Kumagai’s Camp – A Chronicle of the Battle of Ichinotani


Kumagai Jinya – Ichinotani Futaba Gunki

A father’s tortured decision

During the epic Genpei War, General Kumagai is secretly ordered to save the life of a young enemy. Bound by duty to his lord, he follows through with a heart-breaking decision.


by Maekawa Fumiko

If you break one branch…

1184, the war camp of Kumagai, a Genji warrior. An order from General Yoshitsune placed on a young cherry tree proclaims, “He who steals a branch will lose a finger.” Kumagai’s wife Sagami visits the camp, worried about their son, who is in his first battle. She is followed by Fuji-no-kata, whose son Atsumori is around the same age. The women used to be mistress and servant. They are now on opposing sides, and this is their first meeting in 16 years.

【Left】[from left]Mugiroku(Nakamura Matazo)、Koubei(Matsumoto Koemon) February 2008 Kabukiza Theatre
【Right】Fuji-no-kata(Nakamura Kaishun) February 2008 Kabukiza Theatre


Report of the battle

Kumagai returns grimly to the camp. He is surprised to find the two women. Kumagai reveals he has killed Fuji-no-kata’s son on Suma Beach. She angrily tries to stab him, but he stops her. In a highlight, he reconstructs the sad death scene and how brave Atsumori was to the end. In tears, she plays the flute Atsumori left behind as a prayer to his soul. Suddenly a shadow appears on the screen, but it proves an illusion.

【Left】[from left]Fuji-no-kata(Nakamura Kaishun)、Sagami(Sakata Tojuro) April 2010 Kabukiza Theatre
【Center】Kumagai Naozane(Nakamura Kichiemon) April 2010 Kabukiza Theatre
【Right】Fuji-no-kata(Nakamura Kaishun) October 2006 Kabukiza Theatre


Famous notice board pose

Yoshitsune has been waiting to examine the head of Atsumori. Kumagai changes clothes and stands his before master. He pulls out the notice board and presents it to the general. He lefts the lid of the head container. The two wives are astonished – the head is not Astumori, but Kumagai’s own son. Kumagai quickly quiets them. He raises the notice board and waits for Yoshitsune’s judgment.

Kumagai Naozane(Matsumoto Koshiro)、Yoshitsune(Nakamura Baigyoku) February 2008 Kabukiza Theatre


Head inspection

Yoshitsune inspects the head and surprisingly declares it to be Atsumori. Yoshitsune had secretly ordered Kumagai to save the life of Atsumori, who is in the imperial line. His cryptic message on the notice board can also mean, “If you break a part of the imperial lineage, you will lose a son”. Kumagai has thus substituted his own son’s head, and Yoshitsune goes along with the ploy in satisfaction. The two wives are both in shock.

【Left】[from left]Kumagai Naozane(Nakamura Kichiemon)、Yoshitsune(Nakamura Shikan) September 2007 Kabukiza Theatre
【Right】[from top]Kumagai Naozane(Nakamura Kichiemon)、Sagami(Sakata Tojuro) April 2010 Kabukiza Theatre


Secret of stonecutter’s house

A Genji warrior learns the secret and rushes to report that to the Genji leaders. But the stone cutter Midaroku throws a chisel and kills him. Midaroku was in reality a Heike warrior whose compassionate rescue of the young Yoshitsune led indirectly to the destruction of his own clan. Yoshitsune repays the latest favor by handing over Atsumori.

Midaroku(Ichikawa Danshiro) February 2008 Kabukiza Theatre


“16 years, a dream, a dream…”

Kumagai, having lost a son and the meaning of life, reveals that he has shaved his head and plans to become a monk. He is granted leave by Yoshitsune and wears a black robe. He murmurs that the 16 years since the birth of his son are like a dream to him now. He leaves the battlefield to the sound of a battle drum, and walks sadly away.

【Left】Tsutsumi Gunji(Bando Kametoshi)、Sagami(Nakamura Kaishun)、Kumagai Naozane(Kataoka Nizaemon)、Yoshitsune(Nakamura Baigyoku)、Midaroku(Ichikawa Sadanji)、Fuji-no-kata(Kataoka Hidetaro) November 2012 Shimbashi Enbujo Theatre
【Right】Kumagai Naozane(Nakamura Kanzaburo) November 1972 Kabukiza Theatre