Wednesday, 26 March 2008

狂言 Kyougen Theater

Our Japanese Sensei Rumi asked as two months ago, if we'd be interested to see a Japanese Theater performance. Hung Lun, Youngki and me were and we eagerly anticipated the day of the performance.
After I got to know that Juliane, my fellow student from the University of Erlangen, where the both of us had studied Japanese, was visiting me at this time I asked Rumi-sensei to try and get another ticket, which she did.

狂言 Kyougen literally means crazy words and is a funny theater genre like the more famous 歌舞伎 Kabuki. Traditionally it was and is performed during Noh Theater performances (the one which makes extensive use of masks, is very slow, silent and takes a long time). Noh Theater can be pretty tiresome due to its length and seriousness. That is why people started to perform a play of Kyougen Theater in between a Noh performance to cheer (and wake) the people up again :) That further means that Kyougen performances are usually not that long.

Today however we went to an independent Kyougen performance. Since as I just explained the plays are a little short, they combined two plays and an introduction into Kyougen to fill an evening.

So the five of us met in 相模原 Sagamihara, which is somewhere between 新宿 Shinjuku 厚木 Atsugi and 横浜 Yokohama and went to the 文化会館 cultural hall. We were already a little late (we could not finish work before 18:00) and when we took our seats, someone was already in the middle of the lengthy introduction. We could only understand pieces like "white garments symbolize the actor being naked". But eventually the moderator retreated and the audience fell silent as the two 二人大名 Daimyou (= Japanese Feudal Lord) entered the stage:


二人の大名が、供を連れずに外出したので、通りがかりの男を脅してむりやり太刀を持たせる。怒った男は、大名が油断したすきに太刀を抜き、二人の小刀、素襖(すおう)を取り上げ鶏や犬のまねをしろと言う。さらに、起き上がり小法師のまねをするよう命じると、大名たちは、小歌を謡いながら次第に興に 乗ってまねをするのだった。すると男は…。

The Two Daimyou

One lord invites another lord to go on an outing with him. Since they have both sent all of their servants out on errands, they have no one to carry their swords, so they decide to stop someone on the way to serve them as sword bearer. A passerby dashes along on an important errand, but the lords stop him and insist that he has to serve them. The passerby objects, that he is too busy and besides is completely ignorant of the way to carry a sword. The lords threaten him with their swords. Faced with execution if he does not comply, the passerby agrees to do as they wish. The lords teach him how to carry the swords and gleefully set out on their way. But before they have gone far, the passerby draws one of the swords and threatens the lords, forcing them to hand over their tanto (daggers) and their clothing as well. Then the passerby decides to have a little fun with the pompous lords before he makes off with his loot. Because of their bright red and yellow fans, he makes them pretend to be fighting cocks and the to be fighting dogs, promising to return their possessions if they will comply. But he enjoys their performance so much that he insists to give them yet another performance of their choice. One of the lords remembers something great and they start singing a children's' song about skipjacks (Stehaufmännchen), the dolls that always right themselves when pushed over. In accordance with the song the lords imitate the skipjacks and start rolling themselves over and once they had a good start, they get engrossed in their singing and rolling about, that they don't notice the passerby sneaking away with their possessions. Once they notice they jump up and chase after him shouting he should keep his promise and return their belongings.

After a short break of us imitating the melodic voice of the actors "de gozaru", "abunaiiiiya", "soriya soriya", the second play started and the bad son Akutaro entered the stage carrying a halberd:


乱暴者の悪太郎は、酒を飲むことを非難する伯父を脅してやろうと、長刀を携えて出かけていく。ところが、そこでも散々酒を飲み、良い機嫌になると、帰る道すがら寝込んでしまう。あとをつけた伯父は、道端に寝ている悪太郎を見つけ、僧形にし、「今後は南無阿弥陀仏と名付ける」と言い渡して去る。目を 覚ました悪太郎は、伯父の言葉を仏のお告げと信じ、仏道修行することを決心するのだった。そこへ出家が念仏を唱えながら通りかかると…。


Akutaro goes to visit his uncle. He is carrying his halberd and he is very drunk. His uncle admonishes him to quit drinking. Akutaro replies he will, if his uncle will only treat him to some sake this time. Akutaro gets much more drunk as a result and eventually sets out for home, but he lies down on the ground to take a nap and sober up before he had gone very far. His uncle comes out to look for him, and when he finds him asleep on the ground, he decides to teach him a lesson by exchanging his halberd, his sword, and his cloak for a string of prayer beads, a straw hat, and a priest's robe. Further her shaves his head bold and cuts off Akutaro's precious beard. Then the uncle whispers into Akutao's ears that his name has changed to "Praise-to-the-almighty-Buddha" (南無阿弥陀仏 Namu Amida Butsu). The uncle goes back home, and after a while Akutaro wakes up believing that he has received an oracle from Buddha himself in a dream to change his name and become a priest. A real priest happens to come along the road, and Akutaro tells him the story, promising to become the priest's disciple and spend the rest of his life dedicated to serve Buddha. The priest is very reluctant to listen to Akutaro, but he is very persistent and keeps imitating the priest in every step. Eventually the priest can't hold himself anymore and breaks out in laughter. In the end they go out cheerfully singing Buddhist hymns together.

After the theater ended we went the way back to the station on foot, since there is a wonderful alley in 相模原 Sagamihara with cherry trees all along the sides. There were lights adjusted to the trees to illuminate them from the ground. And as you might know currently sakura (cherry blossoms) are in full flower in Japan clothing the whole of Japan in a dreamy and romantic touch of pink :).

mika de gozaru

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