Lord Taira Munemori (waki) wants to take his favorite courtesan, Lady Yuya (shite), to the capital Kyoto. It is the height of spring and Munemori intends to take Yuya to a picnic under the cherry blossoms.
Lady Yuya is the owner of an inn at Ikeda in Tōtoumi Province.
Since her old mother has fallen gravely ill, Yuya asks for permission to return to her hometown and look after her, but Munemori refuses to let her go.
At that time, Asagao (tsure), Lady Yuya’s servant, arrives with a letter from her mother, concerned about her daughter’s absence. Yuya heads for Munemori’s chambers to show him the letter and once again ask for permission to take a leave. In her letter, Yuya’s mother compellingly expresses her hope to see her daughter one last time before she dies.
However, Munemori is unyielding, and takes the grieving Yuya on the cherry blossom viewing trip. They get on an ox-carriage and head for Kiyomizu Temple. From inside the carriage, the spring atmosphere in the capital seems cheerful, and the streets are teeming with people.
However, every time the carriage passes by a temple, Yuya is overwhelmed with concern about her mother. As soon as the group arrives at Kiyomizu Temple, Yuya hurries to the main sanctuary to pray for her mother, but is soon summoned by Munemori for the picnic.
At the picnic site, Yuya is asked to perform a dance.
While she is dancing, a passing rainshower scatters the petals of the blooming cherries. Yuya likens the falling flowers to her mother’s life and composes a poem. Moved by the poem, Munemori finally gives Yuya the long awaited permission and she hastens to return to her mother.
This Noh play is based on an episode from “The Tale of the Heike”.
It portrays the image of a beautiful woman sinking into despair, contrasting against the background of the cheerful atmosphere in mid-spring Kyoto.
The text of the letter with the mother’s plea for her daughter, Yuya’s gloom-ridden heart contrasting with the cheerful scenery seen from the carriage’s window, the spring view from Kiyomizu Temple - the whole play is studded with beautifully crafted expressions, which fills the libretto with plenty of highlights.
During the trip from Munemori’s mansion to Kiyomizu Temple, a prop representing a beautiful oxcart is used to lend color to the scene.
Yuya’s mesmerizing dance is also one of the highlights of the play.
Yuya’s pride as a royal courtesan is at stake when she is asked to liven up the banquet with her dance, but her concern for her bedridden old mother and the lack of sympathy from her lord render her powerless.
Therefore, besides beauty and elegance, you can see in Yuya’s motions a trace of melancholy.
The beauty of her dance is emphasized by the view of the falling cherry blossoms, scattered by the wind and rain. One can only imagine Munemori’s emotions at such a sight.
“Yuya” is a play with a variety of special directions, or ‘kogaki’. The “yomitsugi-no-den” version shows Munemori and Yuya reading the mother’s letter in unison.
In the “murasame-dome” version, Yuya brings her dance to an early end. In the “sumitsugi-no-den” version, Yuya makes motions as if dipping the brush in ink, while writing the poem on a piece of paper. In the “shikkō” version, when handing the poem to Munemori, Yuya walks on her knees.