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Echigo-jishi

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  • Debut: 1811/3, Nakamura-za
  • Authors: Nagawa Tokusuki I, Matsui Kôzô I, Shinoda Kinji I (lyrics), Kineya Rokuzaemon IX (music)
  • Genre: Nagauta
  • Japanese: 越後獅子 (Echigo-jishi)

Echigo-jishi, or "The Echigo Lion," is a kabuki solo dance piece, or shosagoto. The sole character is a traveling entertainer from Echigo province named Kakubei, who dances an Echigo folk dance version of the lion dance for an imagined streetside audience.

The 21-minute piece is extremely sparse on narrative, lacking any spoken dialogue (monologue), but some narrative outline is provided by indications in the dance itself, the character's entrance and exit, and the lyrics of the accompanying nagauta song. These relate something about Kakubei's identity, his life, and his wife.

The dancer wears a wig of very long red hair, representing the lion's mane, and, sometimes, an ornately carved lion mask lacquered in gold and vermillion. A small hand drum is worn horizontally at the belt, directly in front, and struck as part of a dance with humorous, acrobatic, and ceremonial/auspicious elements. In one section of the dance, the dancer puts on single-bladed geta and waves long white pieces of cloth, representing a folk practice for bleaching cloth (nunosarashi), while in another section, the lyrics recite famous products (meibutsu) and practices of Echigo.

A nagauta dance, Echigo-jishi belongs to the sub-category known as Shakkyômono, along with other pieces similar to, or related to, the lion dance Shakkyô.

Echigo-jishi is based on the jiuta piece Sarashi; a variant version called Kakubei exists in the tokiwazu tradition. It debuted in 1811/3 at the Nakamura-za in Edo, performed by Nakamura Utaemon III as part of a hengemono - a series of dances in which the performer makes quick costume changes as he transitions between each dance. The seven-part program, titled Osozakura Teniha no Nana Moji, also included dances depicting Shu no shôki (a Chinese priest), a keisei (courtesan), inaka zatô (a rural blind masseur), Ariwara no Narihira, Hashi Benkei ("Benkei on the Bridge"), and Sagami ama (pearl divers at Sagami).

References

  • "Echigo Jishi." Kabuki21.com.
  • McQueen Tokita, Alison. "Music in kabuki: more than meets the eye." The Ashgate Research Companion to Japanese Music. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing, 2008. pp250-254.
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