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July Grand Kabuki, Matinee

YOSHITSUNE SENBON ZAKURA (Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees)
This play was first performed in the Bunraku puppet theatre and is an epic story about the famous 12th century general Yoshitsune fleeing from the wrath of his brother Yoritomo, after the end of the war. Although Yoshitsune is the title character, the main characters of the play are actually different and this month features the three acts of the play about the magical fox Tadanobu starring Ebizo as Tadanobu and Tamasaburo as Yoshitsune's lover Shizuka Gozen.
Torii Mae (In Front of the Fushimi Inari Shrine)
Yoshitsune (Danjiro) is forced to flee from the troops sent by his brother Yoritomo. The trip will be hard and he decides that he must leave behind his lover Shizuka Gozen (Shun'en), despite her passionate pleas to remain with him. As a reminder of himself, he presents her with a precious hand drum that he had received from the emperor. Yoshitsune's retainer Tadanobu (Ebizo) rescues Shizuka from Yoritomo's troops and Yoshitsune decides to leave her in his care.
Yoshinoyama (Mt. Yoshino)
The story continues with a musical travel scene. Hearing that Yoshitsune has taken refuge in the mountains of Yoshino, Tadanobu (Ebizo) and Shizuka (Tamasaburo) go to try to meet him there. Although Tadanobu keeps disappearing, he always appears when Shizuka plays the precious drum that she received from Yoshitsune. In dance Tadanobu recounts episodes from the Gempei war, including the battle in which his brother died.
Kawatsura Hogen Yakata (The Mansion of the Priest Kawatsura)
Yoshitsune (Monnosuke) has taken refuge in the mountains of Yoshino at the mansion of an old ally. Tadanobu (Ebizo) arrives but has no recollection of Shizuka being placed under his care. Shizuka (Tamasaburo) herself soon arrives with the other Tadanobu and after an investigation they discover that he is actually a fox (Ebizo). In a touching story, the fox tells how he took on human form to be close to the hand drum which is made from the skins of his fox parents. Moved, Yoshitsune gives the fox the drum and he flies away joyously. This scene features the kabuki technique of flying through the air.

Yoshinoyama is a must-see performance.  It's artistic, skillful, and beautiful.


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