This is a big one. On July 14th 2019 Udaka Tatsushige is going to perform the nō Dōjōjifor the first time, making this one of his most important hiraki performances. Dōjōji is probably one of the most well-known plays in the repertory, telling the story of how a young woman who had been tricked into believing that a monk will marry her pursues him until she finds him hiding under a temple bell. Transfigured into a monstrous snake, the woman coiled around the bell and, spitting fire from her mouth, burnt him to death.
One of the most spectacular features of the play is the section in which the actor enacting the spirit of the woman reappearing at Dōjōji jumps into the bell (a 100kg heavy property) as it falls on the floor. Once inside the bell, the actor changes costume, wig and mask by himself, reappearing in the form of a demon as the bell is lifted.
Dōjōji is the first nō performance I have ever seen live. It was 2007, and the actor was Udaka Michishige, Tatsushige’s father, who on that occasion was celebrating his 60th birthday. For Tatsushige’s Dōjōji I will have the honor to introduce the event. I look forward to the day with trepidation.
On Saturday 6th December 2014 from 13:00 to 17:00 the 17th Memorial Performance commemorating the late Iemoto (Head Master) Kongo Iwao II will take place at the Kongō Noh Theatre in Kyoto. This exceptional event will feature two special plays: Obasute, starring the current Iemoto, Kongō Hisanori, and Dōjō-ji (koshiki version) starring his son, Kongō Tatsunori. (See full program below. If you are interested in purchasing a ticket, contact me here).
Obasute, by Zeami Motokiyois one of the highest ranking plays in the Noh repertoire, and is based on the ancient Japanese legend of obasute-yama, a mountain where the elderly were abandoned by their own relatives, and left there to die. The legend of obasute-yama has been popularised by the famous film The Ballad of Narayama by Kinoshita Keisuke (1958 remade by Imamura Shōhei in 1983). In the Noh play Obasute, the spirit of a woman who was abandoned on Obasute-yama appears to a traveller who is visiting the area, and describes how her loneliness prevent her to break away from her attachments to this world and reach enlightenment. The play is pervaded by the imagery of the full moon, a buddhist symbol of enlightenment, also associated to the Seishi-bosatsu, Bodhisattva of Wisdom and companion of Buddha Amida.
The story of Dōjō-ji is well known in Japan, also because of its Kabuki rendition. The play tells the story of a young woman whose impossible love for a monk transforms her into a deadly monster. After having learned about the girl’s feelings, the man finds refuge in a temple, where monks hide him under the bell. Realising his hiding spot, the woman, now transfigured into a monstrous snake, wraps herself around the bell. As her own snake-body burns with deadly passion, the bell melts along with the man hiding underneath. Years after this accident, a ceremony is held to celebrate a the rising of a new bell. The Abbot has prohibited women to enter the temple precincts, but a young and attractive girl comes knocking at the gates… This
17th Kongo Iwao II Memorial Performance
Time: Saturday 6th December 2014 – 13:00 to 17:00. Doors open at 12:30.
Sōseiza is a Kyoto-based group of performers belonging to different performance traditions, including members of the Kongō school of shitekata. Every year the group stages performances that cross genres, but are generally based on traditional arts such as Kabuki, Nihon-buyō, Noh, Nagauta, Shakuhachi, etc. This year Sōseiza is taking it one step further with the performance that brings together the story of Dōjō-ji and the vocaloid computer star Hatsune Miku.
Dōjō-ji tells the story of a young woman who, driven by her passionate love for a priest, transforms into a demonic snake and coils herself around the bell where he was hiding, melting the bell and burning him to death. The story is much more complex and interesting – check a synopsis with stage pictures from the Noh adaptation here.
This vocaloid version sounds like a rather bold experiment, fusing traditional Japanese performance with very contemporary (and equally local) technology, giving the classic tale a pop twist. I have my reservations, though one cannot tell before actually attending (which I won’t be able to do this time..). If you happen to go see this show, please let me know how it was! I’d be happy to post your review here.