Makino Kojirō is the child of Saemon, who killed by Tone Nobutoshi, a man from Sagami (currently Kangawa Prefecture). In order to avenge the murder of his father, Kojirō calls his older brother, who became a monk, and start wondering the provinces looking for their father’s killer. Nobutoshi is terrified by the revenge that may strike him and has been seeing nightmares. Together with his Servant, he travels to a shrine in Mishima to undergo purification rituals. He warned his Servant not to let anyone know about his identity. However, the curious Servant notices two itinerant entertainers, known as “hōka,” performing on the street. Though his master calls him back, the Servant approaches them. In reality, the two entertainers are Kojirō and his older brother. They perform a “zen mondō” (a witty question-and-answer dialog) and dance with a small drum tied to the waist. When Nobutoshi, distracted by the entertainers’ skills, lets his guard down, the two brothers attack.
Hōka were a kind of itinerant entertainer popular medieval Japan. Some of them dressed in priestly garb, hence the name “hōka priest” (hōka-zō). In this play, the older brother is a priest, while the younger brother is not. Hōka would perform numerous kinds of acts using various tools and musical instruments, including the “kokiriko” and the “sasara”. Some of these are visible in the illustrated scroll “Tengu zōshi”. The “kakko” dance in which the older brother mimes striking a small drum tight to his waist is a symbolizes the dances anciently performed by the hōka. In this nō play we can see the vestiges of ancient popular entertainments.
Like another famous play, “Mochizuki,” in “Hōka-zō” the protagonists disguise themselves and perform dances with the purpose of taking revenge. In “Mochizuki,” the protagonist performs the “shishimai” lion dance while the other characters perform a narrative chant and a dance with the small “kakko” drum. In these plays, the dexterity of the protagonists and their resourcefulness in overcoming crisis combine to maintain a sense of tension as the highlight scene unfolds.
The Mishima shrined, where this play is set, is thought to be in present-day Kanagawa Prefecture. It is said that Minamoto no Yoritomo, who ruled Kamakura, worshipped the deity of Mishima Shrine in Shizuoka Prefecture.