A travelling monk arrives by night at the port of Eguchi. Seeing a cairn, he enquires about its origin and is told that it commemorates the Lady of Eguchi, a former harlot who was considered to be a manifestation of the bodhisattva Fugen. (During a rainstorm, the 12th-century monk Saigyō asked for shelter at her house, but was refused entry. He reproached her with an impromptu poem, to which she made an effective reply, hinging on a Buddhist interpretation of the words "a moment's refuge"; she then admitted him and engaged in a long conversation.)
The travelling monk thoughtfully recites Saigyō's poem to himself, and is overheard by a passing woman, who asks him to follow it with the harlot's reply. She tells the monk not to believe the gossip about her; when she vanishes they realise that she is, in fact, the ghost of the harlot of Eguchi.
A villager then tells them the story of Shōkū, who longed to worship the living Fugen, and was directed in a dream to seek the Lady of Eguchi.
Fascinated, the monk begins to repeat a sutra by her grave. A boat, brightly moonlit, appears, bearing the Lady along with two singing girls. They sing of the unhappiness of mortals ensnared in illusion and condemned to be reborn. In conclusion, they remind the monk that "all things are a moment's refuge"; the Lady reveals her identity as Fugen, and ascends into the clouds.
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