Plays DataBaseSenju

Photo from National Noh Theatre

A warlord of the Taira clan, Taira no Shigehira, fought in a series of battles between the Taira and Minamoto clans. He was captured during the battle of Ichino-tani Valley and was taken prisoner. He was sent to Kamakura and was held, by force, in the house of Kanōnosuke Munemochi, a subordinate of Minamoto no Yoritomo. Yoritomo showed mercy to Shigehira and sent one of his servants, Lady Senju, to comfort the imprisoned warlord.

On a rainy day, Lady Senju visits Shigehira with a biwa (Japanese lute) and a koto (a Japanese harp). At first, Shigehira was reluctant to see her, but they finally do meet, just as Munemochi has arranged. As Shigehira’s wish is to renounce the world and become a monk, he previously asked Senju to convey this request to Yoritomo. When Shigehira asks Senju about his request, she tells him what Yoritomo said: Yoritomo cannot make the decision alone as Shigehira is an enemy of the emperor and therefore, his request has not been accepted. Shigehira laments that this is the result of his bad karma, rooted in his sinful deeds of burning down temples in Nara on orders from his father, Taira no Kiyomori.

Munemochi holds a party to cheer up Shigehira, who has fallen into a pensive mood. Senju offers drinks to Shigehira, recites poems, and tries to give him encouragement. When Senju performs a dance, the amused Shigehira starts playing the biwa, and then Senju plucks the koto as accompaniment to his lute. The night grows late. They take a nap with their heads resting on the koto as their pillow, and in a short while, the night comes to an end. In the morning, there is an imperial order to send Shigehira to Kyoto. Senju and Shigehira regret their parting, both of them soaking their sleeves with tears. With tears in her eyes, Senju sees off Shigehira who is leaving Kamakura.

This is an elegant, Third-group Noh piece, which has a female lead character. A unique feature distinguishing it from other Third-group Noh dramas is that this play describes the fleeting love between a sophisticated nobleman from the Taira clan, Taira no Shigehira, and a kind-hearted woman, Lady Senju. However, a dark shadow hangs over their love— Shigehira’s inescapable circumstances as a prisoner facing death.

The scene in which they converse with and feel sympathy for each other; the scene in which Senju elegantly dances in order to console Shigehira; and the scene in which they pass by each other in parting—these impressive scenes are presented at critical moments in the play. The subtle shifting of their emotions, as they come to understand that their eternal parting is approaching, is described through these scenes that leave lasting impressions that will linger in the hearts of the audience.

It might sound strange, but the tranquility and tenderness of these moving scenes only underscore the deep impression they make upon the audience. Therein lies the magic of stage techniques in Noh drama.

Shigehira plays a very important role in this play and his presence is as significant as shite (the lead character) although he is classified as tsure (a supporting character). In olden times, the title of this play was “Senju Shigehira,” which indicates the importance of Shigehira’s character.


Story Paper presents noh chant stories in modern speech, with story outlines, highlights and more using Adobe PDF format, which can print out and zoom in. Print out the pages and take them with you when you see the actual noh performance.

Senju Story Paper PDF Sample

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