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Seiganji (play)

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  • Writer: Zeami (attr.)
  • Japanese: 誓願寺 (seiganji)

Seiganji is a Noh play attributed to Zeami and taking place at the temple of Seigan-ji in Kyoto.

The play features Izumi Shikibu and Ippen Shônin as the main characters, and tells a story of a miracle and of the origin of Seiganji. Izumi Shikibu's appearance in this play as the bodhisattva of song and dance is revered in Noh and other performing arts, and from the Edo period on, people coming to Seigan-ji in connection with that were many. Houses (families/lineages) of artists in particular were many, and in the Bunka-Bunsei-Tenpô periods (1804-1844), Shinozuka Bunzaburô, founder of the Shinozuka school and a kabuki actor active in Kyoto, also known as Baisen, combined elements of Noh and Kabuki to form a new, superb form of kôwaka dance. This was very popular in the Tenpô era in Kyoto & Osaka, alongside Yamamura dance, and among his family were devotees of Izumi Shikibu at Seigan-ji. That devotion was passed down until the Shôwa or Heisei eras (i.e. sometime between the post-war to the present).

Contents

Roles

  • Mae-shite (lead in the first half): a woman
  • Nochi-shite (lead in the second half): Izumi Shikibu
  • Waki (chief supporting role): Ippen Shônin
  • Waki-tsure (supporters to the waki): two or three monks

Plot

Act One

It is the third month. Ippen Shônin retires to a Kumano Shrine to pray, and has a dream (and/or is visited by a spirit) inspiring him to distribute talismans reading "Chanting Nenbutsu Determines Dying a Happy Death for 600,000 people." He journeys to the capital, and, distributing talismans at Seiganji, a major site of nenbutsu, a woman comes and, reading the words on the talisman, declares "Never mind how many people, there is no such thing as dying a good death, right?"

Ippen responds, "if you just chant Namu Amida Butsu, anyone can die a good death [and be saved]." The woman seems thankful, and says "go to the main hall of this Seiganji, and write the six characters Na Mu A Mi Da Butsu on your hand. This is the oracular message of the Amida Buddha enshrined here. I am the one who lives in that stone tower over there." And, on the grave of Izumi Shikibu, she vanishes.

Act Two

Ippen Shônin writes the characters on his hand, and makes his way to the main hall. A nice smell comes out of nowhere, flowers fall, and pleasant music is heard. The Amida Buddha atop auspicious clouds, along with 25 bodhisattvas, appear alongside Izumi Shikibu who has become the bodhisattva of song and dance.

She tells the story of how Seiganji was founded and built upon the orders of Emperor Tenchi, and dances a dance relating the coming of Amida here from the Pure Land Paradise of the West, and lastly all the bodhisattvas and saintly beings play music and dance together.

References

  • Plaques on-site at Seigan-ji.
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