Nagoya Odori 一

KUNIYOSHI (1797-1861)
“YOUNG SAMURAI MIDONO KOTAROU FIGHTS WITH DEMONS IN THE NIGHT”; 69 STATIONS OF THE KISOKAIDO – 1852, June

A darkness followed Watanabe who walked along the Kamogawa.   Though a young man, the samurai walked as if old.  Called the greatest warrior of all times, he felt sorry for himself.  His body ached from sleeping on the ground.  He could use a bit of sake to warm his cold feet.  No one thinks about the samurai’s feet, Watanabe thought.   Swollen from marching and cut from battle, the warrior’s feet are in constant pain.

A waft of jasmine interrupted Watanabe’s pity party.  A Geisha of the Gion quarter?  Why was she alone at this hour?  This might be even better than a hot sake, Watanabe thought.  Though, he knew that there was little better than the feeling of warm sake flowing to the gut.  

Seduced by his own yearning, the young samurai chanced to walk up to the lady.  As he got nearer, he could see the Geisha was very young.  Perhaps she was a new recruit.   Her beauty gave meaning to the word “breath taking.” He could not breathe.  His breath was sucked into a ravine dug by deep hunger.

She turned and gave him a faint smile.  She gently touched his arm.  Watanabe was put off guard.  Beauty enveloped him.  No, really bound him.  Not metaphorically.  He could not move.  Why did she have such long arms?

Not surprisingly, since this is a myth of grand proportions, the beauty had transformed into a red demon.  You know, the kind that sits at the front of Buddhist temples.  Lacquered red face.  Fierce expression.

The young warrior struggled, he thrashed.  He was afraid.  I know, samurai are not suppose to feel fear.  No, they attack, they roar.  They are destroyers.  But, Watanabe knew fear.  It followed him.  Fear was as much a companion as was courage.  And he was afraid now.

With one last desperate effort, Watanabe struggled.  He twisted to find his sword.  Miraculously, the demon was surprised by the death effort of the man.  Watanabe pulled free.  He pulled out his battle worn sword and sliced through the demon’s left arm.

The red face of the demon contorted, screamed in agony.  The evil lacquered creature broke loose and flew out over the river.  The sky glowed red.

歌舞伎 踊り

This is the story that set the scene of the Kabuki Odori by the Nishikawa Ryu that I attended last night.  Keith Dixon invited Don and me to join other NIS (Nagoya International School) teachers to see the performance.  Keith took us back stage and introduced us to the troop and showed us how the performance is put together.

In the next post, I will post photos of the back stage and give a short history of Odori theater and the Nishikawa Company’s Nagoya Odori.

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About mbfitzmahan

Focus Japan: 2012-14 View all posts by mbfitzmahan

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