Genji Kuyo (源氏供養)

Genji Kuyo is to hold a commemorative service for the Tale of Genji and its author Murasaki Shikibu. According to an old tradition, at the time it was believed that writing fiction was to go against one of the five commandments, 'Fumogokai' (people must not tell lies). Based on the tradition, Genji Kuyo was started in order to hold a memorial service for Murasaki Shikibu because she had authored a fictional story, the Tale of Genji, which could confuse readers, and fell into Hell after her death. His thought that an indulgence in the Tale of Genji made him unhappy had already appeared in Sarashina Nikki (Sarashina Diary), written around 1060; his concrete actions are recognized in "Hobutsushu" (A Collection of Treasures) and the Genji Kuyo, which is thought to have been started between 1177 and 1180 and between 1185 and 1189, was actually held several times in medieval times.

Stories originating from the above-mentioned tradition
The author's name isn't known. It is believed to have been written during the Kamakura period. There are copy versions of the story with different titles, such as "Genji Kuyo" (book stock of Toenbunko, library of Tokai University), "Genji Kuyososhi" (book stock of Imperial Household Archives) and "Genji Monogatari Hyohaku" (book stock of the Imperial Household Archives). The outline of the story is that according to Nyonin (a woman), a certain high-ranking priest was indulged so much in the Tale of Genji that he could not concentrate on Buddhist teachings, so Kuyo was performed at her request.

Noh dramas focusing on the same theme as the above story
This paragraph gives a detailed explanation.

Joruri (a dramatic narrative chanted to samisen accompaniment), by Monzaemon CHIKAMATSU

Yukio MISHIMA's work play was introduced in 1962, in the third installment of the 'Bungei' reissue series. Following the initial introduction of the eight-installment series of modern Noh drama collections, the play was issued as the ninth in the series, but since it was removed by Mishima himself as a 'discontinued play' it was neither republished in any book or magazine nor performed while he was alive. After his death, however, it was performed at the Small Theatre of the National Theatre, Tokyo, under the direction of Kiju YOSHIDA from July 7 to July 15, 1981, and the actors and actresses were Shibuki MAHO, Ichitaro ARASHI, Masami HORIUCHI, Yuji USUI and Yoshio WATANABE. Also, the work play is contained in 'Complete Works of Yukio MISHIMA (23)' (November 1974, by Shinchosha Publishing Co., Ltd.), 'Complete Play Works of Yukio MISHIMA, Volume 2' (September 1991, by Shinchosha Publishing Co., Ltd.), 'Corpus of Commentaries about the Tale of Genji 4' (May 1999, by Yumani Shobou) and 'Complete Works of Yukio MISHIMA (Definitive Edition) (23) Work Play 3' (October 10, 2002, by Shinchosha Publishing Co., Ltd). Due to the above-mentioned circumstances, there is no text other than the first published books of his work play, and no castigation in which the differences resulting from the comparison have been clarified between the book containing the same text and its hardcover book, has been made in a manner similar to the complete works published after the deaths of authors of other texts.

Osamu HASHIMOTO, who authored "Yohen Genji Monogatari" (literally, "discoloration of "Tale of Genji") wrote an essay featuring the Tale of Genji; it was published as a two-volume book by Chuokoron-shinsha Inc. in 1993 and 1994, and in 1996 it was included in Chuo Bunko as a two-volume book.

Genji Kuyo is a Noh drama based on the theme of the Tale of Genji. Unlike a series of books covering the events in a story such as "Aoi no Ue" or "Nonomiya," it's a Noh play featuring the background of how the Tale of Genji was created. It was composed based on "Genji-monogatari Hyohaku" (confession about "Tale of Genji"), which is believed to have been written by Choken.


The spirit of Murasaki Shikibu appeared before Agui no Hoin (Choken), who was on his way to Ishiyama-dera Temple, and said that she had written the Tale of Genji, but did not hold a memorial service for it and therefore she could not rest in peace. When Hoin arrived at Ishiyama-dera Temple and was doing Eko (Buddhist memorial service, prayers for the repose of the soul), Murasaki Shikibu appeared in an ante mortem figure, danced to music including the chapter names from the Tale of Genji, and said that she was actually an incarnation of Kanzeon Bosatsu (the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy). The author is thought to be Zeami, Kawakami Kannushi (Shinto priest) (the former two, based on "Nohon Sakusha Chumon"), or Zenchiku KOMPARU ("the Nihyakujuban Utai Mokuroku" (a catalog of 210 numbers of No theater lyrics).

Composition of the work

In the first half of the story, Agui no Hoin identifies himself and says he's on his way to Ishiyama-dera Temple, meets the soul of Murasaki Shikibu and holds a dialog with persons standing in front of Ishiyama-dera Temple gate, after which the second half begins. When Hoin is holding a memorial service in the yard of Ishiyama-dera Temple, Shikibu appears in the figure of the old days. As a result of the memorial service, he is told that the figure of Murasaki Shikibu is an incarnation of Kanzeon Bosatsu, whereupon the Noh play ends. There is no Jo-no-mai No dance performed, and the overall style is extraordinary as a highly reputed sanbanme-mono (third-category play), which has an 'unusual flavor' and includes the Tale of Genji.

First half of the story


No shite (leading part): Woman in the village (the soul of Murasaki Shikibu)

No waki (supporting role): Agui no Hoin

Wakizure (companion who appears with the supporting actor in a Noh play): Juso (two)

Agui no Hoin appears with monks, says he believes in Kanzeon Bosatsu at Ishiyama-dera Temple and plans to visit Ishiyama-dera Temple from that point on. The group is called by a woman in the village near Karazaki. The woman implies that she is the spirit of Murasaki Shikibu and says, 'I did not hold a memorial service for that Genji and could not become a soul of the deceased, resting in peace. Agui no Hoin promises to hold a memorial service; the woman, who is truly the soul of Murasaki Shikibu, says they will meet at Ishiyama-dera Temple, after which she disappears.

Ai kyogen, (a comic interlude in Noh)


No farce side: Residents living in front of the Ishiyama-dera Temple gate

Waki: Agui no Hoin

Wakizure (a companion who appears with the supporting actor in a Noh play): Juso (two)

A resident living in front of the Ishiyama Temple gate finds Hoin and asks who he is, because he's a stranger there. Hoin identifies himself and asks the resident to talk about Murasaki Shikibu. According to the resident, 'Murasaki Shikibu was a daughter of the governor of Ecchu (the governor of Echizen, based on historical evidence) FUJIWARA no Tametoki, and when she was serving FUJIWARA no Shoshi she was directed to create new stories; she visited this Ishiyama-dera Temple to pray, became inspired and started writing the volume of Suma-Akashi.
To erase her sins, she wrote part of the 60-volume Daihannya (Great Perfection of Wisdom Sutra) by herself and gave them to the temple.'
The resident says, 'Why are you asking it?'
Hoin answers, 'A young woman asked me to hold a memorial service for Genji a short time ago,' and the resident says, 'Since she probably found you high-minded, she appeared and talked with you.'
Hoin and other members grieve and mourn Genji at Ishiyama-dera Temple.

Latter half of the story


No shite: The soul of Murasaki Shikibu

Waki: Agui no Hoin

Wakizure: Juso (two)

As Hoin continues the memorial service in the evening, a woman in a purple silk outfit and red Oguchibakama (a wide-sleeved hakama, a pleated and divided skirt made in fine stripes) appears and answers, 'I am ashamed to appear' to Hoin's question, 'Are you Murasaki Shikibu?'
She asks in appreciation, 'What should I give for your grateful memorial service?' and Hoin says, 'I did not expect to receive anything.'
Please dance for me.'
Murasaki Shikibu has Ganmon (Shinto or Buddhist prayer) with her, and she gives it to Hoin. Hoin and others read the Ganmon. Noh-jiutai, (Noh chorus) sings Utai (a song) containing the volume titles of the Tale of Genji in order, such as 'To being with, the smoke of Kiritsubo (the Paulownia Court) quickly rose to the sky over Hossho last night, and words of Hahakigi (the Broom Tree) in the evening...,' and Murasaki Shikibu dances to the music.
After she finishes dancing to the song, 'I should cross Yume no Ukihashi (a floating bridge in a dream) and ask for Raigo (Amida Buddha, who comes to take someone),' the Jiutai finally says that Murasaki Shikibu was actually Kanzeon Bosatsu at Ishiyama-dera Temple, and the Noh play ends with the words, 'Thinking of Yume no Ukihashi, it is a word in the dream and it is a word in the dream.'

[Original Japanese]