Michitoshi, a man living in the village of Takayasu (today, Osaka Pref.) believed the words of a slanderer and banished from home his son, Shuntokumaru. Regretting his cruel decision, he has decided to give alms for a period of seven days at Tennōji temple (an abbreviation of Shitennōji temple, today in Tennōji City). Having reached Tennōji, Michitoshi’s servant announces his intent to the many people crowding the temple’s precincts.
A blind man with a faltering gait called Yoroboshi (The Stumbling Boy) appears. He can smell the fragrance of the plum trees in bloom, as flowers scatter on his sleeves. Yoroboshi praises this temple not only for the alms he can receive, but also for the fragrance of the plum blossoms. Then, he recounts how Prince Shōtoku founded Tennōji. As Michitoshi watches this scene, he realizes that Yoroboshi is his son, Shuntokumaru. He decides that tonight, after most people have left, he will reveal his identity to his son, and bring him back home.
The sun is about to set, and Yoroboshi prepares for the evening service, called the Sun Contemplation, performed while facing West, where the Pure Land of Amida is supposed to be. Yoroboshi remembers the landscape of Naniwa Bay, from where he could see Awaji, Eshima, Suma, Akashi, and the Kii province. Though now blind the memory of this landscape is still vivid in his heart. Toward the south, he remembers the Pines of Sumiyoshi, in the East Mt. Kusaka, as well as Nagara Bridge in the North. While lost in remembrance, he bumps into the many visitors at Tennõji.
Night has fallen. Eventually, Michitoshi reveals that he is the father of Yoroboshi, and the two of them return home together.
The bright and gentle elements of the plum-scented precincts of Tennōji Temple, the deep compassion of the Buddha and the picturesque scenery seen through the eyes of the heart are juxtaposed against the harsh reality of Yoroboshi’s blindness, creating a unique atmosphere. The author is Kanze Motomasa (1394-1432), son of Zeami. Shitennōji Temple, was founded by Prince Shōtoku, one of the key figures in the propagation of Buddhism in Japan. Today, it is a busy tourist destination. In the Middle Ages, Tennō-ji was a place where people from all walks of life gathered, as depicted in the play Yoroboshi.
In fact, it is said that there was a beggar performer known as Yoroboshi at Tenno-ji, and the temple was open to people from the lower strata of society. The character of Yoroboshi later developed into the story of Shuntokumaru in medieval and early modern forms of storytelling arts such as Sekkyō-bushi and Sekkyō jōruri.
The highlight of the story is the scene where Yoroboshi sees the scenery of Naniwa Bay with his mind's eye before he is pulled back into reality. This sudden shift in Yoroboshi’s emotions is highlighted by a change in the tempo of chant and music. Another highlight of the play is the scene in which Yoroboshi tells the story of Tennōji. In the mōmoku no mai performance variant, the protagonist dances holding both his fan and his stick. The iroe dance sequence may be performed differently from the usual choreography. Additionally, the scene recounting the origin story of Tennjōji may be cut.