Fujiwara-no-Moronaga, a master of biwa[2], can no longer find any better player than him in Japan, which has made him decide to go to China to improve his skill further. His party leaves Kyoto and arrives at the Suma-no-ura coast, where he decides to stay in a seawater scooper[3]’s house for the night. In response to request from an old master of the house, Moronaga plays biwa, when it begins to rain. When the rain starts to become hard, the old man takes out an old rush mat and lays it on the roof. Asked by Moronaga why, the old man says, “I did it to harmonize the sounds of the biwa and the rain.” Moronaga passes his biwa to the old man, and the old man and his wife play biwa and koto[4] respectively – it is a great performance.


The couple turns out to be the ghosts of Emperor Murakami and the empress. They disappear after saying that they showed up there to make Moronaga stop short of going to China.


(Temporary exit by the main actor)


The emperor comes out with his look of old days when he was alive. He makes a dragon deity bring “Shishimaru”, a famed, legendary biwa which is said to have sunk to the bottom of the sea. Then he gives it to Moronaga and dances splendidly in front of Moronaga.


This play is designed in a very refined and interesting manner – for example, the song which describes the old man playing biwa is arranged to fit a gagaku[5] piece “Etenraku”.



Introduction written by Ken Takahashi

Translated by Yusuke Kobayashi

[1] The name of a famed biwa2.

[2] A traditional Japanese musical instrument also known as Japanese lute.

[3] A person who scoops water from the sea to make salt.

[4] Another traditional Japanese instrument which resembles zither.

[5] Ceremonial court music of Japan.



【 玄象 】









文   高橋 健


During his visit around western part of Japan, a travelling monk from Kyoto (waki: the part opposite the lead) arrives at the coast of Yashima and meets two fishermen, an old one and a young one, at dusk. The monk asks them to lodge him for the night and they offer him their salt-making cottage . In response to the monk’s request, the old fisherman starts to narrate the famous battle in Yashima between the Genji and Heike clans. After describing the spectacular battle, the old man implies that he is the ghost of Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune, a great Genji warrior. Telling the monk to stay in the dream and wait, the old man fades away.

(Temporary exit by the leading actor)

Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune as a warrior appears in the monk’s dream. Yoshitsune says, “I am deep under the sea of life and death…” describing his suffering from his obsession with battle. Yoshitsune prays to the moon in the spring sky for enlightenment.
But failing to break away from the obsession, he is once again dragged into a battle in Shura-doh . In front of the monk, Yoshitsune fights a battle with ghosts of warriors who were unfortunately killed in battlefields, and disappears as the dawn breaks, leaving behind a morning storm which blows emptily.

Allegedly written by Zeami, this play “Yashima” has great depth in its framework of the both scenes, making it a masterpiece Shura-Noh play.

Introduction written by Ken Takahashi
Translated by Yusuke Kobayashi