After finishing his tour of the shrines and temples in the old capital of Nara, a traveling Buddhist priest (waki) decides to visit Hatsuse Temple (currently in Sakurai City, Nara Pref). Along the way, he encounters a woman (shite of act one) traveling upstream Hatsuse River by boat.
The woman, who is also on a pilgrimage to Hatsuse Temple, joins the priest on his trip. The two of them enjoy the beautiful scenery and eventually reach the Twin Cedars - two cedar trees growing from the same roots. The woman recites a poem from "The Tale of Genji", composed by Lady Ukon (the maid of Lady Yūgao): "Had I not gone to see the Twin Cedars I would have never met you in the fields of Furukawa". She then starts narrating the story of Lady Tamakazura - Lady Yūgao's daughter.
Having lost her mother, Lady Yūgao, at an early age, Lady Tamakazura left the capital to live in Tsukushi (Kyūshū Island). The aggressive courtship of the local lord Tayū-no-Gen made her escape back to Kyoto, and Tamakazura was fortuitously reunited with Lady Ukon at Hatsuse. After finishing her story, the woman asks the priest to conduct a memorial service for the repose of Lady Tamakazura's soul. Admitting to be the ghost of Lady Tamakazura, the woman disappears without a trace.
A man (ai) living near Hatsuse Temple approaches the priest.
At the priest's behest, he narrates the full story of Lady Tamakazura, and before leaving, advises the priest to carry out the requested memorial service.
As the priest starts praying, the ghost of Lady Tamakazura (shite of act two), gone mad with her fixation with love, materialises before him. Her soul is suffering from obsessions too strong and too numerous to be swept away. However, after looking back on her love affairs and repenting of her sins, the ghost of Lady Tamakazura achieves spiritual enlightenment and breaks free from her state of confusion and madness. The priest wakes up, realising it had all been a dream.
The Noh play "Tamakazura" is based on the Tamakazura storyline of "The Tale of Genji" (chapters "Tamakazura", "Butterflies", "The Glow-Worm" "Makibashira" and others), focusing on Lady Tamakazura's unfortunate fate and fixation with love.
Tamakazura was the daughter of Tō-no-Chūjō (the son of the minister on the left and brother of Lady Aoi) and Lady Yūgao. In "The Tale of Genji", she is depicted as a girl whose beauty had enchanted many a man's heart.
Having lost her mother, Lady Yūgao, at an early age, Tamakazura moved to Tsukushi. There she grew up as an elegant young lady, but the persistent courtship of Tayū-no-Gen made her leave Kyūshū Island.
After she was reunited with Lady Ukon and adopted by Hikaru Genji, the rumours of her beauty spread far and wide and she was showered with love letters by young nobles from around the court. Even Hikaru Genji himself was drawn to Tamakazura, because she reminded him of her mother, Lady Yūgao. Lady Tamakazura, as depicted in "The Tale of Genji", does not enjoy courtship and is quite confused and embarrassed by love.
Because of her blind wanderings in the realm of love, in the Noh play she is depicted as a soul suffering from obsession and disillusionment with love. It is an interpretation of Tamakazura's story, unique to the author, Konparu Zenchiku.
The costume of Tamakazura's ghost (shite of act two), who enters the stage with the right shoulder of her ‘kosode’ kimono uncovered, represents her state of madness caused by the unfortunate love affairs of her past. It stands in contrast to the graceful and modest presence of the woman (shite of act one) in the first act of the play. The libretto makes use of many expressions related to descriptions of women's hair, all of which are associated with the name of Lady Tamakazura (her name meaning "jewelled chaplet" - a luxurious hair decoration). The gestures describing the lady's hanging sidelocks are also one of the play's highlights. This Noh play presents Lady Tamakazura in a slightly different light than her counterpart in "The Tale of Genji".