decorated with the mon of the Kitabatake clan. Gunjibŕ immediately recognizes the mon. His reaction is to say that he sees no possible profit in this dagger. Sukekuni says that this is his father's chance to show his loyalty to his former master's clan but Gunjibŕ remains adamant. Sukekuni becomes desperate because he feels that he cannot help changing his father's mind.

At this point Kanzaemon comes to the house, carrying the flower vase with its three flowers. He is followed by Komaki, fully dressed in white, the color of a bride. Kanzaemon humbly asks Gunjibŕ to accept his sister as Sukekuni's bride. Gunjibŕ coldly refuses but he has understood the secret message of the flowers. Gunjibŕ retires to another room. Then, Kanzaemon kills his sister to spare her from the shame of refusal and severs her head. In the inner room, Sukekuni commits suicide, despairing over his father's refusal. Gunjibŕ is impressed by his son's attitude. He brings out Sukekuni's severed head and places it next to Komaki's head. Two butterflies play around the lovers' heads as if they were the spirits of the lovers. Gunjibŕ tells Kanzaemon that he has indeed correctly understood the message of the flowers. The substitution will save the lives of Princess Yayoi and Yukienosuke.

Ch˘ no Michiyuki
The Butterflies Travel-Dance
--> A dedicated summary: "Ch˘ no Michiyuki"

The spirits of Komaki and Sukekuni are now carefree butterflies. They are flying in a field bright with flowers, fluttering, dancing together and remembering the time they first met and their love for each other. But their happiness is brief as they are again tormented by hell.


[1] This title was translated "The Courtesan's Storybook of Old Japan" by Samuel L. Leiter in "Kabuki at the Crossroads: Years of Crisis, 1952-1965".


In the 1962 revival the roles of Komaki and Princess Yayoi were played by the same actor, Nakamura Utaemon VI. Idem for the roles of Sukekuni and Yukienosuke, which were played by Onoe Baik˘ VII.

Because of strict censorship during the Edo period, the authors had to change the names of two characters : Koshino Kanzaemon and Wada Raihachi in the play were in fact two famous 17th century samurai archers Hoshino Kanzaemon and Wasa Daihachir˘.

The staging of "Keisei Yamato Z˘shi" in the 1st lunar month of 1784 at the Naka no Shibai (actors and roles)

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