Famous Plays

Famous Plays: KyogenKaki Yamabushi (The Persimmon Thief)

Category:Mountain priest Kyogen

SummaryAbout a persimmon thief who makes frantic attempts to imitate different sounds

A mountain priest (shite) is on his way back from training and is hungry. He climbs up a persimmon tree and eats a persimmon. Just then the owner of the farm comes to check up on it. The farm owner sees the mountain priest hide behind the tree but pretends not to see him. He shouts out that he sees a crow and then a monkey, which forces the mountain priest to imitate the sound of a crow and a monkey. When the owner says if it is a hawk it should be able to fly, the mountain priest is lured into thinking he can fly and makes an attempt but falls and cannot get up. Seeing the owner laughing and about to leave, the mountain priest calls him back by claiming to have spiritual powers. He has the owner carry him on his back but is immediately thrown onto the ground.

The mountain priest had supposedly gained dharmic power. However, because of his own shameful act, he becomes subject to severe teasing by the farm owner and suffers a bitter experience. The audience is sent into laughter by the way the mountain priest is panic-stricken by the difficult tasks placed on him, his foolishness in thinking that he could fly, and his presumptuousness in suddenly changing his attitude and becoming aggressive towards the owner.

Watch videoA mountain priest trying to fly while imitating the sound of a hawk

The persimmon tree is represented by the kazuraoke (wig container) that the mountain priest climbs up on. In the course of being forced to imitate different sounds, he mistakenly jumps off the tree and is unable to move and calls back the farm owner by claiming to have spiritual powers.

Relevant culture

A tengu goblin (a figure in folk belief that is considered to be both a god and an evil spirit; it has a red face and a long nose, lives high in the mountains and can fly) is said to take on the appearance of a mountain priest or a hawk when it appears in front of people. This may have been the reason why in this play the mountain priest thought he could fly from a tree.

June 18, 2012 at a.m.
National Noh Theatre
“Kaki Yamabushi (The Persimmon Thief),” Okura School

Characters and Performers

Mountain priest (shite): Yamamoto Noritoshi
Farm owner (ado): Yamamoto Tojiro IV