The Tale of Shuzenji


Shuzenji Monogatari

A master mask carver foresees the death of his model

Yashao, a mask carver, has been asked to recreate the face of Shogun Yoriie, who has been confined to Shuzenji Temple in Izu. The carver’s dissatisfaction with his work is not because his skills are lacking but because of the dark fate of the model Yoriie. That fate also involves Yashao’s daughter Katsura, who seeks to make her own mark as a mask carver.


by Terada Shima

Strong-natured daughter of a craftsman’s family

Early autumn, 1204. The scene is the house of Yashao, a mask carver, in Izu Peninsula’s Shuzenji Village. The eldest daughter, the beautiful and strong-willed Katsura, and her sister Kaede are making paper, the household’s specialty. Katsura is tired with the life of mask carving and does not want to spend her life in this home. She argues with Kaede’s husband, who is proud of his wife’s work. Yashao steps in to halt the argument, telling the husband that Katsura has the noble air of her late mother.

【Left】Katsura(Ichikawa Emisaburo) July 2014 Kabukiza Theatre 【Center】Kaede(Ichikawa Shunen) July 2014 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】[from left] Haruhiko (Nakamura Kikaku)、Yashao(Ichikawa Chusha) July 2014 Kabukiza Theatre


Yoriie’s anger

Shogun Yoriie, who has been forced to live in this village, secretly visits Yashao. He had asked the craftsman half a year ago to make a mask of his face, but it is still not finished. The short-tempered Yoriie has come to demand the final product and asks why the mask is not ready. Yashao says he cannot make any promises, since he can only carve it when the feeling strikes. Yoriie is angered and moves to kill Yashao. Yashao’s daughters quickly present a prototype that the father had prepared. Yoriie is pleased with this. He is also taken by Katsura and appoints her to be his servant. Katsura, who has long dreamed of serving a senior nobleman, readily accepts. After they leave, Yashao is unhappy that the daughter has passed the shogun an incomplete piece and starts smashing all his masks. His daughter Kaede stops him, telling him in tears that he will be a legend if he creates just a single masterwork. She encourages him to persist. Yashao becomes silent.

[from left]Kaede(Ichikawa Shunen)、Yashao(Ichikawa Chusha) July 2014 Kabukiza Theatre


Dialogue at the river

On the way back to Shuzenji Temple, Yoriie exchanges words with Katsura, who has accompanied him to the riverbank. Yoriie has a dispute with the Hojo family and has lost his beloved Wakasa, the head of the ladies, in an argument, and is deeply hurt. He is joyful to have found love again and gives Katsura the new name Wakasa.

[from left]Katsura(Ichikawa Emisaburo)、Minamoto Yoriie(Ichikawa Tsukinosuke) July 2014 Kabukiza Theatre


Plan of evening raid

Kanakubo Yukichika, a messenger from Hojo, appears before Yoriie. He criticizes Yoriie for reassigning the name Wakasa without consultation with the government. The shogun ignores Yukichika and leaves with Katsura. However, Yukichika’s real purpose is to assassinate the shogun on the orders of the Hojo family. Haruhiko overhears the plot and informs Yoriie’s servant Shimoda Kageyasu once Yukichika has gone. Shimoda is attacked by Yukichika’s soldiers but successfully defends himself, and tells Haruhiko to pass the information about the planned night raid on to the shogun.


Truth of the mask

The sound of the Shuzenji raid reaches Yashao’s home. Haruhiko rushes back and says that he cannot get near Shuzenji Temple. Katsura returns heavily wounded. She had pretended to be Yoriie by wearing his mask. Her sister cries in shock. Katsura asks only that she be granted a name for her brief service to the shogun. A monk arrives to report that Yoriie has been killed. Yashao realizes that the real reason he was not able to capture the shogun’s face on the mask is that it kept picturing Yoriie’s bleak fate. He is now satisfied with his talents. He recreates his dying daughter’s face on a piece of paper to serve as a model for the future.

【Left】Yashao(Nakamura Tomijuro) May 2000 Osaka Shochikuza Theatre 【Right】[from left]Kaede(Ichikawa Shunen)、Katsura(Ichikawa Emisaburo)、Haruhiko(Ichikawa Enya)、Yashao(Nakamura Karoku) July 2004 Kabukiza Theatre