Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Musashino Benkei ( Kanjincho)

Heather made this Benkei Doll

This doll’s name is Musashino Benkei. He worked for Miyamoto Yoshisune. The time was during the Kamakura period. At large war was being fought named “Genpei no gassen.” The battle was between the armies Genji and Heike,

Yoritomo was the leader in the Genji army. Yoshitsune was his younger brother who was a leader under Yoritomo. Due to Yoshitsune’s leadership, the war was about to be won. Yoshitsune was a favorite of the Emperor. This also outraged his brother Yoritomo, who was consumed with jealousy.

Yoritomo stormed off to Yoshitsune’s residence in Kyoto to destroy his younger brother. Yoshitsune, Benkei and their samurais fled. As a result, Yoritomo built check-in gates to discover their whereabouts.

Benkei, Yoshitsune and his men disguised themselves as Yamabushi monks. There monks were not required to check-in at the gates. They were allowed to travel and teach their religion. The guards at all the check-points had become aware of Yoshitsune’s disguise though.

Yoshitsune, Benkei and his men were stopped at one of the check-points. They asked Benkei to read aloud the “Kanjin-choo”. This was a document with all the temple donations recorded on it. Of course they had no “Kanjin- choo”, so Benkei pulled out a blank scroll and pretended to read. They were then allowed passage。Yoshitsune and his men relived.

At this moment, one of the guards recognized Yoshitsune. One of the samurais suggested killing this man and moving on. Benkei instead had another idea. He struck his master with a metal rod and threatened to leave him behind. This was done in an attempt to fool the guards since no man would hit his master. Some stories suggest the guards were fooled, other say they were filled with compassion at this attempt to protect Yoshitsune. Either way, they were allowed to proceed.

This scene is popular in many Kabuki performances.

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