INVITATION TO KABUKI Guide to Japanese Traditional Performing Arts KabukiINVITATION TO KABUKI Guide to Japanese Traditional Performing Arts Kabuki

PlaysLeading Plays

Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura ( Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees )



This is a jidai-mono gidayu-kyogen describing the movements of the Heike clan survivors, centering around Minamoto no Yoshitsune, who fell out with his elder brother Yoritomo after most of the Heike were killed.

The scenes mainly performed today are: commonly called ‘Tokaiya’(The Tokaiya Boathouse) and ‘Daimotsunoura’(Daimotsu Bay) in which Taira no Tomomori, who was assumed to have committed suicide by jumping into the Dannoura sea, is actually alive and is planning to get revenge on Yoshitsune; commonly called ‘Sushiya’(The sushi shop), about Igami no Gonta who lost his life protecting Taira no Koremori and Koremori's child; and ‘Kawatsura Hogen Yakata’(The Maison of Kawatsura Hogen, commonly called ‘Shi no kiri’) in which Yoshitsune gives Genkurogitsune (a fox that is transformed into Sato Tadanobu) the Hatsune no tsuzumi (hand drum) made from the skins of Genkurogitsune's parents.

Together with “Kanadehon Chushingura”(The Treasury of 47 Loyal Retainers), “Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami”(Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy) is regarded as one of the three classic masterpieces in the gidayu-kyogen tradition.


“Yoshitsune Sembonzakura” ‘Shimoichimura Tsurubesushiya’ scene
National Theatre (Y_E0100226056022)

The dramatic approach in which characters that initially appear to be villains turn out to be good people is known as modori.

In the ‘Sushiya’ scene, for example, the rascal Gonta appears to have cut off the head of Taira no Koremori, who was hidden in Gonta’s father’s home, and then handed over the head along with Koremori’s wife and child to Kajiwara Heizo. Gonta’s father Yazaemon is furious about this betrayal, and stabs him. Gonta at last reveals that the head is not that of Koremori, and that he actually turned over his own wife and son in place of Koremori’s family members.

Gidayu-kyogen feature many unexpected developments such as modori, which serve to raise the dramatic tension.

“Yoshitsune Sembonzakura” ‘Shimoichimura Tsurubesushiya’ scene
National Theatre (Y_E0100226056022)