A priest from the capital (waki) and his attendant (wakitsure) come to the coast of Suma during their journey. The priest is a former servant of the waka poet Fujiwara no Toshinari, also known as Shunzei. They meet an old fisherman (maeshite) in front of a young cherry tree. When the sun sets and the old fisherman recommends the priest to take lodging under the cherry tree, the priest asks who is the host of this lodging. Reciting a poem saying that the flowers become the host of the night’s lodging when one sleeps under a cherry tree after dark, the old man responds that Lord Satsuma, Taira no Tadanori, who died in the Battle of Ichinotani, rests beneath the tree and suggests priest performs a memorial service for him. The priest is surprised by the mysterious coincidence of seeing the cherry tree where Tadanori, who was a friend in poetry of Toshinari, rests. Eventually the old man says that a message must be carried to the capital and leaves, promising to meet the priest again in a dream.
The priest asks a man from the Coast of Suma (ai) to tell the story about Tadanori, and after the priest goes to sleep, the ghost of Tadanori (nochishite) appears in his dream clad in armor. The ghost laments that his poem in Senzaiwakashū, which was compiled by Shunzei, is credited to an “unknown” author because the Heike clan became the enemy of the imperial court. The ghost therefore asks the priest to visit Toshinari’s son Teika and convey his request for the poem to be credited to his name. The ghost then recounts how, when his clan was fleeing from the capital, he returned to the capital all alone to entrust his poem to Toshinari, and then he recounts his death in combat against Okabe no Rokuyata. The ghost then disappears under the flowers.
Tadanori was Taira no Kiyomori’s younger brother. Poems describe him as a man of both the pen and the sword, as he was one of the foremost poets of the Heike clan while he also excelled in martial arts. Several episodes about him exist in Heike Monogatari, but this noh play draws particularly on the contents of Book 7 “Tadanori Miyako’ochi” and Book 9 “Tadanori Saigo.”
The main motif of this play is a poem written by Tadanori saying that the blossoms become the host of a night’s lodging when one sleeps under a cherry tree after sunset. While no cherry tree stage prop is used, the exchange of verbal imagery of cherry blossoms between the priest and the old fisherman may bring about a sense of a cherry tree’s presence.
The second half of the play reveals why Tadanori appeared as a ghost. His primary concern was the fact that he was credited for his poem as an unknown author. He therefore tells the priest how he entrusted his poem to Toshinari and asks the priest to convey to Toshinari’s son Teika his request for the poem to be credited under his name.
The play’s climax is the scene where the ghost of Tadanori reenacts the sequence of his combat against Rokuyata, showing with detailed movement how he struggled against his opponent, how he fell from his horse, and how he was killed by a blow of his opponent’s sword. Although Tadanori’s ghost plays the part of Tadanori himself in the battle sequence, once Tadanori dies, the ghost plays the part of Rokuyata finding on Tadanori’s corpse a tanzaku card with a poem written on it and realizing who he had killed. Following a recitation of the first line of the aforementioned poem, there is a part where the actor moves in a wide circle encompassing the stage. It may be interesting here to try to guess whether the ghost is playing the part of Tadanori, or of Rokuyata, or both.