Genpei Nunobiki no Taki (Genji and Heike at Nunobiki Falls)


Genpei Nunobiki no Taki

The Genji clan’s Kiso Yoshikata is gradually cornered by the enemy after a long battle, but a woman’s arm holding the clan’s white flag triggers a miracle.

Kiso Yoshikata, dying, asks a farming family by Lake Biwa to look after his pregnant wife and the white flag of the Genji flag. The wife gives birth to a boy at the farmer’s house, but soldiers from the enemy Heike clan approach and demand the child – only to learn that the woman has miraculously given birth not to a full baby but to a human arm.


by Mizuochi Kiyoshi

Arrival of Koman and her son

Kiso Yoshikata, serving the Heike clan but secretly an ally to the Genji clan, is recuperating from an illness in his home in Kyoto. A woman named Koman arrives with her father and son, claiming to be the wife of the retainer Orihei. Yoshikata’s second wife says that Orihei is out on duty and asks them to wait. Princess Matsuyoi, Yoshikata’s daughter from his first wife, is in love with Orihei and becomes concerned.

[from left]Koman(Ichikawa Emisaburo)、Kurosuke(Matsumoto Kingo)、Princess Matsuyoi(Bando Shingo)、Aoi Gozen(Ichikawa shun’en) October 2011 Shimbashi Enbujo Theatre


Orihei proves to be Tada Yukitsuna

Orihei returns. The jealous princess informs him unhappily that his wife has come to see him. Yoshikata appears from the back and asks Orihei whether he has delivered the letter to Tada Yukitsuna. Orihei says that there was no such house and returns the letter, then starts to leave. Yoshikata, noticing that the seal has been broken, says, “Stop, Yukitsuna!” Yoshikata has gleaned that Orihei is in fact that same Yukitsuna, who is plotting to restore the Genji clan to power.

Orihei, actually Tada Yukitsuna(Nakamura Kasho) August 2003 Kabukiza Theatre


Yoshikata’s true intention

Orihei, unmasked as Yukitsuna, fears that Yoshikata is going to hand him over to Kiyomori, the head of the Taira clan, who is seeking him. Yoshikata reveals his true intention. He surprisingly places Yukitsuna in the honored guest position in the room and tells him that he too secretly favors the Genji. He reveals that he has obtained the all-important white Genji flag through unusual circumstances.

[from left]Kiso Yoshikata(Kataoka Ainosuke)、Orihei, actually Tada Yukitsuna(Bando Kamesaburo) December 2014 Kabukiza Theatre


Challenge posed by Kiyomori’s messenger

Takahashi Hangan and Osada Suemune, messengers from Kiyomori, arrive at the house and demand the white flag. Yoshikata professes innocence, but Osada presents the skull of Yoshikata’s brother and orders Yoshikata to step on the skull as a proof of loyalty to Kiyomori. Enraged, Yoshikata kills Osada. He tells Yukitsuna and the princess to look after the household. He pushes Osada out of the house. He resolves to fight the Taira clan alone at the risk of his own life.

[from left]Kiso Yoshikata(Kataoka Ainosuke)、Osada Suemune(Kataoka Tojuro) October 2011 Shimbashi Enbujo Theatre


Yoshikata’s desperate battle

Yoshikata says he does not need any armor and puts on elaborate clothing. He leaves his pregnant wife Aoi Gozen with Kurosuke, a farmer, and asks Koman to look after the precious white flag. Yoshikata fights valiantly with a large group of Heike soldiers but is ultimately defeated in a heroic death.

Kiso Yoshikata(Kataoka Nizaemon) June 2000 Kabukiza Theatre


White flag sinks in Lake Biwa

Kurosuke arrives safely at his house on Lake Biwa with Aoi Gozen. Koman is chased by Heike warriors. She jumps into the lake and tries to escape by swimming across. Taira Munemori happens to be sightseeing in the area. Saito Sanemori, riding on the same boat, discovers Koman and rescues her. The boatman who was chasing her cries that she has the Genji flag and commands them to capture it. A retainer grabs the body, but Sanemori suddenly cuts off the arm holding the flag, which sinks in the lake.


Kurosuke’s house

Kurosuke’s wife Koyoshi is spinning cotton thread. Kurosuke’s evil nephew Nisota enters and questions whether Aoi Gozen is hiding there. The wife denies this and sends him away. Kurosuke returns with his grandson Tarokichi. Aoi Gozen is worried about Koman, who is still missing. Kurosuke reveals that he has gotten a strange catch while fishing – it is a human arm holding a white silk. The grandson opens the fingers to reveal that the silk is the Genji flag. Everyone suspects worryingly that the arm belongs to Koman.

[from left]Koyoshi(Ichikawa Unosuke)、Kurosuke(Ichimura Kakitsu)、Aoi Gozen(Nakamura Baishi) June 2014 Kabukiza Theatre


Examination by Sanemori and Seno

Heike retainers Saito Sanemori and Seno Kaneuji arrive to question Aoi Gozen. Kurosuke denies any knowledge of her, but Sanemori says that the nephew has reported her. He says that they cannot fight the Taira power, but says that if the newborn child is a girl, she will be saved. Kurosuke begs them to wait until the baby is born, but Seno says that they will rip the baby from the womb for inspection if necessary.

Saito Sanemori(Onoe Kikugoro) December 2011 Kyoto Minamiza Theatre


An arm is born

Koyoshi emerges with a bundle wrapped in silk, saying that Aoi Gozen has just given birth to a baby. Sanemori, keen to save the baby, opens the wrap. He is astonished to find a woman’s arm. He recalls that a similar incident was reported in a Chinese tale and says he will report this to his boss. Seno says that if there’s an arm in the stomach, there must be a plan in the breast. He pretends to leave but hides in the back.

【Left】[from left]Saito Sanemori(Ichikawa Somegoro)、Seno Kaneuji(Nakamura Kikaku) November 2015 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】Seno Kaneuji(Bando Yajuro) April 2007 Kabukiza Theatre


Sanemori’s tale

Sanemori faces Aoi Gozen and the Kurosuke couple. He tells them that though he is now serving the Heike, he once served the Genji side and has never forgotten their kindness. He says he himself cut off the arm and suspects that it is Koman’s. He relates his story. On the way back from the lake with Munemori, he saw a woman swimming with a white cloth in her mouth, which he recognized as the Genji flag. He rescued her, but when his fellow retainer tried to take the flag, which would threaten misfortune to the Genji side, Sanemori took the cruel step of cutting off the arm and letting it drop into the lake.

【Left】[from left]Saito Sanemori(Ichikawa Somegoro)、Aoi Gozen(Nakamura Kotaro) November 2015 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】Saito Sanemori(Nakamura Kankuro) May 2013 Meijiza Theatre


Koman revives

Neighbors bring in a dead body, which turns out to be Koman. Seeing everyone’s sorrow, Sanemori praises her as such a dedicated woman that the arm retains its soul. He lays the flag on the arm and rejoins that with the corpse. This resurrects Koman. She is overjoyed that the flag has been returned to Aoi Gozen, and says she has something to tell her child. Before she has had a chance to reveal the secret, she dies.

Koman(Nakamura Kaishun) January 2011 Shimbashi Enbujo Theatre


Koman’s lineage

Kurosuke guesses that Koman wanted to reveal her background. He tells them that Koman was not their own child. They had found her abandoned as a baby and adopted her. The only sign of her identity was a dagger with a name carved into it and a letter saying that she is from the Heike family.


Birth of Yoshinaka

Aoi Gozen goes into labor, and a prince is born. He was named Komao after his father’s childhood name. This is the future Kiso Yoshinaka. Kurosuke asks that Koman’s son be made a retainer of the newborn child, and Sanemori renames the son Tezuka Mitsumori after his mother’s arm (“te”). Aoi Gozen says that since Koman may be the child of Kiyomori, Koman’s son may do great things when he grows up.


Seno’s unexpected confession

Seno suddenly returns and says he is going to report the birth of Prince Komao to the Taira clan. He kicks Koman’s dead body, expressing his dislike of her for stealing the white flag. Tarokichi, her small son, is incensed and attacks Seno with his mother’s dagger. Seno unexpectedly does not parry the blow and is stabbed. With his dying breath, Seno says that Tarokichi has now killed a Taira ally, and asks Aoi Gozen to accept him as a retainer to the young prince. He confesses to everyone’s surprise that Koman was actually his own daughter, who he abandoned when she was young. Seno takes out a long sword and, holding it to his neck, has Tarokichi do the deed.

[from left]Saito Sanemori(Ichikawa Danjuro)、Seno Kaneuji(Ichikawa Danshiro) January 2011 Shimbashi Enbujo Theatre


Using cotton spinner as horse

Tarokichi rushes at Sanemori, calling him the enemy of his parents. Sanemori says that if he were to die under these circumstances, people would think it was the result of compassion and would not praise Tarokichi for the act. He tells the boy to escape with the prince to Shinano for now. Once he has grown up, he can raise an army. Sanemori orders his retainer to lead the horse. Nisota starts to dash out, intending to report to the Heike clan, but he is killed by Sanemori. Tarokichi mounts the cotton spinner like a horse and faces Sanemori.

[from left]Saito Sanemori(Kataoka Nizaemon)、Tarokichi(Kataoka Sennosuke)、Kurosuke(Kataoka Kamezo)、Aoi Gozen(Nakamura Kaishun)、Koyoshi(Ichimura Kakitsu) April 2007 Kabukiza Theatre


Sanemori’s prediction

Kurosuke notes that by the time Tarokichi grows up, Sanemori will be an old man. Sanemori replies that he will join the battle with his hair dyed black. He tells them that when they kill a man with a Bando accent, wash the head in the pond, and they will discover him. He predicts that the battlefield will be at Shinohara, then exits the stage.

Saito Sanemori(Ichikawa Danjuro) January 2011 Shimbashi Enbujo Theatre