Japanese theatre question
June 29, 2015 11:44 AM   Subscribe

Is there a Kabuki or Noh theatrical performance that features a funeral of a young person?
posted by Jason and Laszlo to Media & Arts (1 answer total)
Yes, there is one featured in the third scene of Act IV Terakoya (寺子屋, "temple school") from Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami. A translation is available on Google books The Art of Kabuki: Five Famous Plays starting at page 138. There is also some interesting analysis earlier on in the chapter looking at different ways the final tableau is played by different companies that you may want to read.
Thank you for asking this question. It has led me down some deep and twisting rabbit holes of Japanese theatre (of which I know little).
Just in case you can’t access the book from where you are (as happens sometimes) - here is the relevant part (please excuse any transcription errors).
As the noble Chiyo answers
The wise Tonami enters
Bearing in her arms
The sad remains.
She places these in the palanquin.

(Tonami enters with the headless body. It is dressed in the clothes worn by Kotaro when he was admitted to the school. The white shroud is placed over the body. She carries it off to the palanquin and places it inside. She then takes the haori jacket she carried in earlier and helps Genzo into it. Tonami now exits up center but comes right on again, with props for the funeral service. These are a small metal pan and hemp reeds placed within it in a neat pyramid and a small flint box. The pan is placed near where the door formerly was.)

Kotaro's parents remove
Their outer garments,
Displaying as they do so
Their firm and grim resolve
Since underneath their robes of black
The white of mourning is disclosed.

(By now, Matsuo and Chiyo's change has been completed. Genzo turns his attention from Tonami to Matsuo and Chiyo and, seeing their change, is visibly surprised. Matsuo puts his short sword in his obi, takes a rosary out of his right sleeve, and holds it in his right hand. Genzo goes out up center. Tonami strikes a flint and takes a short stick, which is glowing from the sparks, to the pan, which she proceeds to light. The hemp flares up. Genzo comes out carrying lacquer-ware incense equipment which he places on Kotaro's desk. He lifts the desk, crosses center with it, and places it humbly before Lady Sono and Kan Shusai. Genzo returns to his position at right while the lady takes a pinch of incense and drops it in the burner. She then clasps her hands in prayer. A similar action is performed in turn by the other characters. Tonami takes the incense from up center and places it before Matsuo, who bows, then does the action of placing incense in the burner. He wipes away his tears, then poses with his rosary as if in prayer. Weeping, he moves the desk to Chiyo, who first bows to Lady Sono, then rises, and moves closer to the desk. After putting incense in the burner, she sinks to her side, overcome. She keeps herself bent over during most of the rest of the scene. She holds a white rosary in her hands with which she prays, hands clasped, just before putting the incense in. Tonami crosses left, gets the desk, and brings it to Genzo, who rises and moves to it, holding the incense up in the direction of the palanquin. Tonami takes the desk and places it before the palanquin, does the business with the incense, and then places the desk with the burner on it inside the palanquin. She reenters the house and, together with Genzo, crosses left where she takes up a position on her knees before the shoji yatai, facing center with fingertips on the ground before her. Genzo stands at left center, right leg slightly bent at the knee, left one straight and to the left, holding his sword before him. Kan Shusaiand his mother have risen and Lady Sono stands behind her son and to his right with her hands placed on his shoulders. Matsuo and Chiyo cross left, meanwhile, and Chiyo sits on one knee, the right, the other being slightly raised. She faces down right on a slight diagonal. Matsuo, at left center, holds his sheathed sword in his right hand, his left leg slightly bent at the knee, his right leg straight. He slowly brings his left hand across in front of his body and brings it up to shoulder height, holding it out as if displaying Kan Shusai, who stands just upstage above him. The sword in his right hand is held just below the hilt. Matsuo holds it in such a way as to suggest that he is restraining Chiyo from leaving her position to go to the body in the palanquin. His eyes are focused to the right, though his body position leans toward the left. The tsuke are beaten. This tableau is held until the curtain is closed. During the above action, the gidayu chants. Since some productions allow these last lines to be spoken by the actors, the usual breakdown of the lines is indicated by the names in parentheses. The bracketed words are those heard in productions where the gidayu recites all the lines; they are cut in other instances.)

(Lady Sono) The lad embarks upon
His journey to the school of Hades.
(Matsuo) His master speeds him on his way
With fervent prayers of
(Genzo) "Praise be to the Lord Buddha
Praise be to the Lord Buddha."
(Tonaml) His spirit is commended
Unto the god of children,
(Chiyo) Lord Jizo Bosatsu.
And in the waters of
(Matsuo) Death's fateful river
(All) He writes his final lesson.
[The child who practiced all his letters
Had a short and tragic life.
Now nothing can be done to bring him back.
Who, tomorrow night, will be at his side?
The grieving parents think
Of his journey down to Hades,
Of the treacherous Sword Mountain
He must climb along the way
As he passes on to Hades.
Are they dreaming?
Is this reality?
The parents soon depart
Taking their son home again.]
(The ki sound is heard. The striped curtain is pulled closed from left to right.)
posted by unliteral at 12:19 AM on August 19, 2015 [9 favorites]

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