Yūkei is a warrior-monk practicing austerities in Nachi (Wakayama Pref.). Together with fellow Monks and a Porter, he is on a pilgrimage across the northeastern provinces when he reaches the remote area of Adachigahara in Michinoku. As the sun is about to set, the party approaches a thatched hut that seems to be inhabited, hoping to find shelter there. From inside the hut a Woman appears, lamenting her solitude. The Woman first refuses to offer the monks lodging, but later she lets them in. Inside the house, she shows the monks how she spins the thread, complaining about her attachment to this impermanent world. It is getting colder, so the woman gets ready to go out and gather brushwood for the night. However, before leaving she makes the monks promise not to look into her bedroom while she is away. These words arouse the curiosity of the Porter. Disobeying the prohibition, he peeps into the Woman’s room and makes a ghastly discovery: a pile of human corpses. Terrified, he alerts Yūkei, then runs away. When the monks look into the Woman’s bedroom and find the corpses, they realize that this must be the Black Mound, where the Demon of Adachigahara dwells. Fearing for their lives, they leave the place in haste.
Suddenly, a strong wind blows, and a storm rises. The Woman reappears in her true form: an angry Demon. Infuriated, she chases after the monks, accusing them of having broken their promise. However, Yūkei and the Monks recite the sacred words of the Buddhist Guardian King Fudō Myōō and manage to subdue the Demon, who disappears into the night storm. In the Kanze school the title of this play is “Adachigahara”, while other schools call it “Kurozuka” (Black Mound).
The Black Mound of Adachigahara in Michinoku is mentioned in a poem from the “Shūiwakashū” collection, on which the play is based. Although its protagonist is a man-eating demon, the story also depicts the solitude of a woman living alone in the mountains, and her disappointment at the monks’ betrayal.
The highlight of the first act is the scene in which the Woman spins the thread, singing a song with plays on the word “thread”. The spinning wheel is also a metaphor of the Buddhist cycle of rebirth.
The highlight of the second half is the battle between the Demon and the monks. The Woman, terribly transfigured by her frustration, returns carrying brushwood on her back. Was she planning to kill and eat the monks from the beginning? Or did she really wanted to take care of them? The story is open to interpretations.
The play features a stage property representing a thatched hut. However, its meaning changes throughout the performance. At the beginning of the play, it is the hut seen from outside. Later, it represents the inside of the hut. Finally, it is the Woman’s bedroom. Or, it could symbolize the place where we all keep our innermost secret.
There are several performing variants to this play, some of which involve a special music and choreography, as well as a combination of costumes and mask, and a different color for the wig in the second act, which can be red, white, or black. Some variants also involve a longer “thread-spinning” scene.