Yashao, the engraver of masks
Katsura, Yashao's daughter
Kaede, Yashao's daughter
Haruhiko, Kaede's husband
Genza Kingo Yoriie
Goro Kageyasu at Shimoda
Kanakubo Hyoe no Jo Yukichika
A Priest at the Temple of Shuzenji
At Yashao's house, an old building with a straw-thatched roof. It is near the Katsura River at Shuzenji Village in the Kano District of Izu.
A few masks hang on a brocken wall.
The entrance, with a blue shop curtain, faces the front.
A kettle made of unglazed pottery sits on a hearth, to the left.
A woven bamboo gate stands at the entrance of the garden.
A large willow tree stands outside.
Beyond the garden stands a temple tower, with mountains and hills in the background.
The time is the 18th of July, the first year of Genkyu.
(The adjoining room is an open-air workshop. Old hanging blinds made of grass separate the workshop from the outside.
In the courtyard two sisters, Katsura, twenty years old, and Kaede, eighteen years old, sit on straw mats along the fence, where fall flowers are in bloom. They are facing each other, working at a wooden block, making paper.
Katsura: (She stops working)
After two hours of this work, my shoulders and hands are growing numb.
Kaede: But, we have just finished Bon Festival holiday yesterday. We should work more enthusiastically today, shouldn't we?
Katsura: In that case, you may as well work by yourself. Father and Mr. Haruhiko will speak highly of you. I hate this job. (She throws away her tool, bored.)
Kaede: But, we did this kind of work in poverty for years. Why do you hate it now?
Katsura: (sneering) I'm no different from before. I have never loved this work. Never! If Father had stayed in Kamakura, our lives would be different.
Father is eccentric; he doesn't care about riches and honors. He lives in a rural shack in Izu. So, we also must live in the country, having no other choice.
But I am not going to spend my life rotting away in the country!
This Shuzenji paper we're making, it will one day be elegantly colored paper, touched by the hands of the noble class, even though it was made by poor people like us.
A woman is no different from this paper.
Even if she is raised among the poor, she may be charming enough to be chosen as a concubine to the Shogun or the Prime Minister.
What good is it to learn papermaking? This is a job for the poor.
It is unreasonable for me to say so?
Kaede: That's what you used to say, but everyone has a limit.
Dreaming of winning the Shogun's favor, becoming so arrogant, I cannot help wondering what will become of you in the future.
Katsura: My hopes and dreams are different from yours. You already have a husband, Haruhiko, even though you are only eighteen.
I'm in my twenties, and I don't have a husband yet. That is my decision, not to live in a poor man's hovel all my life. You are content to live as a humble craftsman's wife. (Sneering) You may not understand my ambition.
(Kaede's husband, Haruhiko, twenty-something years old, comes out from behind.)
Haruhiko: Miss. Katsura, you made our profession sound so mean, calling us laborers, but as a mask engraver, I am proud to be among the craftsmen of the world.
It goes without saying that the first person to engrave a mask in Japan was his Highness Prince Shotoku, and next, Fujiwara no Oumi, then Saint Koubou-Daishi and Kurabe no Kasuga; knowing those who came before, you should realize that the profession is respectable, shouldn't you?
Katsura: That is different. It is not the profession but the people who are respectable. Those people might not have engraved masks for living.
Haruhiko: Do you think it is humble to engrave masks for living? What an odd thing to say! Would you insult me as a craftsman? I might engrave a masterpiece tomorrow and become the best engraver in the world!
Katsura: Needless to say, a craftsman is nothing but a craftsman. Even if he should be the best in the world, he could not be the same as a peer or a warrior.
Haruhiko: Why should a peer or a warrior be thought so respectable? Why should a craftsman be judged so humble?
Katsura: Oh! How tedious you are! It goes without saying.
(Katsura ignores him, turning away. Kaede holds back Haruhiko, who is drawing close to her with a sullen look.)
Kaede: Oh! Please, stop it! It's her character to keep talking once she begins to speak.
You shouldn't oppose to her. Don't quarrel any more.
Haruhiko: Knowing her temper, I used to be patient with her, but I cannot put up with her anymore.
As she is my wife's elder sister, I used to hold her in high regard.
That's why she has become so arrogant, and is apt to think little of me.
If she doesn't change her attitude, I won't treat her as my sister.
Katsura: I don't care about that at all. I would not be honored to have a craftsman as my sister's husband.
Haruhiko: Still, you dare to say that!
(Haruhiko draws close to her again, and Kaede, worrying, stops him. Then, her father, Yashao's voice sounds through the bamboo blind from the work room.)
Yashao: Oh! How noisy! Shut up.
(Hearing him, Haruhiko sits up respectfully. Kaede rises to roll the bamboo blind. Yashao, about fifty years old, wearing Eboshi, a tight-sleeved kimono and a tight Hakama, is engraving a wooden mask, using a chisel and a hammer. There are a lot of wooden chips on his lap and the floor around him.)
Haruhiko: I'm sorry to interrupt your work with such foolish comments.
Kaede: It's all my fault. I have made impertinent remarks to my sister. Please don't scold either of them.
Yashao: Don't worry, I won't. It is natural that quarrels between sisters will happen sometimes. It's nothing. Look, it's getting dark already. I feel the cool twilight wind of fall. You may as well prepare supper over there, and put the light on in the room.
Kaede and Katsura: Yes.
(They go to the back of the house.)
Yashao: Now, Haruhiko! As you know, Katsura is so strong-minded, so different from her sister. You may sometimes feel uneasy, living in the same house with her all year.
But will you try to keep your temper, for my sake?
Her mother was once in the service of a peer in the capital. After becoming my wife, she left the capital with me. Being so proud, she always regretted living with a craftsman. Katsura is like her mother, and Kaede like me. According to their natures, their mother showed favor to Katsura, and I did to her sister. We sometimes quarreled over the differences in our viewpoints. Ha, ha, ha.
Haruhiko: Hearing your story, I understand for the first time why Katsura used to hate craftsmen, and adore famous peers or warriors. It may be due to her blood.
Yashao: For that reason, whatever she may say, I hope you do not get upset with her. She is proud by nature, and we can't do anything about her nature.
(The evening bells sound. Kaede returns from the back of the house, carrying a candlestick.)
Haruhiko: Oh! I remember that I must go to Ohito Town in order to pick up the chisel and the knife I ordered the other day.
Kaede: The sun has already set now. How about going tomorrow?
Haruhiko: No, those are important tools for a craftsman. I would like to get them as soon as I can.
Yashao: Yes, a good craftsman must have such a spirit. Go now before it's too late.
Haruhiko: I am accustomed to the road. I will come back in a couple of hours, despite the darkness.
(Haruhiko goes out. Kaede accompanies him to the gate and sees him off. A priest from Shuzenji Temple enters, holding a candlestick, walking in front of Sir Minamoto no Yoriie, 23 years old. They are followed by Shimoda Goro Kageyasu, seventeen or eighteen years old, who holds up Yoriie's sword.)
The priest: Attention! Here comes the Shogun incognito. Be careful not to do anything that will make him uncomfortable.
(Kaede bows her head immediately. As Yoriie and the retainers enter, Yashao shows them into the room.)
Yashao: As I haven't expected your visit, I couldn't prepare to welcome you at all. Would you sit down over there?
(Yoriie sits down on the verandah.)
Yashao: And, what can I do for you, my Load?
Yoriie: Without my saying, you should know what I need.
Hoping to leave the form of my face to posterity, I gave you a picture of mine and ordered you to engrave a mask in my likeness.
It's been several months; why haven't you finished it? Why do you keep putting it off?
Goro: However precisely you may engrave it, you should need no more than a hundred days for just a mask. We ordered it at the beginning of this spring.
It has already been more than half a year. It's negligent of you to have not finished it yet.
After so many postponements, the Shogun is very displeased.
Yoriie: Perhaps I'm impatient by nature. Though I have waited day after day, the matter remains unsettled. As I feel very impatient with my retainers' information, I come to press you myself. Why do you neglect your duties? Explain it now in detail.
Yashao: I'm very sorry to have made you uncomfortable. It is the highest honor to my profession and my family to have been ordered to engrave a mask in the likeness of the respectable Seiitaishogun, President of Genji. How could I neglect such important work?
Though I lack the experience to do it justice, I have given myself to this work day and night for half a year, as much as possible. Despite all my efforts, the results have not been satisfactory. I have engraved the mask many times. Reluctantly, I must prolong the term. I beg your pardon, please.
Yoriie: Damn it! You say the same thing each time I ask. I'm fed up with these excuses!
Goro: You cannot continue to put him off with your vague excuses. You must apologize, and give him a firm date of completion.
Yashao: I cannot promise to finish the mask by any certain date. Do you think I only have to hold a chisel in my left hand and a hammer in my right to finish the mask so easily? I'm not some carpenter who builds houses and towers. I have to make a man, a woman, an angel or a demon out of lifeless wood, and put life into it. The only time I can make a vivid mask is when I feel the power of spirit concentrating spontaneously in my arms and hands. My spirit, flowing into the wood, makes a vivid mask. How can I be sure it will be finished in half a month or a month or one year or more, though I'm the one who does the work?
The priest: Mr. Yashao, listen! Our lord is growing very impatient, as he has said himself. If you keep making vague excuses, like some eel kept at the Mishima Shrine, it may spur him to even greater rage. Since you have been honored by our trust in you, you may as well answer our question clearly.
Yashao: How can I answer it when I'm not confident myself?
The priest: Why? Why can't you perform it, with such a great gift? You are Yashao of Izu, famous even in Kyoto and Kamakura among the many engravers in Japan.
Yashao: That is the problem. I'm well-known to some people as Yashao of Izu. Though I might be punished, it would be a pity to give you something I'm not satisfied with, and let it remain in this world.
Yoriie: Are you saying pity? Then, however heavily may you be punished, you are not going to finish it quickly, are you?
Yashao: I'm afraid I cannot do it so quickly.
Yoriie: Then you are going to die!
(Yoriie reaches for his sword that Goro carried, intending to draw it out. Katsura runs up from behind.)
Katsura: Please, wait! Please!
Yoriie: Stay away from me!
Katsura: Please, I beg you to be calm. We'll present the mask just now. Father! You'll agree, won't you?
(Yashao keeps silent.)
Goro: What? Do you say the mask has already been finished?
Yoriie: Damn you! Making contradictory statements, you intend to deceive me, don't you?
Katsura: No, it's not a lie at all. I'm sure the mask has already been finished. Father! Now, you have no choice.
Kaede: Yes, it's true. You should present the mask you finished yesterday.
The priest: That's a good idea. That's a good idea. You are also an ordinary man. You may value your life as well as your fame. If you have engraved any mask, you had better present it to the lord, and beg for your life.
Yashao: It's none of your business. You may not know which I would value more, my life or my name. Shut up!
The priest: But, how can we leave this alone? Now, daughters! Take the mask here, and show it to the lord. Quick! Quick!
Kaede: Yes! Yes!
(Kaede runs into the craft room, and brings out a box that holds the wooden mask. Katsura presents it in front of Yoriie. Yoriie, watching Katsura's face without a word, becomes a little gentle look.)
Katsura: Look! This is the proof I didn't tell a lie.
(Yoriie takes and watches the mask, and expresses admiration without thought.)
Yoriie: Oh! Great! You did a good job.
Goro: It looks quite similar to the lord's face.
(He looks at the mask, absorbed.)
The priest: This is why I said what I did earlier. What an eccentric man Mr. Yashao is, to hesitate to present such a masterpiece! Ha, ha, ha!
Yashao: (sitting straight)
It is an unsatisfactory craft to my eyes. I intended never to show it to others. I have nothing to do now. What do you think about the mask?
Yoriie: That is worthy of you, Yashao. You are a great engraver, indeed. I'm satisfied with your work.
Yashao: I'm afraid your praise is mistaken. That is the most unsatisfactory craft I have made in my life. Look clearly! The look of the mask is that of the dead.
Goro: What do you mean when you say that the mask is dead?
Yashao: My masks used to be admired by people because they looked so lifelike. I also thought their admiration to be true. But, to my wonder, however many times I remake the mask, it never gives the appearance of a living man. All masks remain to show the look of a dead man. That is not the mask of a man who is living, but one of a dead man.
Goro: You may say so, but to us it looks like the mask of living man, not a dead one.
Yashao: No, no, it will never look like that of a living man. Moreover, there is a vestige of a grudge behind his eyes, as if he is cursing somebody. It seems the mask of a ghost or a demon.
The priest: Oh! Don't say such an ominous thing! It's all right if the lord is pleased with the craft. You may as well appreciate the lord.
Yoriie: H'm, anyway, I like this mask. I'll take it.
Yashao: If you want itc.
Yoriie: Oh! Yes, I do.
(As Yoriie shows it with a gesture, Katsura puts the mask in the box, and presents it to Yoriie with some coquetry. Yoriie looks into her face.)
Yoriie: By the way, I have another request to you. I would like to have this daughter serve me. Do you have any objections?
Yashao: I think it's a good proposal, but the decision depends on her mind. I cannot decide it alone.
(Katsura comes forward without hesitation.)
Katsura: Father! Let me go with him, please.
Yoriie: You are a good girl. Do you want to serve me?
Yoriie: Then take the mask and follow me.
Katsura: I'm sure.
(Yoriie and Goro stand up. Katsura stands up, too. Kaede, holding her sister's sleeve, whispers to her anxiously.)
Kaede: My sister! Are you really going with Lord Yoriie?
Katsura: You laughed at me before and said that I was dreaming. However, the dream is coming true now.
(Katsura looks back proudly, stepping down to the garden.)
The priest: Thank heaven! I feel at ease. Mr. Yashao, see you tomorrow.
(Yoriie stumbles over something on his way. Katsu runs close to him to lead his hand.)
Yoriie: Oh! It has become dark without my knowing it.
(The priest comes forward to hand a lantern to Katsura, who hands the box of the mask to him instead. Katsura, holding a lantern in one hand, leads Yoriie by another hand. Yashao stays there thinking.)
Kaede: Father! Let's see the lord off.
(Aware of it for the first time, he sees Lord Yoriie off at the gate with his daughter.)
Goro: You will receive the information about your payment later.
(Yoriie and his retainers go out one after the other. Yashao stands there silent for a while. Then, he enters the factory and begins taking his masks down from the wall, intending to break them with a hammer.
Kaede: Oh! Don't do that! What are you doing? Are you mad?
Yashao: How regretful it was to have presented that unsatisfactory job to him, however much he pressured me to do so! What a misfortune to me! If such a mask should be treasured at the Shogun's house, recorded as Yashao's work in his treasure book, and then provoke public ridicule after a thousand years, it would be the shame of all my life and all my descendants!
The Yashao name has been soiled. I will not be a craftsman tomorrow. I will not raise a hammer again.
Kaede: Don't you think you are being too short-tempered? However much a genius one may be, he cannot always make masterpieces. However, if a man should make a masterpiece just once in his life, he deserves to be called a master.
Kaede: If you think it so regretful to have sold such poor work, you had better work harder than ever now, and engrave a marvelous great mask in order to wipe out the disgrace.
(Kaede sobs, clinging to him. Yashao remains silent, his eyes closed, thinking. A flute sounds in the twilight distance.)
Along the Katsura River, at the foot of Kokei Bridge, several willows stand along the river. Pampas grasses and reeds grow here and there. The gate of the Temple of Shuzenji looms over the bridge.
(Shimoda Goro comes out, holding Yoriie's sword. The priest with the box accompanies him.)
Goro: My Lord Yoriie told us to go ahead so that he might take a stroll with Miss Katsura. However, the inn at Shuzenji is close at hand now. Shall we wait awhile for them at the foot of this bridge?
The priest: No, no, I don't think that's a good idea. He is delighted, having found this charming girl named Katsura. If poor fellows like us would interfere with them, I'm sure we would make him uncomfortable.
Goro: I see.
(Saying so, he stands there hesitantly.)
The priest: I need to prepare a bath for him. I must go back soon.
Goro: The bath is a hot spring. You need not hurry. Wait a while.
The priest: Oh! I thought you were more quick-witted. When a couple of young people are talking intimately each other, a priest or a warrior should be strictly avoided. Ha, ha, ha! Come on! Come on!
(The priest pulls Goro forcefully by his sleeve, and Goro reluctantly follows the priest across the bridge. After a while, Katsura and Yoriie appear, walking hand-in-hand in the moonlight. Katsura is carrying a lantern.)
Yoriie: Oh! Look at the moon! Walking here along the river, I can hear the sound of the water and the chirping of crickets in the pampas grass and reeds. How wonderful it is to feel the fall in the country!
Katsura: I'm used to it, so perhaps I don't appreciate it as well as I should. I wonder if autumn is lonesome for you here in the countryside of Izu, so different from Kamakura. (Yoriie sits down on a stone, and Katsura stands along the bridge railing, holding the lantern. The moon is clear, and crickets are chirping.)
Yoriie: (Looking at the moon as he speaks.) You may think Kamakura is a wonderful city, with so many beautiful houses owned by powerful people. But its prosperity is superficial. In fact it is a dreadful city, full of plotting and crime, a nest of devils. Nobody can live there. Kamakura is nothing but a dream.
Katsura: If you were in power at Kamakurayama, you might have no use for me, a woman born in the countryside, even as a maid. Your misfortune is my good fortune. I remember when I met you for the first time, in March, along the upper stream of Katsura Valley. You were on your way back from a pilgrimage to Iwaya.
Yoriie: Oh, yes! When I asked your name, you said it was Katsura, just like this river.
Katsura: Apart from that, I told you the following story:
The river got its name from two Judas trees growing on the upper stream of Iwaya Cave, a source of fresh water flowing from beneath the roots of the trees and into Shuzenji. Since long ago, people have called them husband-and-wife trees.
And what did you say at that time?
Yoriie: I said in jest, "Even trees, which have no emotion, can become a couple. Why shouldn't two human beings become a couple?"
Katsura: Even though you may have said it in jest, I was very happy to hear that. I went secretly to worship at Iwaya everyday for a hundred days in order to realize my desire. Whether or not my prayers have been answered by the god of the Judas trees, at least I have seen you tonight, just as water may join a larger stream by chance.
Yoriie: Do you feel so happy to be close to me, such a powerless warrior? As you may know, I had a beloved lover whose name was Wakasa, a daughter of Hiki no Hogan Yoshikazu. It's a pity, but she died involved in the trouble when Yoshikazu was assassinated. Why not call yourself Wakasa from now on?
Katsura: Oh, may I call myself Wakasa? What an honor!
Yoriie: It seems that hot passion grows where a hot spring flows out. Though I have been disappointed, I feel like my heart has been healed through finding new love. I'd like to live here peacefully from now on, throwing all worldly things away. But even the brightest moon may be covered in cloud. In case I should die unexpectedly, please keep the mask I had your father engrave, as a memento. My uncle, Kaba-dono, was purged at Shuzenji although he had committed no crime. Sooner or later, I could fall to the same fate.
(It grows darker as the moon slips behind a cloud. Two armored warriors creep forward silently to hide in a nearby bush. The chirping of crickets stops suddenly.)
Katsura: Why has the chirping of crickets stopped as if it were suddenly blown out?
Yoriie: There may be somebody. Be careful!
(Kanakubo Hyoue Yukichika, a warrior in his thirties, comes out in full battle dress.
Yukichika: My lord, I'm glad to see you here.
Yoriie: Who are you?
(Katsura shines the light of the lantern onto his face. Yoriie peers into the darkness.)
Yukichika: I am Kanakubo Yukichika.
Yoriie: Oh! Are you? Why do you come such a long way from Kamakura?
Yukichika: On an errand for the Hojo family.
Yoriie: What? An errand for the Hojo family! Then, you intend to assassinate me, don't you?
Yukichika: Oh! I would never dream of such a thing. I only intend to pay a goodwill visit to you.
Yoriie: Shut up! From the way you look, coming here in full armor at night, you intend to take me by surprise under the secret orders of Hojo family, don't you?
Yukichika: Though our world has grown more peaceful, remnants of the Heike clan still hide here and there. I hear that many robberies used to occur on country roads to the west of Hakone, so I wear armor as a precaution. How could I intend a surprise attack on my lord?
Yoriie: However you may deny it, I have no intention to let you do this errand for the hateful Hojo. You need not give me his message. Get out!
(Yukichika cooly looks at Katsura.)
Yukichika: Who is she?
Yoriie: One of my maidservants.
Yukichika: Is it proper for you, on your good behavior, to allow such a low-class girl to come so near to you?
(Katsura comes forward without hesitation.)
Katsura: Mr. Hyoue, are whoever you are! Are you a fortuneteller? Can you tell a woman's character merely by glancing at her features? How thoughtless you are to judge me as a low-class woman, seeing me for the first time! I was born in the capital. My mother once served a peer. And now the Shogun has given me a new name, Wakasa no Tsubone. What an ill-bred person you are, how unlike a true warrior from Kamakura, to say such rude words to me!
(Being sneered at, Yukichika knits his brows.)
Yukichika: What? Wakasa no Tsubone? Who permitted you to use that name?
Yoriie: I did.
Yukichika: Without consulting Mr. Hojo beforehand.
Yoriie: Who is Hojo? You speak of Hojo before everything. Are they so revered by you? Do you know that Tokimasa and Yoshitoki are my retainers?
Yukichika: However, your mother is still alive.
(cf. Yoriie's mother was Hojo Tokimasa's daughter and Yoritomo's widow. Yoritomo, the former director of Genji family, was the first Shogun who had driven the Heike family away, and he ruled Japan as the agent of Ten-no. Yoriie was the second Shogun, whose power was about to be stolen by Hojo. After Yoritomo died, the Hojo family began plotting to kill Yoritomo's descendants.)
Yoriie: Oh! This is too tedious! I have no need to hear your words. Get out!
Yukichika: I have nothing to say if you fret so much. I'll go away tonight, as you say. I'll come to give you his message tomorrow morning.
Yoriie: No, I won't permit you to come again. Wakasa, come with me.
(Yoriie stands up, and taking Katsura's hand, crosses the bridge. Yukichika sees them off. Soldiers appear in the pampas grass.)
Soldier1: Though we waited for your orders, we didn't see any sign for the attack.
Soldier2: We waited and waited in vain, with no attack against him.
Yukichika: I visited him secretly tonight intending to approach and assassinate him under the Hojo's order. However, being alert, he was immediately aware of my intention. Regretfully, I couldn't accomplish my purpose.
Let's attack his lodging at Shuzenji. He is a sharp expert of martial arts, and many of his retainers are also experts. Though they are in small number, don't underestimate them. Be cautious. That place is narrow and dark. Don't fight among yourselves.
Yukichika: One of you should give an order for instant attack to the people who have been waiting at the village exit.
(He runs away to the right. Yukichika and another soldier go out to the left. Haruhiko steals out from behind a tree.)
Haruhiko: On my way back from Ohito town, I came across five or ten soldiers in full armor, scattered here and there. I wondered why they questioned people one by one. Now, I know that they intend to assassinate Lord Yoriie, as ordered by Hojo.
What a crisis!
(Startled birds make noises in the distance. Shimoda Goro comes crossing the bridge.)
Goro: It used to be lonesome here in the countryside. But, it seems something is wrong tonight. For security, I'm making my rounds along the river.
Haruhiko: You are Mr. Goro, aren't you?
Goro: Oh! You are Haruhiko.
(Haruhiko, approaching, whispers.)
Goro: Oh! My! Kanakubo intends to assassinate Lord Yoriie, doesn't he? Are you sure? Hmmc
(As Goro hurries back to protect Lord Yoriie, a soldier from the bridge attacks him with a long sword. Goro slashes the soldier down as soon as he draws out his sword. Several soldiers gather around Goro.)
Goro: Haruhiko! I'll take care of this. Go and warn Lord Yoriie!
Haruhiko: Of course.
(Haruhiko runs across the bridge while Goro struggles with several soldiers from both sides.)