|NIHON FURISODE HAJIME|
|Play title||Nihon Furisode Hajime|
The play "Nihon Furisode Hajime" was originally written for the puppet theater (Bunraku) and staged for the first time in the 2nd lunar month of 1718 in ďsaka at the Takemotoza. It was immediately adapted for Kabuki the same month and staged for the first time in Ky˘to [casting]. Most likely, this play was produced in Edo for the first time in the 7th lunar month of 1719 but there is data available on this performance. It did not become a popular play and was revived only a few times during the Edo period. For example, it was staged only twice in Edo, in the 6th lunar month of 1809 at the Ichimuraza and in the 10th lunar month of 1858 at the Nakamuraza. The former performance, starring Ichikawa Danjűr˘ VII, was a failure. It started to be successfully revived during the Meiji era. Nowadays it is occasionally staged.
"Nihon Furisode Hajime" is a mythological episode about the conquest of an eight-headed dragon by Prince Susanoo.
The title literally means "the beginning of long-sleeved kimono in Japan". In order to heal the princess's fever Suganoo had to cut and rip her kimono on her both sides, creating the first furisode in Japan.
The original puppet drama is made up of 5 acts. The final act is the only one to be in the current Kabuki repertoire.
As the play opens we see local villagers bringing Princess Inada to the rock dedicated with a sacred rope which is the site where the annual sacrifice for the dragon is to be left.
As night falls, another princess, Iwanaga, appears. She is the jealous woman whose spirit has become the dragon. As she approaches the rock she sees many large vats of sake wine and begins to drink. Before long she is gloriously inebriated, but this is just as Susanoo has planned. The wine is poisoned but before Susanoo arrives at the scene, the dragon opens its mouth, devours the princess, and disappears into a cave. When the dragon reemerges, it is now in its true form--with eight hideously horned venomous heads (seven other actors are dressed identically to the leading actor and wear the same makeup so that when they move they seem like one creature). Susanoo and the dragon fight viciously and then suddenly the princess reappears. She has used a sword she found in the dragon's tail to cut herself free through its belly. Susanoo then strikes a fatal blow to the dragon, which stands in a final defiant pose as the curtain closes.
Courtesy of Jean Wilson (1998)
The emperor Gozu (who will be deified and renamed Susanoo-no-Mikoto after his death), protecting Princess Inada and killing the dragon in a print made by Utagawa Kuniteru
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