One snowy day a Buddhist Priest (waki) is visiting the Sagano area in northwest Kyoto. The Monk has been given the name ‘Carriage Priest’ because he rides on a carriage that he can pull only using his spiritual powers. As the Priest travels, he meets a Yamabushi mountain priest (shite in the first act) who orders him to stop. In reality, the Yamabushi is a tengu in disguise. Tengu are supernatural creatures who are said to live in the mountains. Disguised as Yamabushi, they trick Buddhist priests, trying to make them doubt their faith. Although the fake Yamabushi engages the Carriage Priest in religious questioning on the Buddhist Law, the Priest’s heart is unperturbed. Seeing that his tricks have no effect, the Yamabushi declares to be Tarō-bō, a Tengu living on Mt. Atago, then disappears flying in a black cloud.
A smaller tengu called Mizogoe (ai-kyōgen) appears and explains that his name was given to him by Tarō-bō because he could fly over a wide ditch (‘mizo’) . He, too, tries to trick the Carriage Priest, but fails. Saying that he will report to Tarō-bō, he leaves.
The scene is now snowy Mt. Atago. Tarō-bō appears in his true form as a tengu. He provokes the Priest, saying that he will not be able to pull the cart in such snow, and challenges him to compare their strength. Ignoring the tengu’s provocations, the Priest enjoys the wonderful snowy landscape from Mt. Atago. Finally, annoyed by the tengu’s inability to pull the cart, the Priest waves his wand and all of the sudden the cart starts moving. Impressed by the Priest’s spiritual superiority, Tarō-bō desists from tempting him, and disappears.
The carriage is a recurrent image in Buddhism, symbolizing the vehicle of enlightenment and the travel of souls across existential dimensions. In the play, the Priest rides on a carriage that he pulls through his spiritual powers. The tengu Tarō-bō, dressed as a Yamabushi, tries to lead the Carriage Priest the wrong way by asking trick questions on Buddhism. However, no matter how much the Tarō-bō tries to confuse him, the Priest’s faith is unwavering.
The highlight of the second half is the strength comparison between the Tengu and the Priest. No matter how much the Tengu tries to pull the cart move, it will not budge. However, it only takes the Carriage Priest to wave his wand for the cart to move. Tarō-bō is finally defeated: realizing the superiority of his opponent, he joins hand as a sign of respect. Thanks to his spiritual powers, the Carriage Priest travels across the land preaching the Buddha’s Way to all people.