Barrier Gate


Seki no To

Colorful battle between a cherry tree spirit and a rebel aiming to conquer the nation

A 300-year-old cherry tree is strangely in full bloom at the gate of snow-covered Osaka Mountain. In addition, the color of tree is a pale grey. When the faithful servant of the previous emperor and a suspicious guard are watching the gate, a beautiful woman passes. The spirit of the cherry tree then appears in the guise of a courtesan. These four characters carry out a magical love affair and a fight of the rebel against the court. It is a mysterious and beautiful masterpiece of tokiwazu dance drama.


by Maekawa Fumiko

Cherry blossoms in the snow

At the Mt Osaka Gate east of the capital, the gatekeeper Sekibei is bundling firewood. The entire area is covered with snow, but one cherry tree is curiously in full bloom. The last emperor loved this tree, and the petals became pale grey in sorrow for his loss. The poetess Ono no Komachi magically brought the color back, so the tree is known as a Komachi cherry tree. The late emperor’s loyal servant Munesada is now leading a humble life by the gate.

【Left】Sekibe(Nakamura Kichiemon) November 2004  Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】Munesada(Ichikawa Somegoro) February 2008  Kabukiza Theatre


A lover from Kyoto

By coincidence, Munesada’s lover Komachi, on her way to Mii Temple for prayer, is drawn to the gate by the sound of his koto playing. The gatekeeper is suspicious of a beautiful woman traveling alone and questions her carefully. When Munesada emerges, the two shed tears at their unexpected reunion. When the three are dancing their respective parts, the gatekeeper drops an imperial seal.

【Left】Ono Komachi(Nakamura Shikan) January 1999  Kabukiza Theatre 【Center】[from left]Ono Komachi(Nakamura Kaishun)、Sekibe(Nakamura Kichiemon) November 2004  Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】[from left]Ono Komachi(Nakamura Fukusuke)、Sekibe(Nakamura Kichiemon)、Munesada(Ichikawa Somegoro) February 2008  Kabukiza Theatre


News from a hawk

When Munesada and Komachi are alone, a hawk flies in and drops a sleeve, on which is written in blood, “Two children in the same boat”. This, a reference to an old Chinese story, is a notice from Munesada’s brother of his death due to turmoil in the capital. The lovers are saddened by the news.


Eight-voiced mirror

When the sleeve is placed on a garden stone, suddenly there is a cry of a cock. Under the stone is a mirror with the image of a cock. As this is a precious treasure of the Otomo family, the two realize that the gatekeeper may in fact be the villain Otomo Kuronushi. They also recall the appearance of the imperial seal, which had been stolen from the palace. They hide the sleeve in the koto. Munesada secretly sends Komachi back to the capital to inform their allies of these events.


Star signs

In the garden that night, the gatekeeper is drunk from sake at the snow-viewing party. When he reads the star signs reflected in his large sake cup, it tells that his wish will be granted if he cuts the tree that night and uses the wood for prayer. He smiles evilly. He is indeed the villain Otomo Kuronushi. In order to cut the tree, he sharpens his ax and tries it on the koto. Suddenly, the imperial seal flies from his chest to the top of the tree. When he tries to cut the tree, his body somehow becomes paralyzed, and he faints.

Sekibe(Nakamura Kichiemon) November 2004  Kabukiza Theatre


“Become my lover”

Then the scene becomes dark, and a voluptuous woman comes out of the thick dark trunk of the tree. When the gatekeeper awakens, the woman says she is the courtesan Sumizome from the capital and has been longing to meet him. She asks him to become her lover. The gatekeeper is skeptical of this strange appearance, but asks for love lessons from the pleasure quarters.

[from left]Sekibe(Nakamura Kichiemon)、Sumizome(Nakamura Fukusuke) February 2008  Kabukiza Theatre


Lesson from the pleasure quarters

The woman gives the gatekeeper love lessons. They act out a pretend lover’s quarrel. However, her face darkens when she finds a blood letter in his breast pocket.

[from left]Sekibe(Nakamura Kichiemon)、Sumizome(Nakamura Fukusuke) November 2004  Kabukiza Theatre



Sumizome is in fact the spirit of the cherry tree. The spirit had previously been in love with Munesada’s brother, who was killed by the very villain before her. She approaches the gatekeeper to avenge her lover’s death. Sekibei throws off the gatekeeper’s jacket and reveals his true self as the villain. Sumizome also reveals her identity with cherry branch in hand. The two battle fiercely.

【Left】Sumizome(Nakamura Fukusuke) February 2008  Kabukiza Theatre 【Center】[from left]Spirit of cherry tree(Nakamura Fukusuke)、Otomo no Kuronushi(Nakamura Kichiemon) November 2004  Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】[from left]Otomo no Kuronushi(Matsumoto Koshiro)、Spirit of cherry tree(Nakamura Shikan) January 1999  Kabukiza Theatre