With lyrics by Namiki Gohei III, Nagauta music by Kineya Rokusaburo IV and choreography by Nishikawa Senzo IV, Kanjincho was first performed in 1840 by Ichikawa Danjuro VII at the Kawarasaki-za in Edo. Kanjincho is based on the No play Ataka and is classed as a jidaimono history play and a matsubamemono. It was the first of the group of plays chosen by Danjuro VII as one of the Kabuki Juhachiban – the "Eighteen Favourite Plays" which are representative of the ie no gei or "family art" of the Danjuro acting line.
Set in the late twelfth century, the play depicts an episode from the life of the general Minamoto Yoshitsune. Accompanied by a small group of trusted retainers, he is escaping from his jealous older half-brother, the shogun Yoritomo. Yoshitsune's right-hand man is the warrior priest Benkei and it is he who suggests the retainers disguise themselves as mountain priests called yamabushi and Yoshitsune as their porter. Hearing rumours of this, Yoritomo has ordered barriers gates set up in order to stop and question all such yamabushi. On their way north, Yoshitsune and his group reach the barrier at Ataka and are halted by the guard Togashi and his men. Hoping to pass through without incident, Benkei claims that they are collecting funds for the rebuilding of Todaiji temple which has recently burned down. He is challenged by Togashi to produce and read out the list of subscribers (the kanjincho of the play's title) that all fund raisers were bound to possess. Not having such a kanjincho, Benkei decides on the desperate measure of improvising the florid and pious exhortation from an empty scroll. While he is reading Togashi edges forward, trying to catch a glimpse of the scroll. Benkei catches him and the two of them pose dramatically with Benkei holding the scroll tight to his body so that Togashi cannot see it. Whether or not Togashi has seen the empty scroll and knows that Benkei is bluffing is one of the play's great talking points. He ends with the Fudo mie, a pose copying the iconography of the Buddhist deity Fudo-Myoo, the guardian protector of the yamabushi. Still dubious, Togashi interrogates Benkei about the complicated symbolism of the yamabushi costume and this fierce verbal exchange, called the yamabushi mondo, famous for its escalating pace and tension, is another highlight of the play. Benkei concludes with the defiant Genroku mie pose. Benkei's knowledge is impressive and Togashi decides to allow them to pass. One of his soldiers, however, points out the figure of the porter who, they claim, resembles Yoshitsune. To allay their suspicions, Benkei is forced to beat Yoshitsune with his staff as though punishing the porter for lagging behind and drawing attention to himself. Togashi is now certain that this group is indeed Yoshitsune and his men but, deeply impressed by Benkei's desperate act of loyalty, he decides to allow them through the barrier, even though he knows he must pay for this later with his own life. Having passed safely and now a short distance from the barrier, Yoshitsune resumes his rightful position as lord of his group. As beating one's lord was an act of grave disloyalty Benkei sheds tears for the first time in his life, but Yoshitsune forgives him in a moving display of affection between lord and retainer. Suddenly Togashi reappears. Claiming to feel sorry that he treated them so badly at the barrier, he offers Benkei some sake which is eagerly accepted. After drinking copious amounts, Benkei entertains them with the ennen no mai – the "dance of longevity." While the lyrics tell of an ideal landscape where the power of nature eternally reigns, the dance begins with slow, circular movements and gradually increasing in speed and excitement. During the dance, Benkei takes his chance and discreetly signals for his group to leave. They hasten on their way as Benkei concludes his dance. Benkei bids Togashi a moving farewell and the curtain is closed. Alone on the hanamichi, Benkei feels relieved and elated. He then joyfully bounds off to catch his master in the famous dramatic and stylised "flying exit" known as the tobi roppo.
Kyoganoko Musume Dojoji "The Maid of Dojoji Temple"
Oshimodoshi is a heroic aragoto role type which, although not an independent play, is nevertheless counted as one of the Kabuki Juhachiban, the "Eighteen Favourite Plays" of the Ichikawa Danjuro acting line. Literally meaning "push–return," Oshimodoshi are also known as "demon quellers". Possibly performed as early as 1714, Danjuro II is known to have played the role in 1727 and there may be a connection with the rather similar character of Watoni in Chikamatsu Monzaemon's famous puppet play, Kokusenya Kassen. Perhaps the most commonly seen Oshimodoshi character occurs in the alternative ending to the famous dance, Musume Dojoji – "The Maid of Dojoji Temple". While the dance usually ends with the serpent mounting the temple bell, a slightly longer version has the Oshimodoshi appear and subdue it. The Oshimodoshi usually makes an imposing entrance along the hanamichi wearing high clogs, a spectacular padded costume (sometimes with straw rain mantel and hat). His wig is the swept back hishi kawa style and his face painted in the nihon guma style of kumadori makeup. He also carries a thick branch of green bamboo. The Oshimodoshi then confronts the demon, usually beginning on the hanamichi and then forcing it back onto the main stage. Here, in a series of dramatic confrontational stylised fighting movements and mie poses, he eventually quells the demon. The victory, however, is usually only symbolic as the play commonly comes to an end with the characters posing in a spectacular tableau of confrontation – a hippari no mie. There is little personal characterisation in the role of the Oshimodoshi but his magnificent appearance and swashbuckling aragoto repression of the demon are greatly enjoyed by the audience.