Tsukishima is a Kōwaka-mai (dance drama) ballad that dates from the Muromachi period (1336−1573). It is also called Hyōgo or Hyōgo tsukishima. The literal meaning of “tsukishima” is "making an island," and the ballad is based on an episode in which Taira no Kiyomori (1118−81), a general and noble, built a new port in Fukuhara, Hyōgo. The story starts with Kiyomori's decision to build the port. To ensure the success of the construction, 30 people are captured in order to be made human sacrifices to the gods. Matsuō, a handsome young page who has gained the favor of Kiyomori, sees the grief of the captives and their families and offers himself as a sacrifice in place of the intended victims. He is thrown into the sea to drown with 10,000 copies of the Lotus Sutra, causing people to call the port "kyō-no-shima," the island of sutra. There is a record that Tsukishima was performed in 1545. Some manuscripts older than this one exist, but this is the first printed edition (wooden-type print) of Tsukishima and the only known copy of this edition. The illustrations, some of which are missing, are hand colored. The year of publication is not clear, but it must be earlier than 1632, when a wood-block edition was published.

Last updated: December 12, 2017