Dōjōji holds a special place in all traditional Japanese performing arts. The story of the dedication ceremony for a temple bell which leads to the revelation of its horrific history is one that is met by audiences with anticipation. The original bell, we learn, was destroyed many years before when it was used as a hiding place by a monk fearing for his life. The woman who had been led to believe that the monk would one day take her for his wife learns that this is not true. Her devastation at this betrayal of her love for the monk leads to her transformation into a serpent by her single-minded passion to find him as she follows him to the temple of Dōjōji where he has taken refuge. Finding his hiding place within the bell, she coils her serpent form around it, her passion burning him to a crisp. Priests preparing for the dedication ceremony are warned not to allow any women the temple precincts until after the ceremony is over, but they are no match for the spirit of the woman who come to avenge herself again on the bell, persuading them that as an entertainer is beyond gender. They even find an eboshi, the lacquered hat worn by shirabyoshi dancers, for her so she can perform in celebration of the raising of the bell.
The nō version of Dōjōji emphasizes the unique relationship between the shite and the musicians, especially the hip and shoulder drums, to express intense primal emotions of resentment and of desire. Each of the two drums has a particular instance when they become one with the actor in his role of the woman seeking her revenge, but finally being driven away by the earnest prayers of the temple monks.
The first performance by a nō actor is considered to be especially important, a coming of age in his mastery of his skills in all aspects of his art, from chant and dance, to costuming as he accomplishes the change into serpent form within the bell and then battles the monks who seek to vanquish the spirit.
On Sunday, December 11th, Udaka Norishige, will be performing Dōjōji at the Kongō Nōgakudō as the main feature of a memorial performance observing the sankaiki, or third anniversary of the death of his father, Udaka Michishige, who passed away on March 28, 2020. The traditional way of counting age in this case is based on the concept of cycles, with the first cycle considered to be accomplished at death, the first anniversary a year later, and the third at the end of the second year anticipating the start of the third year after death. Just as asymmetry is preferred over symmetry, odd numbers are considered preferable to even ones and to be more auspicious.
This is a performance dedicated to the memory of Udaka Michishige well-known as a performer, mask carver, teacher, and writer of and about nō and nō masks and also an affirmation of the resolve of his three children, mask carver Keiko, and actors Tatsushige and Norishige to continue on the path their father introduced them to and which they now are following each in their own way and also always supporting each other.
To this end they are also curating a display of performance photographs of their father, including photos of the three plays he authored and performed in: Shiki: Hototogisu, Genshigumo: Inori, a Prayer for Peace, and Ryōma as well as some of his nō masks. There will be a thirty-minute intermission between the performance by Udaka Tatsushige of the maibayashi of Tenko, the main dance section of a play in which the spirit of a young boy dances in joyful gratitude for religious services offered on his behalf after his death and Dōjōj allowing for more time to see the photos and masks.
This is a very special performance on many levels, and we look forward to seeing you there
December 11th 2022 from 14:00 (doors open at 13:00) at the Kongō Nōgakudō.
Tickets prices are:
¥6,000 general admission
¥8,000 A seats (facing the chorus or far right of stage front)
¥11,000 S (Stage front, toward the back and right of stage front)
¥13,000 SS (Stage front, closer to the stage)
To reserve a ticket, contact us