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Seki no to

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  • Debut: 1784/11, Kiri-za
  • Authors: Takarada Jurai (lyrics), Tobaya Richô I (music), Nishikawa Senzô II (choreography)
  • Genre: Tokiwazu
  • Other Names: 積恋雪関扉 (Tsumoru Koi Yuki no Seki no To)
  • Japanese: 関の戸 (seki no to)

Seki no to (lit. "Gate at the Barrier"), also known by its fuller name, Tsumoru Koi Yuki no Seki no To, is a kabuki dance-drama (shosagoto) featuring 9th century poets Henjô and his political rival Ôtomo no Kuronushi. It was originally the second half of a play entitled Jûnihitoe Komachi Zakura, which fell out of the repertoire for nearly 200 years, only being revived in 1987, with a new script. Today, only the conclusion of Seki no to, one of the most famous pieces of the tokiwazu genre, remains in the active repertoire.

As is quite typical of the tokiwazu genre, the play emphasizes the rough masculine (yabo) character of Sekibei, who gets drunk and belches, and the "coquettish but devious" personality of the tree spirit.[1]

The section still performed today is about fifty minutes long, and features a combination of dramatic dialogue and dance. Kuronushi and the tree spirit play at their roles of courtesan & border guard client, while attempting to outwit one another, before turning to more direct conflict.

Plot

The play takes place in the 9th century, at a mountain retreat near the Ôsakayama barrier checkpoint that Henjô has come to visit. Meanwhile, Ôtomo no Kuronushi has disguised himself as Sekibei, the checkpoint guard. The spirit of a black cherry tree manifests in the guise of a courtesan and seeks to exact revenge against Sekibei for some slight, in a scene reminiscent of an Edo period scene of a courtesan and her client.

The fuller play from which Seki no to derives, Jûnihitoe Komachi zakura, premiered at the Kiri-za in Edo in 1784. The plot draws upon the historical Jôwa Incident of 842, in which a group of courtiers failed in a scheme to overthrow the emperor; but the play inserts several of the Rokkasen ("Six Poetry Immortals") into the story: the bishop Henjô, Ôtomo no Kuronushi, and Ono no Komachi. Two romantic pairings, between Henjô and Komachi, and between Henjô's brother Yoshimine no Yasusada and the courtesan Sumizome, feature in the play, with Ôtomo as the villain. Like other kaomise plays of its time, Jûnihitoe was pulled together from elements of a number of other plays, and was intended to only be performed for one run, not to be entered into the repertoire to be performed again. It was co-written by Segawa Jokô and a group of others, including Takarada Jurai (lyrics), Tobaya Richô I (music), and Nishikawa Senzô II (choreography).

References

  • Timothy Clark, "Edo Kabuki in the 1780s," The Actor's Image, Art Institute of Chicago (1994), 36.
  • Alison McQueen Tokita. "Music in kabuki: more than meets the eye." The Ashgate Research Companion to Japanese Music. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing, 2008. pp254-255.
  • "Seki no To." Kabuki21.com.
  1. Tokita. p254.
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