Udaka Tatsushige (Photo: Stephane Barbery)
On 14 March 2015 Udaka Tatsushige (first son of the INI founder Udaka Michishige) will hold the first Tatsushige no Kai, an annual Noh performance event he is producing, featuring high-caliber actors and musicians. Each year Tatsushige is going to take the main role in a particularly challenging play from the Kongo school repertoire. On the occasion of this first Tatsushige no Kai, Kongo Hisanori, grand-master of the Kongo School, has chosen for him the virtuoso Noh play Mochizuki. Family tickets and ‘next generation’ tickets for students and Noh theatre beginners are available! Check out the full program in English here!
Mochizuki: March 14th 2015, 14:00-17:00 – Kongo Noh Theatre, Kyoto
Mochizuki: the story
Mochizuki tells a story of revenge, celebrated in classical Japanese literature as an example of loyalty and selflessness in the face of injustice. Lord Tomoharu was assassinated by his cousin Mochizuki, who took over his land and property. In fear for their lives, Tomoharu’s retainers scattered and his wife and son fled their home. When the play begins thirteen years have passed, and now one of the retainers, Tomofusa, is the innkeeper of the Helmet Lodge in the post town of Moriyama. One day two guests, a mother and son, appear without any servants. Tomofusa recognises them as the wife of his master and their son, Hanawaka. At the same time, Mochizuki, the killer, is on his way back from the capital, stops at the Helmet Lodge. Tomofusa recognises him and, together with the wife and son, plots to avenge their master. Mother and son pretend to be entertainers and, together with Tomofusa, they dance for Mochizuki as they pour him copious amounts of wine. Mochizuki is lulled by the wine and the wonderful dances so that he doesn’t realize what is happening when Hanawaka and Tomofusa approach him. They declare their identities and strike him down, finally avenging Tomoharu’s murder and restoring his properties to his family. (Story Outline by Rebecca Teele Ogamo).
What is so special about Mochizuki?
A Meiji-period colour photograph of the shite ready to perform the ‘lion dance’. Note the two golden fans on the head, simbolizing the lion’s jaws (From Albert Kahn’s ‘Archives of the Planet’).
Mochizuki follows the conventions of the ‘genzai-mono’ or ‘real world’ category, meaning that the all the action unfolds on the stage before our eyes chronologically, and all characters are human beings, as opposed to other Noh plays where characters are often spirits or ghosts travelling in space and time. It is a less ‘abstract’ and much more ‘theatrical’ in a western sense, Noh play.
- While supernatural beings are represented by masks, the Noh conventions require that human beings who are alive at the moment of the dramatic actions are performed without a mask. Although a mask is not used, the shite is required to maintain a completely expressionless face: actors rely on their movement and ‘presence’ to convey the emotions of the character they represent.
- The role of Tomoharu’s son is performed by a child actor. Pre-pubescent children can be seen on the Noh stage portraying top-ranking nobles (such as emperors, or the general Minamoto no Yoshitsune). However in other cases they take the role of normal children, as in the case of Mochizuki, where the son of performs a dance in which he mimes the striking of a little drum at his waist.
- After the child has entertained Mochizuki with his dance, it is Tomofusa’s turn. He performs a special version of the shishi-mai, the famous lion dance that can be seen in the Noh Shakkyo. Shishi-mai, or lion dances, were brought to Japan from China and gradually incorporated into the performance rituals of shrines and temples, finally finding their way into Noh drama as well. However, while in Shakkyo the character of the shite actually is the mythical lion that is the attendant of Monju, bodhisattva of wisdom, appearing on the stone bridge leading to his Western Paradise and found frolicking among the ponies there, in Mochizuki the shite is a human being who, within the frame of the ‘real world category’ play, performs a lion dance. He wears a beautiful brocade robe, a red wig, a red cloth that partly conceals his face, and a headpiece with two golden fans spread open, symbolising the lion’s jaws. This type of ‘performance within the performance’ creates an interesting game of mirrors, which is even more meaningful if one thinks that the shishi-mai is a celebratory dance.
In the trailer below you can have a taste of how the dramatic entrance of the shite on the notes of the lion dance.
Mochizuki: March 14th 2015
Make sure to check out the Tatsushige no Kai website (in English) for more information on the performance and for ticket reservation. The Tatsushige no Kai has made special arrangements such as family seats, ‘next-generation seats’, and a child nursing service. An English translation and synopsis of the play will be available. There will be a reception with light refreshments served in the lobby after the performance. If your time permits, please join us for a chat.
Iccho (Shoulder drum and Chant) Eguchi
Shimai (Dance excerpt) Kasa no Dan
Kyogen (Short Comic play) Kagyu (‘The Snail’)
Saturday, 14th March. 2015 14:00-17:00 p.m. (doors open at 13:30)
The Kongo Noh Theatre
Nakadachiuri-agaru, Karasuma-dori, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto. 602-0912.
Subway Karasuma-Imadegawa (K06), South Exit (n.6). Walk South 300m.