SHITE 1: in Act I, a grass cutter without a mask
SHITE 2: in Act 2, the ghost of Atsumori
TSURE: two or three other maskless grass cutters
WAKI: Renshô (or Rensei), the priestly name of Kumagae (or Kumagai) no Jirô Naozane, the man who killed Atsumori in battle
AI: a local man

Chorus of eight or ten members
Flute and two hand drums

Click for Japanese.


Shidai entrance music To the music of the hand drums and the flute, the waki, dressed as a priest, enters the bridgeway and moves slowly to the shite spot.

Shidai Congruent song in the melodic mode with sparse drum accompaniment; the waki faces the pine tree painted on the back wall of the stage.


Awake to awareness, the world's but a dream,
awake to awareness, the world's but a dream,
one may cast it aside--is this what is Real?

Jitori Chanted quietly and pitched low, in noncongruent rhythm.


Awake to awareness, the world's but a dream,
one may cast it aside, is this what is Real?

Nanori   Intoned speech with no accompaniment, the waki faces front.


I am Kumagae no Jirô Naozane,
a resident of Musashi, who has renounced this world
and taken the priestly name Renshô.
I did this because of the deep remorse I felt at
having killed Atsumori.

Now I going to Ichinotani to pray for the repose of his soul.

Ageuta   He continues to face front, melodic song congruent with drum accompaniment.


Departing the capital as clouds part

Brief instrumental interlude (uchikiri).

departing the capital as clouds part,
the moon too travels southward,
a small wheel rolling toward

Yodo Yamazaki soon passed;

Brief instrumental interlude.

then the ponds of Koya, Ikuta River,

Takes a few steps to indicate travel.

Suma Bay, where "waves surge beside us;" 3
at Ichinotani I have arrived,

Takes a few steps to indicate arrival.

I have arrived at Ichinotani

Tsukizerifu   Intoned speech without accompaniment, still facing front.


How quickly I've reached Ichinotani in the province of Tsu.
Scenes from the past come to mind as if present.
(Hands together in prayer gesture)
Hail, Amida Buddha. (Turns slightly to the right)
What's that? I hear the sound of a flute coming from that high meadow. (Faces front)
I think I'll wait for the flutist and ask him to tell me something about this place.

Shidai entrance music   The shite and two or three tsure costumed as humble grass cutters enter along the bridgeway. They are unmasked, and each carries a bamboo pole with grass attached. They proceed to the front of the stage and form two lines. image

Shidai   The shite and tsure face each other and sing this melodic song to sparse, congruent drum accompaniment.


The grass-cutter's flute adds its voice,
the grass-cutter's flute adds its voice
to the wind blowing over the meadows.

Sashi   The shite faces front; noncongruent, melodic song. image


The "man who cuts grass
on that hill"
4 makes his way through the fields
in the gathering dusk; it's time to go home.

SHITE and TSURE:   (Facing each other again).

Was his way home, too, beside the Suma Sea?
How limited the path we tread
entering the hills, returning to the shore;
how miserable the lowly lives we lead.

Brief instrumental interlude.

Sageuta   Continuing to face each other.


"If anyone should ask after me,
my reply would speak of lonely grief

Brief instrumental interlude.


here at Suma Bay
where brine drips from seaweed."
Should anyone learn who I am,

Brief instrumental interlude.

should anyone learn who I am,
then I, too, would have a friend.
Such wretched seafolk we've become that
"even dear ones are grown estranged." 6

Brief instrumental interlude.

We live our lives, such as they are,
yielding to misery, we exhaust our days,

The shite goes to the shite spot, while the tsure line up in front of the chorus.

yielding to misery, we exhaust our days.

Mondô  The waki stands at the waki spot, faces the shite and speaks.

WAKI:   Hello there! There's something I`d like to ask you grass cutters.

SHITE:   Are you speaking to us? What is it you want?

WAKI:   Was one of you playing the flute just now?

SHITE:   Yes. One of us was playing.

WAKI:   It was exquisite! And all the more exquisite because such music is not expected from men in your position.

SHITE:   You say it's unexpected from men in our position. People should neither envy superiors nor despise inferiors, or so it is said.

TSURE   (Chanting):

"Foresters' songs, shepherds' pipes" 7 is a set phrase;
grass cutters' flutes and woodsmen's songs


are well-known topics in poetry;
bamboo flutes have widespread fame.
Do not think it strange.

Kakeai   Congruent song in the melodic mode to quiet drum accompaniment.


Indeed there is sense in what you say.
Those "foresters' songs and shepherds' pipes"


are the flutes of grass cutters


and the songs of woodsmen


"passing through this bitter world, a melody" 8

WAKI:   to sing

SHITE:   to dance,

WAKI:   to blow,

SHITE:   to play.

Brief instrumental interlude.

Ageuta   Melodic song in a higher pitch.


We lead our lives

The shite faces front and spreads his arms.

guided by discerning hearts that fancy,

Brief instrumental interlude; the waki sits at the waki spot.

guided by discerning hearts that fancy
bamboo flutes: Tender Branch, Broken Cicada,
such names as these are numerous
. 9

The shite moves forward slightly.

The flute the grass cutter plays
also has a name:
know it as Green Leaf.
At water's edge near Sumiyoshi

The shite circles the stage to the left, and the three tsure quietly exit up the bridgeway.

one would find Korean Flutes;10
here at Suma one might say
seafolk play Charred Stick,
seafolk play Charred Stick.

Kakeai   Intoned speech, no accompaniment.

WAKI:   (Speaking to the shite from the waki spot)

How strange. All the other grass cutters have left, yet you remain. Why is that?


Even you ask why? Drawn by the power of your voice above the evening waves, I have come to request ten Hail Amidas. Say them for me please.

WAKI:   Ten Hail Amidas is an easy thing to grant. For whom should I pray?

SHITE:   To be honest, I am related to Atsumori.

WAKI:   You're related you say? How nostalgic that makes me,

SHITE:   he says, putting palms together (clasps the rosary between his hands), Hail, Amida Buddha.

SHITE:   (The shite kneels, and they chant together) "Should I attain enlightenment, no being in all the world

WAKI:   who calls upon my name shall be cast aside." 12

Uta   The shite looks at the waki, and lowers his hands.


Please cast me not aside.
Though a single cry would suffice,
each day, each night, you pray.
How fortunate I am, my name

Looking down, he stands and goes toward the shite spot.

unspoken, yet clear, at dawn and at dusk too
you hold services for the soul of one

He turns and looks intently at the waki.

whose name is mine, he says

At the shite spot he circles right.

as his figure fades from sight,

Facing front, he spreads his arms to indicate his disappearance.

as his figure fades from sight.

He walks quietly up the bridgeway and out under the raised curtain.


Mondô   The aikyôgen, who has entered inconspicuously and seated himself at the kyôgen spot at the back of the bridgeway, now rises and moves to the shite spot.


I am a person who lives at Suma Bay. Today I've come to amuse myself by watching the boats go by. Hm! There's a priest I've never seen before. Where are you from?

WAKI:  I'm a priest from the capital. Do you live nearby?

AI:   Yes, indeed I do.

WAKI:   Then please come over here. I've something I'd like to ask you.

AI   (Goes to center stage and sits): Certainly. What is it you want to know?


It's a bit unusual. I've heard that this is the harbor where the battle between the Heike and the Genji was fought. Could you please tell me what you know about the death of the Heike nobleman Atsumori?


That's certainly an unexpected request. Those of us who live around here don't know much about such things; however, since you've come out of your way to inquire, what can I do? I don't really know much, but I'll tell what I've heard.

WAKI:   Thank you.

Katari   In stylized speech, facing the audience. image


Sometime in the autumn of Jûei 2 [1183] when the Heike were forced from the capital by Kiso Yoshinaka, they retreated to this spot. However, the Genji, dividing their 60,000 cavalry into two groups, attacked fiercely from both left and right. The Heike fled, scattering here and there. Among them was the young Atsumori, son of Tsunemori, Chief of the Office of Palace Repairs. Atsumori had reached the shore intending to board a ship only to realize that he had left his precious flute known as Little Branch in the main camp. Not wanting it to fall into enemy hands, he went back to fetch it.

Upon retreiving his flute, Atsumori raced again to the shore, only to discover that all the boats, the imperial barque and the troop ships, had already put out to sea. His horse was strong, so he urged it into the sea. Just then, however, a resident of Musashi province, Kumagae no Jirô Naozane, beckoned Atsumori with his fan, and so he turned back to face this enemy. They fought in the waves, then grappled on the shore, finally falling from their horses. Kumagae, who was unusually strong, managed to come out on top and was about to cut off Atsumori's head when he glimpsed the face beneath the helmet. He saw the powdered brow and blackened teeth of a youth of fifteen or sixteen.

"A pity! What an elegant warrior. If only I could spare him." He looked around. Doi and Kajiwara were fast approaching with a dozen other warriors.

"I would like to spare you," he explained, "however, as you can see a group of my allies is almost upon us. I will kill you and then pray for your soul." Thus he took Atsumori's head.

Examining the corpse, he found a flute in a brocade bag. When he made his presentation before the general, people remarked on how cultivated the dead man must have been. Even among the nobility, few would concern themselves with a flute in such a crisis. Their armored sleeves were dampened by their tears. The youth was finally identified as Atsumori, the young son of Tsunemori.

Kumagae is said to have retired from the world to pray for Atsumori's enlightenment. Since he didn't spare Atsumori when he might have, this seems like a pack of lies to me. If that Kumagae should come here, we would kill him to prove our loyalty to Atsumori.

That's about all that I've heard. Why do you ask me about it? It seems a bit strange.


You were kind to tell me this tale. Why should I conceal anything? I was Kumagae no Jirô Naozane. Now I have become a priest and taken the name Renshô. I have come here to pray for the repose of Atsumori's soul.


What! You're that lord Kumagae? Unwittingly I've told you these things. Please forgive me. A force for good is said to be a force for evil too. Maybe it works both ways. I hope that you will pray for Atsumori's soul.


Don't be upset. I have come only to pray for his soul. I would like to remain a while and read some efficacious sutras. I shall pray diligently.

AI:   If that's the case, I can provide you with lodging.

WAKI:   Thank you. That would be helpful.

AI:   At your service.

He goes to the kyôgen spot and sits. After the shite has made his entrance, the kyôgen walks quietly up the bridgeway.


Machiutai   Chanted in the melodic mode as he kneels at the waki spot.


Spreading dew-drenched grass to make a bed,

Brief instrumental interlude.

spreading dew-drenched grass to make a bed,
now that the sun has set and night fallen
I'll pray to Amida that Atsumori
may yet achieve enlightenment, that he
may yet achieve enlightenment, I'll pray.

Issei entrance music   The shite, now costumed as the warrior Atsumori, enters to instrumental music.

Ge no ei   Standing at the shite spot facing front.


"Back and forth to Awaji plovers
fly; their cries awaken one
who guards the pass at Suma."
What is your name?

Kakeai   Sung with the shite standing at the shite spot and the waki sitting at the waki spot.


Hello there, Renshô,
Atsumori has arrived.


How very strange!
I've been beating on the gong, performing holy rites;
there's not been a moment to doze, and yet
Atsumori appears before me.
Surely this must be a dream.


Why need it be a dream?
To clear the karma left from this waking world
I make my appearance here.


This can't be. It's said,
"A single Hail Amida erases countless sins."
I've offered ceaseless prayers
to clear away all sinful hindrances.
What karma can remain from this rough sea of life,

SHITE:   so deep my sins, please wash them away,

WAKI:   and in doing so, my own salvation seek.

SHITE:   Your prayers affecting both our future lives--

WAKI:   once enemies

SHITE:   now instead

WAKI:   in Buddha's Law

SHITE:   made friends (takes a step toward the waki).

Uta The shite spreads his arms facing front; melodic song is congruent to accompanying drum rhythms.


Now I see!
"Cast aside an evil friend,

The shite points at the waki with his left hand and moves toward him.

beckon near a enemy who's good;"

The shite flips his sleeve over his left arm and stares intently at the waki.

that refers to you!
How fortunate, how very fortunate!

Changing the mood, the shite circles left to the shite spot.

And now, with my confessional tale
let us while the night away,

At the shite spot, he turns to face the waki.

let us while the night away.

Kuri   The shite goes to center stage and sits on a stool provided by the stage attendant. The song is noncongruent and elaborately embellished. image

Spring blossoms mounting tips of trees:
inspire ascent toward enlightenment;
the autumn moon sinking to ocean's depths:
symbolizes grace descending to mankind.

Sashi   All remain seated.


Even though the clan put forth new sprouts,
kinsmen branching out in all directions,


"our glory was that of the short-lived rose of sharon." 14
How difficult to find encouragement toward good--
good hard flintstones engender sparks
whose lights are gone before one knew they were--
the lives of humans flash by like this.


Yet those high up inflict pain on people down below;
those living lives of luxury are unaware of arrogance.

Brief instrumental interlude.

Kuse   The shite stands and dances during the following segment sung in the melodic mode, congruent with the drum accompaniment. The flute enters midway.


It happened that the Heike
ruled the world some twenty years,
truly a fleeting generation,
passed in the space of a dream.
"That famous autumn, leaves"

Moves forward slightly.

lured by winds from the four directions,17
scattered here and there in leaf-like

Moves his fan in a sweeping points and looks to the right.

boats bobbing on the waves, we sleep,
not even in our dreams returning home--
"caged birds longing for cloudy realms,

Goes toward corner.

ranks of homing geese broken, scattered," 18
uncertain skies, aimless travel gowns tied

Looks up at the sky and circles left.

and layered sunsets, moonrises, months, a year
journeys by, returns to spring
here at Ichinotani secluded for a while

Moves from back to center stage.

here at Suma Shore we live.

SHITE:   From the hills behind, winds roar down

Opens his fan and raises it before his face.


to coastal fields keenly cold
our boats draw up, no day or night without

Moves forward.

the cries of plovers,
our sleeves too

Twirls his sleeve over his arm to make a pillow and kneels.

dampened by the waves that
drench our rocky pillows,
in seaside shacks we huddle together

Stands and goes to the corner.

befriended only by Suma folk--
bent like wind-bent pines on the strands

Circles left to the shite spot.

of evening smoke rising from the fires--

Waving the fan in his left hand he moves forward.

brushwood, it's called,

Holding the fan out parallel to the floor.

this stuff piled up to sleep upon.

Goes to the corner.

Our worries too pile up in rustic Suma,
where we're forced to play out our lives

Pointing the fan to the right, he looks up.

becoming simple Suma folk--

Circles to the left.

such is our clan's fate; how forlorn we are!

Stops at back stage center.

Kakeai   The chanting changes from the melodic to the dynamic mode.


And then, on the night of the sixth day of the second month
Tsunemori, my father, gathered us together
to enjoy ourselves with song and dance.


And your entertainment that night,
the elegant flute music from your encampment,
was clearly heard by us on the opposing side.


It was indeed Atsumori,
awaiting the end, his bamboo flute

WAKI:   accompanying a variety of

SHITE:   ballads and songs,

WAKI:   many voices

Issei   The shite circles right to the shite spot.

CHORUS:   arise, creating steady cadences.

Chû-no-mai or otoko-mai   The shite performs a sprightly yet elegant dance to the music of the flute and hand drums. This dance, unusual in a warrior play, emphasizes Atsumori's artistic sensitivity. The context also foregrounds the flute music, which is the normal accompaniment to the dance. image

SHITE:   Standing a shite spot, he raises his fan.

And so it is,
the royal barque sets forth

Brief instrumental interlude.

Noriji   The dynamic song becomes strongly rhythmical; it is congruent with the steady beats of the drums.

CHORUS:   and all the members of the clan

The shite stamps his feet.

board their ships to sail.

Making a sweeping point with the fan, he turns to the right.

Not wanting to be late

Goes to the front of the stage.

Atsumori races to the shore;
the royal barque and troop ships too
have already put out to sea.

Raises the fan over his head and looks out into the distance.

SHITE:   (noncongruent)   It's hopeless! Reigning in his horse

Mimes pulling on the reigns with his left hand.

amidst the breakers, he stands bewildered.

Waves the fan in a figure-eight pattern to indicate agitation.

Chûnoriji   Dynamic chanting is congruent to half-beat drum rhythms.


At that very moment

The shite stamps his feet.

from behind comes

Turns and faces the bridgeway.

Kumagae no Jirô Naozane.
"Don't flee!"

Hurries to the shite spot.

he shouts and charges.
Atsumori too

Moves quickly to center front.

out his horse, and

Reins in his horse and races backstage.

in the breakers they draw swords

Mimes drawing his sword using his fan and goes to the corner. 20

and exchange blows, twice, thrice,

Strikes with his fan.

they are seen to strike;
on horseback they grapple,

Wraps his arms around himself.

then fall to the wave-swept shore,

Twirls around and kneels.

one atop the other; finally
struck down, Atsumori dies;

Points his fan to head and looks down.

the wheel of fate turns, and they meet.

Stands, goes to center back and draws his sword. Atsumori draws sword.

"The enemy's right here!"

Hurries toward the waki at the waki spot.

he cries and is about to strike.

Raises his sword to strike.

Returning good for evil,


the priest performs services and prays

Stands and returns to back stage.

that in the end they will be reborn together

Spreads his arms and moves toward the waki again; drops his sword.

on a single lotus petal,

Circles to the corner.

and Renshô the priest 21
is an enemy no more.

Returns to the shite spot.

Please pray for my soul,

Makes prayer gesture toward the waki.

please pray for my soul.

Turns to face the bridgeway and performs closing stamps; then exits slowly.