It is maple viewing season in Mount Togakushi in Shinano Province (Nagano Prefecture). A beautiful lady (shite in the first act) has brought her servants (tsure) on a maple viewing picnic and is resting under the trees.
About that time the warrior Taira no Koremochi (waki), who is on a hunting trip with his retainers and assistants (waki-tsure), passes close by the group of ladies on horseback. Since he has noticed some human silhouettes, Koremochi orders his retainer to go and check what is going on. The retainer learns from a maidservant (ai) that this is the banquet of a certain noble lady.
To avoid offending the ladies Koremochi gets off his horse and is about to go on with his hunting trip, when the beautiful noblewoman pulls him by the sleeve and asks him to join the banquet. Koremochi drinks a few cups of wine and, enthralled by the lady's graceful dance, eventually falls asleep. Gradually it gets dark and stormy clouds appear in the sky. The women whisper to the sleeping Koremochi "Don't wake up" and disappear into thin air.
The deity Takeuchi who serves Bodhisattva Hachiman appears in Koremochi's dream and warns him that the lady he has met is none other than the she-devil of Mount Togakushi. Takeuchi bestows upon Koremochi a special sword and urges him to wake up.
Koremochi wakes in the middle of a storm. Amid the lightnings and booming thunders appears a demon (shite in the second act). The demon hurls flames at Koremochi from the top of the cliffs and the sky, but the brave warrior remains calm. Praying to Bodhisattva Hachiman in his heart, he fights back and after a fierce battle manages to vanquish the demon.
The kind and beautiful lady turned out to be a devil! "Momijigari" is a play that depicts the legend of the killing of the Mount Togakushi Demon. It is written by Kanze Kojirō Nobumitsu (a fifteenth century Noh actor). Unlike other Noh plays in which a demon suddenly appears and attacks, this one is about a demon who, disguised as a beauty, plots to seduce the hero and strike him when he is most vulnerable.
At the center of the demon's plot are the two dances performed by the suspicious beauties, who are in fact demons in disguise. The ‘kuse-mai’ dance accompanying the chant has a somewhat bewitching quality to it.
The dance accompanied by music is very slow and graceful at first, but suddenly the tempo speeds up and the movements become very animated. The dance keeps the spectators on the edge of their seats, suggesting that something terrible is going to happen. With all this tension built up, the scene changes to the emergence of the she-devil and her fight with Koremochi. The play captivates the audience's attention until the very end.
Taira no Koremochi is an eleventh century warrior famous for his strength and courage. He was chosen as the hero of "Momijigari", probably because there is some evidence that he served as the governor of Shinano Province. Koremochi's part in the play is also one of its focal points.
Koremochi's nickname is Yogoshōgun (fifteenth general) and that is why the alternative name of the play "Momijigari" is also "Yogoshōgun".
In the ‘kogaki’ (special direction) "Onizoroi", the second act of the play involves not just one, but many demons, who appear side by side. Although this direction is used to emphasize the horror of the scene, the scene of the demons lined up in front of the maple mountain prop gives the impression of splendor.