Momijigari (紅葉狩) or Maple Viewing (English title) is a Japanese shosagoto (dance) play, usually performed in kabuki and noh. It was also the first narrative ever filmed in Japan. It was written by Kanze Nobumitsu during the Muromachi period. Other titles for the play include Yogoshōgun and Koremochi.
The Noh Play
A beautiful woman of seemingly high rank (played by the shite or lead actor), along with her retinue of female attendants (the tsure) are visiting Togakushi-yama, a mountain in Shinano Province, here for the seasonal maple-leaf viewing. The group commence a banquet.
A warrior of the Taira clan who has been out deer-hunting approaches. He is Taira no Koremochi (played by the waki or secondary actor). Rather than to disturb the party by riding past, he dismounts, intending to leave. But he is accosted by the lady to drink sake with her. Koremochi becomes drunk, and the lady forces more drinks on him. At this point the lady's dance increases a more furious tempo, changing from chū no mai to kyū no mai. When Koremochi falls asleep, she abandons him, saying never to wake from his dream.
There is a change of scenery, and everything turns bleak and dreary. A deity of the Take-uji (武氏 "samurai"), acting as emissary from the Hachiman shrine appears to Koremochi, and reveals to him that the lady is actually a demon (oni) which needs to be defeated, granting Koremochi a "divine sword".[a]
The lady has now transformed into a fire-breathing demon in the glow of lightning (the noh mask used are traditionally shikami (顰) but hannya has come into use.) but the warrior is undaunted, and after a pitched battle, slays the demon with the sword.
Kabuki and puppet play adaptations
It was also remade for the kabuki theater a number of times during the Edo period, but usually as short dance pieces.
Kabuki dance in Meiji
This performance followed the script newly written by Kawatake Mokuami in Meiji Period, based on an earlier work of 1849. It adheres to the basic plot of the Noh play, but with some differeces. The demon-princess is given the name Sarashina-hime, the deity warning the warrior is now a Yamagami ("mountain god") sent by Hachiman, and the divine sword given to the warrior Koremochi is identified as the Kogarasumaru. The demon employs a maple branch to parry Koremochi's sword, until the branch is knocked off its hand. It then uses its glaring gaze to immobilize Koremochi. But the magic sword continues fighting of its own accord and kills the demon.
It was an unprecedented performance, with the reigning Emperor Meiji officially in the audience, as kabuki had customarily been deemed beneath the dignitiy of viewing by the higher eschelons of society. The performance also led to the first narrative filmed in Japan.
The 1899 film
Ichikawa Danjūrō IX, with Onoe Kikugoro V as Koremochi, revived the kabuki version in 1899, which was filmed and became the first motion picture to be made in Japan. It was by director Shibata Tsunekichi.
Danjūrō was originally opposed to appearing in films, but was eventually convinced that his doing so would be a gift to posterity.
- Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai (1940), summaries in Spanish and Japanese, prior to p. 1.
- Koyama, Hiroshi (1958), Yōkyoku, Kyōgen, Kadensho 謠曲・狂言・花傳書 , Kadokawa, p. 178 (in Japanese)
- Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai (1940), p. 21.
- Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai (1940), p. 26.
- Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai (1940), pp. 25–26.
- Nogami, Toyoichirō (1944), Nōmen ronkō 能面論考 , Oyama Shoten, p. 72 (in Japanese)
- Spolin (1981), p. 62.
- Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai (1940), pp. 26–30.
- Emmert & Cummings (2002), p. 305.
- Japan Arts Counceil (2007). "Momijigari". Invitation to Kabuki. Retrieved 2018-04-02.
- Tanaka, Denzaemon (1984), Hayashi to tomoni 囃子とともに , Tanaka Denzaemon no kiju wo iwau kai, p. 31
- Emmert & Cummings (2002), p. 321.
- Emmert & Cummings (2002), pp. 324–325.
- Emmert & Cummings (2002), pp. 308–308.
- Shoriya, Aragoro. "News from the Kabuki World." Kabuki21.com. 24 April 2009. Accessed 20 May 2009.
- Gerow, Aaron. "Film as an Important Cultural Property." Tangemania: Aaron Gerow's Japanese Film Page. 25 March 2009. Accessed 20 May 2009.
- Emmert, Richard; Cummings, Alan (2002). Viewing the Autumn Foliage / Momijigari : Kawatake Mokuami and Morita Kanya XII. Kabuki Plays on Stage: Restoration and Reform, 1872-1905. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 303–.
- Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai (1940). Momiji-gari : jira bajo los arces : representacion del drama lirico"noh" : en honor de la Mision Economica Espanola. Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai. (in Spanish) (in Japanese)
- Spolin, Viola (1981), Kimio, Niinō [?] tr., comment, "Momijigari ni miru oni-geinō no tenkai" 『紅葉狩』にみる鬼芸能の展開 , 芸術学部創立60年演劇学科創設30年記念論文集, 日本大学芸術学部, p. 62
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