The film opens on a woodcutter (木樵り; Kikori, played by Takashi Shimura) and a priest (旅法師; Tabi Hōshi, Minoru Chiaki) sitting beneath the Rashōmon city gate to stay dry in a downpour. A commoner (Kichijiro Ueda) joins them and they tell him that they have witnessed a disturbing story, which they then begin recounting to him. The woodcutter claims he found the body of a murdered samurai three days earlier while looking for wood in the forest. As he testifies he first found a woman’s hat (which belonged to the wife), then a samurai cap (which belonged to the bandit), then cut rope (which had bound the husband), then an amulet, and finally he came upon the body. Upon discovering the body, he says, he fled in a panic to notify the authorities. The priest says that he saw the samurai with his wife travelling the same day the murder happened. Both men are then summoned to testify in court, where they meet the captured bandit Tajōmaru (多襄丸), who claims to have followed the couple after coveting the woman when he glimpses her in the forest.