The Donation List

勧進帳

Kanjincho

A servant acts boldly to get his master past Ataka Barrier, the last outpost between freedom and death

The fugitive general Minamoto Yoshitsune and his servant Benkei, fleeing for their lives, encounter the tough inspector Togashi at the Ataka Barrier, the last obstacle to their freedom. Yoshitsune’s struggle to disguise himself, Benkei’s bold attempt to save his master, and Togashi’s ultimate compassion at the strong bond between them drive this intense conflict between rank and heart.

Synopsis

by Terada Shima

Togashi at the gate

The show opens at the Ataka Barrier on the road to the north. There is a rumor that the fugitive general Minamoto Yoshitsune is trying to escape disguised as a mountain priest. The government, aiming to capture him, has appointed Togashi as barrier inspector. Togashi guards the gate vigilantly with his army.

[from left]Togashi Saemon(Nakamura Baigyoku)、Tachimochi Otowaka(Nakamura Tamataro) January 2010 Kabukiza Theatre

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Appearance of heroes

Yoshitsune, accompanied by the warrior-monk Benkei and other servants, are trying to make their way to the protection of allies in northern Mutsu Province. Benkei trained as a mountain priest at one of the nation’s holiest spots, so he has dressed himself and the other servants as mountain priests with Yoshitsune disguised as their porter.

[from left]Musashibo Benkei(Ichikawa Danjuro)、Minamoto Yoshitsune(Sakata Tojuro)、Kamei Rokuro(Otani Tomoemon)、Kataoka Hachiro(Ichimura Kakitsu)、Suruga Jiro(Ichikawa Unosuke)、Hitachibo Kaison(Kataoka Ichizo) October 2012 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre

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Reading of donation list

The group arrives at Ataka Barrier, where they are halted by Togashi. Benkei claims they are seeking donations from around the country to rebuild Nara’s Todaiji Temple after its destruction by fire. Togashi says if so, Benkei must have a scroll describing the purpose of the donations, and orders Benkei to read it. Pulling out an empty scroll, Benkei opens it randomly and makes up the contents on the spot.

[from left]Musashibo Benkei(Nakamura Kichiemon)、Togashi Saemon(Onoe Kikugoro) March 2014 Kabukiza Theatre

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Investigation of mountain priest

Togashi is impressed but still doubtful. Digging deeper, he inquires about the symbolism behind the priest’s clothing and a secret nine-letter sutra. Benkei explains both in detail.

[from left]Musashibo Benkei(Nakamura Kichiemon)、Togashi Saemon(Nakamura Tomijuro) September 2005 Kabukiza Theatre

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Beating of the master

Togashi is satisfied by Benkei’s answers and gives him a donation. However, as the group prepares to leave, one of the guards notes that the porter resembles Yoshitsune. Togashi stops them. To clear Togashi’s doubts, Benkei instantly takes a stick and beats Yoshitsune, which would be an unthinkable act by a servant. Despite his suspicions, Togashi is moved by Benkei’s effort to save his master and gives the group permission to pass.

【Left】[from left]Minamoto Yoshitsune(Sakata Tojuro)、Musashibo Benkei(Ichikawa Danjuro)、Togashi Saemon(Matsumoto Koshiro) October 2012 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre
【Right】[from left]Suruga Jiro(Ichikawa Komazo)、Kamei Rokuro(Otani Tomoemon)、Musashibo Benkei(Matsumoto Koshiro)、Kataoka Hachiro(Nakamura Ganjiro)、Hitachibo Kaison(Matsumoto Kingo)、Togashi Saemon(Ichikawa Danjuro) October 2012  Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre

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Master and servant look back

Once Togashi leaves, Yoshitsune and his servants praise Benkei’s quick thinking and express relief that they have survived. Benkei, however, weeps in guilt at having beaten his master. Yoshitsune offers his hand in comfort, and they reflect upon the hard battles they have fought and their lack of fortune as warriors.

【Left】Minamoto Yoshitsune(Nakamura Baigyoku) April 2013 Kabukiza Theatre
【Right】[from left]Musashibo Benkei(Nakamura Kichiemon)、Minamoto Yoshitsune(Sakata Tojuro) March 2014 Kabukiza Theatre

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Longevity Dance

Togashi chases the group as they leave the gate and offers a bottle of sake in apology for his misgivings. Benkei accepts and becomes drunk. He reflects on an old love and, at Togashi’s request, performs the Ennen no Mai, a ceremonial Buddhist longevity dance he learned in his religious training as a child.

Musashibo Benkei(Matsumoto Koshiro) April 2013 Kabukiza Theatre

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Flying roppo exit

While distracting Togashi with the dance, Benkei signals to Yoshitsune and the others to sneak away. Once he finishes, he takes his pilgrim box and stick, thanks Togashi, and heads for Mutsu, making a dynamic exit along the hanamichi known as a “flying roppo“.

Musashibo Benkei(Ichikawa Danjuro) October 2012 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre

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