During the mid-fifteenth century, under the shogunate of Ashikaga Yoshimasa, lives a warrior lord by the name of Sasaki Sadakuni, lord of the Province of Yamato. He has two sons. One, twenty-five years old and named Katsura, is the son of Sadakuni’s first wife; the other, twelve-year-old Hanagata, is the son of Sadakuni’s second and present wife, Lady Spider. Katsura, a handsome young man, is taken into the luxurious and self-indulgent service of the shgun at Kyoto. There, at the instigation of one of his retainers, Fuwa Banzaemon, Katsura falls in love with a dancer, Wisteria-wave, and he begins to lead a life of pleasure.
A retainer of the House of Sasaki, Nagoya Sansabur, is sent to Kyoto to present a treasured painting to the shgun. Learning how matters stand with Katsura, he does his best to make the young lord mend his ways, but to no avail. Meanwhile, Banzaemon himself is discovered to be in love with Wisteria-wave, and he is discharged from feudal service. Sansabur is sent back to the Sasaki provincial headquarters. At the same time, a loyal retainer, Sasara Sampachir, kills Wisteria-wave and goes into hiding. On the same night, a disloyal retainer, Hasebe Unroku, steals the treasured painting and disappears.
The next day, Banzaemon’s father, Road-dog, steward to the House of Sasaki, arrives as Sadakuni’s emissary. He severely reprimands Katsura for his dissolute ways and discharges Katsura’s retinue as being disloyal. Behind Road-dog’s outwardly righteous actions, however, lies a deeper plan, a plot to take over his lord’s domain with the connivance of Governor General Hamana. Knowing that Lady Spider hopes that her own son, Hanagata, will succeed to the lordship of Sasaki, Road-dog has joined forces with her. With the backing of an evil sorcerer, the two attempt to do away with Katsura’s wife, Lady Ginkgo, and her son, Young-moon, who are living in the Sasaki villa in Heguri, guarded by Sansabur and his father, Nagoya Saburozaemon. Although their plot fails, Sadakuni is deceived, and troops are dispatched against Lady Ginkgo and her young son.
In the meantime, Banzaemon, who holds a grudge against Sansabur, kills Saburozaemon. Sansabur places Young-moon in the care of the boy’s elderly nurse and helps them escape; he fights valiantly in defense of Lady Ginkgo, but in spite of his courage and efforts his lord’s lady is abducted. He escapes into Kawachi Province. The old woman in charge of Young-moon meets with difficulty in escaping with her charge, but the boy is saved by Sasara Sampachir, who has changed his name to Namuemon and has been hiding in Tamba Province.
Namuemon is still haunted by the spirit of the dead Wisteria-wave, whom he killed for the sake of his lord; his son, Chestnut-son, becomes blind, and his daughter, Maple, is haunted by a serpent. When it becomes known that Namuemon has been secretly watching Road-dog’s movements with the idea...
(The entire section is 1197 words.)