In the hamlet of Yase (currently Sakyō district of Kyoto, near the western foot of Mount Hiei), there lives a certain Buddhist priest (waki). Every day a lady (tsure) comes to his home to bring him fruit and firewood. Today, yet again, she appears from the direction of Ichihara-no (a mountainous area to the west of Yase). Singing a song enumerating various fruits and nuts, she presents her offering to the priest. When the priest asks her to tell him her name, the woman replies that she is simply an old lady that lives in Ichihara-no. After hinting that she is the ghost of the ancient beauty Ono-no-Komachi, she suddenly disappears.
As the priest prays for the salvation of Komachi's soul, her ghost (tsure) appears before him and thanks him for the prayers. Just at that moment, the vengeful ghost of Komachi's lover, General Fukakusa (shite), appears. He insists that Komachi should not have the Buddhist commandments imparted to her, thus preventing her soul from attaining Buddhahood. However, the priest is determined to go on with the ritual. He orders General Fukakusa's ghost to reenact his 100 night wooing of Komachi as a form of penance.
Komachi had told the enamoured General Fukakusa that she will accept him as a lover if he woos her for a hundred consecutive nights.
Night after night, General Fukakusa came and left a mark on the ox-cart hitching platform by her house. Komachi had told him to come in disguise, so Fukakusa always came on foot dressed in a straw hat and raincoat. In this way, he managed to persevere for 99 nights.
At last, the 100th night came. General Fukakusa wanted to drink some wine in celebration, but remembering the Buddhist strict prohibition, he abstained from doing so. Because of the virtue of this particular act, General Fukakusa is absolved of his sins and, together with Ono-no-Komachi, attains Buddhahood.
Ono-no-Komachi is a 9 c. poet known as one of the six great poets of the Heian era. Probably because of her numerous passionate love poems, she is depicted in many stories as a promiscuous woman of exceptional beauty. During the middle ages, the story that she spent a miserable and lonely old age because of her many short-lived affairs with men became particularly popular.
In the play "Kayoi Komachi", the legend of Ono-no-Komachi is interwoven with the legend of the "100 night wooing".
That particular legend goes as follows: Once upon a time a woman who was romantically pursued by a certain man told him that she would accept him as a lover if he managed to woo her for 100 consecutive nights. The man persevered night after night, even in the rain and snow. However, on the 99th night the man died of illness (there are many versions of the legend, such as the man being unable to go because of his parents' illness).
That man is often referred to as General Fukakusa, and in many versions the woman is said to have been the legendary beauty Ono-no-Komachi.
The main highlight of this play is the scene where General Fukakusa reenacts the "100 night wooing". Rambling in the dark, straw hat in hand, he reveals through his movements the devotion of a man madly in love and on the brink of death. Standing beside him, Komachi continues to suffer for her sinful act even in death.