Kiri Hitoha (a single paulownia leaf) (桐一葉)

Kiri Hitoha (a single paulownia leaf) is a glance Shoyo TSUBOUCHI's Kabuki program. It was serialized in "Waseda Bungaku (Waseda Literature)" from November 1894 to September 1895. The first performance was given at Tokyo-za (kabuki theater) in March 1904.
Six acts and sixteen scenes

Seeking new Kabuki

Shoyo had already made great achievements in the creation of Japanese literature by publishing two works: "Essence of Novels" and "Tosei shosei katagi (The Character of Modern Students, 1885-6)." While he was engaged in translating Shakespeare's English works, he launched the creation of Japanese modern dramas. "Kiri Hitoha" is the beginning of such creations. Aiming at creating a new kabuki drama unlike traditional unrealistic scripts or historical drama modernized only on the surface, he published a paper titled "Wagakuni no Shigeki (Japan's historical drama)" in 1893 and put his theory into practice by creating this work.

Shoyo cited the following motives for creating "Kiri Hitoha" in 1915: Dissatisfaction with historical dramas; wishing to combine the advantages of Shakespeare's histories and Kabuki; and wishing to compose a serious tragedy of different episodes. He also wrote it on the assumption that Katsumoto would be acted by Danjuro ICHIKAWA the ninth and Yodogimi by Kikugoro ONOE the fifth. However neither of them survived the first performance.

Shoyo made his disciple, Saseki HASEGAWA, write it as a draft on the theme of disturbance within the Toyotomi family immediately after Osaka Natsu no Jin (Summer Siege of Osaka). However, Shoyo was not satisfied with it and completed the final version by himself on the basis of the draft. Kiri Hitoha, when published first, was in the style of Yomihon (copy for reading)--a style not suited for stage presentation. The author by himself revised it to Kabuki style. Kiri Hitoha script commonly presented today was written 'for a demonstratio'in performances at Teikoku-Gekijo Theatre in April 1915. Shoyo said, "new sake is put in an old kawabukuro (leather bag)." It is performed in the traditional kabuki kyogen play with Joruri (a dramatic narrative chanted to a samisen accompaniment), Shimoza (background music player), and narimono (musical instruments) frequently used for stage effect, but the contents of the play is a large scale tragedy greatly influenced by Shakespeare. Its role in the field of literature is great as the beginning of new Kabuki.

Shoyo said, 'In short, I started to write this work with a view and ambition in my mind to inspire noble, hero- and lady-oriented, intellectual audience, who like historical dramas, the maruhon shiki (style of complete set of books) and kusazoshi-style featuring common, rude people and having a lot of ordinary and interesting scenes--contrary to the characteristics of those audiences--and imply my ambition to support the so-called kokugeki shiki (national drama style)--a non-doctorine, loose, and neutral style--to foreign aesthetes, who hold a strict and rigid view.'
(Preface of "Kiri Hitoha for performance on stage" published in May 1915)

Its sequel, "Hototogisu Kojo no Rakugetsu (The Sinking Moon over the Lonely Castle Where the Cuckoo Cries)" was first performed at Osaka Kadoza theater in May 1905.

Summary of the story

The drama describes a distressed Katsumoto KATAGIRI, loyal vassal to the Toyotomi clan in Osaka after the Battle of Sekigahara.

Ieyasu TOKUGAWA who wanted to ruin the Toyotomi family carped at the name given to a temple bell of Hoko-ji Temple. In addition, he made an unreasonable demand for the transfer of Hideyori TOYOTOMI to Yamatokoriyama, annual sankin (daimyo's alternate-year residence in Edo), and offering Kodaiin to Edo as a hostage, intimidating to attack the family otherwise. Members of the Toyotomi family became puzzled and irritated. Katsumoto KATAGIRI who acted as a negotiator with the Tokugawa clan inevitably became a target of attacks against the Toyotomi family. A groundless rumor was circulated that he was an unfaithful guy in secrete communication with Tokugawa, and there were signs of attempts at overthrowing Katsumoto in the Osaka-jo castle.

Act 1: A scene of Okudono (manor) in the Osaka castle

In the castle, female servants and Chinpaku, chabozu (tea-server) are talking malicious gossip about Katsumoto. Katsumoto's daughter Kagero is hurt from hearing about such a reputation about her father. Ginnojo who is in love with her makes a pass at her. Ginnojo was the son of a distinguished family; he was a younger brother of Kuranosuke WATANABE, senior vassals of the Toyotomi family, and his mother was Shoeini, Yotdodono's confidant. He has a pure heart but lacks wisdom. Kagero, a fiancé of Shigenari KIMURA, brushed him off. Seeing the couple having an argument, Chinpaku decided to gave up katsumoto and sided with Doken ONO and his son, although they had been political enemies.

A scene of chashitsu (tea-ceremony room) in a back garden.

Regarding Katsumoto as Kanja (spy) of Tokugawa, Doken ONO and his son Shuri ONO plot to tempt impulsive Ishikawa Izu no kami (Governor of Izu Province) to kill Katsumoto within the castle.

Act 2: Scene of Sakuragari (Cherry blossom Viewing) on Mt. Yoshino

Yodogimi and Hideyoshi were celebrating a victory of the Bunroku-Keicho War in Mt. Yoshino. During the celebratory feast under cherry blossoms in full bloom, two guys wearing masks of Buaku (demons) appeared with a female mago (packhorse driver). One, who turned out to be Narimasa SASSA, kills Hideyoshi. The corpse incredibly stands up and turns out to be Mitsunari ISHIDA in disguise. Hideyoshi, in reality, was the other guy wearing a Buaku mask. Yodogimi is discovered to have been dressed as mago. The two start to cerebrate the feast again. However, Hideyoshi turned into Hidetsugu TOYOTOMI who had died in a fit of anger.

A scene of Chikushozuka (Mound of Beasts)

Scene of Mt. Yoshino in a splendid atmosphere is turning into a desolate graveyard. This is Chikushozuka where the head of Hidetsugu has been buried. Yodogimi suffers from the vengeful ghosts of Hidetsugu, Yukinaga KONISHI, and Mitsunari ISHIDA.

Scene of secret words of advice given at Yodogimi's bedchamber

All that happened was just a dream of Yodogimi. Exhausted physically and mentally, Yodogimi is indignant with the maltreat of the Tokugawa family. Then Shoeini came to inform her of the three unreasonable demands, that made her temper grow worse and worse. Shuri ONO, Yodogimi's favorite retainer advises that Katsumoto KATAGIRI be purged for treason.

Act 3: Scene of tamari (a dark sauce) in the castle

Ishikawa Izu no kami tempered by the father and son of the Ono abuses Katsumoto to his face. However Katsumoto does nothing, but endures it. His behavior of begging for his life made Izu no kami despise him and he kicked him down.

Scene of meeting at kuroshoin (private residential quarters)

Hideyori and Yodogimi summoned some vassals and they were discussing how to deal with Katsumoto. The father and son of the Ono insisted on a penalty. Hideyori was pursuade by Shigenari KIMURA, who attended the castle at that time, ordered Shigenari to act as an envoy to find out Katsumoto's real intentions.

An envoy at the Katagiri residence

Late at night, Katsumoto is alone having a hard time trying to figure out how to manage war funds with an abacus in his hands. His wife Hitoha shed tears and expressed the intolerable hardship about her husband being abused as a traitor or coward. Then Shigenari came as an envoy of Hideyori's. Katsuyori expresses his opinion that a conflict with the Tokugawa family is inevitable, but it is time to gain strength and wait for right time. He urged the importance of accepting unreasonable demands now in order to do so. Shigenari is impressed by his farsightedness. And here another man, Izu no kami, who has sneaked into the room, appears. Ashamed of his ignorance, he apologizes by cutting out his eye. Katsuyori explains how stupid it was to act so impetuously.

Act 4: Scene in front of the torii (an archway to a Shinto shrine) to Hokoku-jinja Shrine

Chinpaku ordered by the father and son of the Ono tells Kagero to ask her fiancé, Shigenari KIMURA, for good offices in order to save her father. This is in fact a plot to make him dispel Yodogimi's disfavor and attend the castle before killing him there. Not knowing about this plot, kagero soon writes a letter, but Ginnojo snatches it from her. Mukudori, a female servant, further snatches the letter, and the three leave the stage scrambling for it.

Scene in front of Zuijinmon (gate of shrine)

Unfortunately the three happened to meet Yodogimi who is visiting the shrine. Kagero swallows half of the letter, but had the rest snatched. Then Chinpaku comes and lies that it is a love letter to Shigenari. Yodogimi, suspicious, tells Kagero to go to Aeba's room, a female servant.

Act 5: Scene of Kuranosuke WATANABE's residence

Ginnojo in love with Kagero, was throwing a tantrum, which created a headache for people surrounding him including his menoto (a woman providing breast-feeding to a highborn baby), Otora. His mother Shoeini is secretly talking about something with Kuranosuke.

Scene in the room of Aeba no Tsubone (one of wet nurses for Yodo-dono)

Shoeini visits Kagero and urges her to get married with Ginnojo and write a letter to Katsumoto to ask him to attend the castle, in exchange for saving the hardship of her father. Kagero has no choice, but to agree. Aeba comes back after Shoeini goes out and reveals the plot of the father and son of the Ono, saying that writing letter could put her father into jeopardy. She gets half mad knowing that she had been involved in the plot.

Scene of a suicide of a menoto in the long corridor of Okudono

Ginnojo, knowing that he is able to marry her, indulges in orgies with female servants. The news of Kagero's suicide arrives. Ginnojo yells out in tears and takes it out on the surroundings, going mad and throwing himself down into a pond. His menoto follows him and kills herself.
(The original version subsequently includes a scene where Doken and Shoeini are plotting to kill Katsumoto and a report that Shuri ONO was soothing Yodogimi who was starting to go mad.)

Scene of Chinpaku's unnatural death at Yodogimi's bedchamber

Afflicted by anxiety, Yodogimi is enjoying her tryst with Shuri ONO to escape reality. However she suffers again from the vengeful ghostof Hidetsugu and mistakenly kills Chinpaku who was coming to her.

Act 6: Scene of Oku Shoin, the inner drawing room of the Katagiri residence.

Katsumo makes a decision and is about to attend the castle when he receives a letter from Yodogimi that she never doubted his loyalty. Joshin ODA, a friend of his, informs that the letter from Yodogimi was a plot of the father and son of the Ono and that his daughter Kagero has committed suicide. A war seemed to have started. Ishikawa Izu no kami rush to people here who are feeling uneasy and urges them to start fighting together to defeat the father and son of the Ono. However Katsumoto criticized him for his shallow thinking and grieved to know that an internal conflict in the Toyotomi family had given an opportunity to the Tokugawa family of taking advantage of the conflict and that his plan had been bedeviled by inadvertent behavior of Izu no kami. Izu no kami kills himself in self-reproach. It is only a matter of time before the father and son of the Ono attack. Katsumoto decided to leave the residence.
Seeing paulownia leaves slowly falling, he sighs and says, '我が名にちなむ庭前の、梧桐尽く揺落なし、蕭条たる天下の秋、ああ有情も洩れぬ栄枯盛衰、是非もなき定めじゃなあ。'

A scene of farewell at Nagara zutsumi

After a member in the group of the father and son of the Ono is driven away with a gun, Katsumoto who goes to the bank of the Yodo-gawa River alone before dawn stares at Osaka-jo castle in the distance with emotion as he waits for Shigenari KIMURA. Before long when Shigenari arrives, Katsumoto opens his heart and regrets that he had been devoted to the Toyotomi family to the very end in vain and that the war with the Tokugawa family became inevitable. Katsumoto leaves things to Shigenari and the two part to their separate ways.

Katsumoto KATAGIRI

Nizaemon KATAOKA (the 11th)

Yodo-dono/female mago

Utaemon NAKAMURA (the fifth)

Shigenari KIMURA/Narimasa SASSA

Koshiro MATSUMOTO VII (the seventh)

Ishikawa Izu no kami/Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI

Danshiro ICHIKAWA (the second)


Sojuro SAWAMURA (the seventh)


Monnosuke ICHIKAWA (the sixth)

Doken ONO

Sumizo ICHIKAWA (the fifth)

Shuri ONO

Tosshi SAWAMURA (the seventh)

Aeba no Tsubone/Otora, menoto

Denkuro NAKAMURA (the sixth)


Nakazo NAKAMURA (the fourth)

Great actors and 'Kiri Hitoha'

Yodogimi was a star role for Utaemon NAKAMURA the fifth and Yorimoto was a star role for KATAOKA Nizaemon the eleventh. Both actors repeatedly performed these roles. Utaemon was so obsessed with his performance of hysteric Yodogimi that he visited a mental hospital to observe patients. Utaemon's performance of Yodogimi created through such efforts gained a first-rate reputation. He himself established 'Yodogimi shu' of his family's accomplishment and his skillful expression of her elocution was impersonated or recorded on discs offered for sale. This artistic proficiency was handed down to their sons, Utaemon NAKAMURA (the sixth) and KATAOKA Nizaemon (the 13th).

In addition, Shigenari KIMURA played by Uzaemon ICHIMURA (the 15th) and Jukai ICHIKAWA (the thirrd) and Ginnojo played by Kikugoro ONOE (the sixth) and Baiko ONOE (the seventh) were so great that they were long remembered in history. In particular, Shigenari KIMURA played by Jukai in 1968 was perfection. Jukai was over 80 years old when he performed the role, but it is said that his fresh acting style and delightful delivery made himself look in every respect like a twenty-year old young man as written in the script.

Nizaemon KATAOKA (the 13th), who was not able to forget great performances by Nizaemon KATAOKA (the 11th) who played Katsumoto and by Uzaemon ICHIMURA who played Shigenari, performed 'Nagara zutsumi' with his son Takao (present Nizaemon KATAOKA) at Tenryu-ji Temple in the 1960's. At that time Nizaemon performed his father's serifu mawashi (theatrical elocution) and taught Takao serifu mawashi of Uzaemon. Nizaemon's desire to perform 'Nagara zutsumi' together with Takao at least once on a theater stage was achieved in run-through performances at National Theater in November 1988. (In addition, Yodogimi played by Baiko ONOE the seventh and Izu no kami played by Uzaemon ICHIMURA the 17th) It was planned to record the performance of Senshuraku (the last day of a performance) in the film at that time. However, unfortunately it was not realized because Nizaemon came down sick suddenly the previous day.

Kiri Hitoha' rich in literary quality

Words written by Shoyo, unlike traditional words in Kabuki, uses a difficult passage, but are of high artistic quality, giving dignity to this drama. The most famous are the sorrowful words by Katsumoto and Shigenari at 'Nagara zutsumi,' a monologue by Katsumoto of Scene one, Act six, 'Associated with the name of the family in the front yard' as mentioned above starting, and long words by Yodogimi in the third Act two. The words are as follows.


This is delivered in a high-class beautiful tone of words, and was a drawing card for Utaemon NAKAMURA the fifth.

Roan UCHIDA regarded publishing 'Kiri Hitoha' as revolutionary. When Mr. Tsubouchi wrote "Kiri Hitoha," Kabuki was just like an autocratic large country in which Kabuki Danjuro was the Pope, Ochi-koji was dai saiso (great prime minister), and Mokuamii geki (drama) was a Constitution. Courage was needed to criticize or write a new script, in this situation, just like when Lutheran burned migyosho (documents for informing of decisions made by third or upper ranked authorities) of the Pope.
...He opened a new gate of the land of Kabuki that had been closed for hundreds of years and kept away from others.'
He commented in ("Shoyogo [number of Shoyo] Chuo Koronsha" in 1911). He opened a large hole to let modern air into the closed world of Kabuki where only scripts written by Kabuki playwrights working in the theater had been performed so far (except for the performance in 1899 of "Akugenta" written by Shoo MATSUI). Since then, a large number of new Kabuki have been created by Onitaro OKA, Kido OKAMOTO, Kaoru OSANAI, Daigo IKEDA, Seika MAYAMA, Seiichi FUNAHASHI, Junichiro TANIZAKI and other outside writers.

The influence of Shakespeare's work can be found.
Katsumoto is quite similar to Hamlet's characteristics.,
It is pointed out that Kagero was inspired by Ophelia, Ginnojo by "King Lear," his death by a scene of Ophelia's death by drowning in "Hamlet," Yodogimi's killing of Chinpaku by the murder of Polonius, and Yodogimi's characteristics by the wife of Macbeth, and so forth. In contrast, words and expression of Joruri (dramatic narrative chanted to samisen accompaniment) show the influences of Monzaemon CHIKAMATSU. Shoyo's grand ambition to combine the two greatest drama of the East and West can be inferred.

[Original Japanese]