NARUKAMI
   
Play title Narukami  In Japanese
Narukami Fud˘ Kitayama Zakura  In Japanese
Authors Tsuuchi Hanjűr˘/Yasuda Abun/Nakata Mansuke (1742)
Oka Onitar˘ (1910)
History

The very first version of "Narukami" was staged in the 3rd lunar month of 1684 at the Nakamuraza, under the title "Kadomatsu Shitenn˘". It starred Ichikawa Danjűr˘ I (who wrote this bombastic drama) and It˘ Kodayű II in the roles of the wicked priest Narukami and Princess Taema. It was staged several times by Ichikawa Danjűr˘ I or Ichikawa Danjűr˘ II. The current version of "Narukami" comes from a bigger drama, "Narukami Fud˘ Kitayama Zakura", which integrated it and was staged in the 1st lunar month of 1742 in ďsaka at the ďnishi no Shibai [casting]. This role was transmitted from generation to generation up to Ichikawa Danjűr˘ VIII, who performed it several times between 1836 and 1851. Then it went into oblivion because the Meiji star Ichikawa Danjűr˘ IX refused to perform it because he thought that the role was both immoral and disrespectful. "Narukami" was fortunately revived by Ichikawa Sadanji II, in May 1910 at the Meijiza [casting]. It is nowadays a very popular play, which is frequently staged.

Structure

"Narukami" is the fourth act of the 5-act drama "Narukami Fud˘ Kitayama Zakura".

Key words Jidaimono
Aragoto
Kabuki Jűhachiban
Summary

Narukami lives in a hermitage near a waterfall in which he has has imprisoned the dragon god. As a result all rainfall has ceased and the land is suffering from drought. The Emperor sends the beautiful Princess Taema to try and break the curse and restore rainfall to the land. As she approaches the hermitage she meets some of Narukami's acolytes, Hakuunb˘ (the white cloud bonze) and Kokuunb˘ (the black cloud bonze), who immediately fall under the spell of her beauty. She claims to have come to pray for the soul of her late husband and to wash one of his garments since there is no water in the capital. The acolytes and Narukami listen entranced as she goes into intimate and sensuous detail about how she met her husband and how they made love. Narukami feels faint from listening to the story and falls off the veranda of his room. Princess Taema revives him by transferring water from her lips to his, but he becomes immediately suspicious as he knows of a hermit who lost his powers of sorcery in a similar fashion. She pleads her sincerity and asks to become his disciple. He agrees and sends the acolytes down the mountain for nun's garments and a razor.

While the acolytes are gone Princess Taema fains illness, and na´ve Narukami offers to massage her pain. However, he has to put his hand inside her kimono and when his hand touches her breast he is overcome with desire. She has been waiting for this to happen and begins to ply him with wine-the first alcohol of his life. Very soon the wine loosens his tongue and he reveals that the dragon god remains imprisoned as long as the sacred rope across the waterfall is intact. When Narukami falls into a drunken stupor, Princess Taema creeps away and cuts the rope. She escapes as thunder and lightning fill the sky and rain pours down. When Narukami revives, his anger at being tricked transforms him into a thunder god and we see him in a final pose wearing a costume covered in orange-red flames and glaring in the direction his seductress has fled.

Courtesy of Jean Wilson (1999)

Trivia

Was "Narukami" a cursed play during the Edo period? Ichikawa Ebiz˘ II's adopted son fell ill and died while his father was performing the role of Narukami. Ichikawa Danjűr˘ VIII collapsed on stage when he performed the role of Narukami for the first time. Many incidents occured when "Narukami" was staged. Supersition might explain the reluctance of Ichikawa Danjűr˘ IX to stage "Narukami". So far, it seems that the old curse is no more here to plague nowadays actors.

The actors Ichikawa Komaz˘ VII (bottom/1st from the left), Band˘ Shűka I (bottom/2nd from the left), Ichikawa Kuz˘ II (bottom/3rd from the left), Ichikawa Danjűr˘ VIII (top/right), ďtani Tomoemon IV (bottom/2nd from the right) and Arashi Kichisabur˘ III (bottom/1st from the right) playing the roles of Seiunb˘ (the blue cloud bonze), Princess Taema, Sekiunb˘ (the red cloud bonze), the wicked priest Narukami, Kokuunb˘ (the black cloud bonze) and Hakuunb˘ (the white cloud bonze) in the drama "Narukami J˘nin Kitayama Zakura", which was performed in the 5th lunar month of 1851 in Edo at the Ichimuraza (print made by Utagawa Toyokuni III)

Prints & Illustrations

 
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