Genjo (Noh play) (絃上 (能))

Genjo (written as 絃上, also called "Kenjo") is a Noh play program. It is written as 玄象 in Kanze school. The subject of the program is an anecdote in which when FUJIWARA no Moronaga was parting for Southern Sung Dynasty to pursue music, he was stopped by the spirit of Emperor Murakami in Suma Bay, Settsu Province.

The highlight of the program is haya-mai (literally, "fast dance," dance in swinging rhythm) by Emperor Murakami with eight great dragon kings as supporting actors. This program leaves the spectator with nifty feelings.

The title, Genjo, was the name for biwa (Japanese lute) which was regularly used by Emperor Murakami who plays it repeatedly in the song; however, music is abstracted on the stage and instruments are not actually played except in special renditions.


Mae-Shite (the leading role in the first half of a Noh play) - Jo (Lieutenant)

Nochi-Shite (the leading role in the latter half of a Noh play) – Emperor Murakami

Tsure (the performer appearing after the Shite in Noh) - FUJIWARA no Moronaga

Tsure - Uba (an elderly woman)

Tsure - Dragon God

Waki (supporting actor in a Noh play) - Moronaga's servant

Wakitsure (companion who appears with the supporting actor in a Noh play) - Servant

Ai (the role of a kyogen actor in a Noh play) - Moronaga's genin (servants who served to their masters as slaves)


The first part

FUJIWARA no Moronaga, Daijo-daijin (Grand Minister) of the time, believing that there is no one in Japan who could play biwa as well as he could, left for China seeking for a master of biwa. On his way, he met an elderly couple in Suma Bay who let him stay at their house overnight.

When Moronaga was playing biwa at the request of the master of a shioya (a cottage where salt is made in pans) who let him stay the night, suddenly rain began to fall and he was forced to stop playing.

Then the master asked Uba to bring rush mats, with which he thatched the shingle-roofed house. When Moronaga asked the master what it was for, the master replied: "So that I can listen to biwa quietly." Hearing this, Moronaga realized that the master knew biwa, and asked the master to play a piece.

The elderly couple began to play biwa and koto (a long Japanese zither with thirteen strings) in concert.

Listening to the elderly couple's admirable performance, Moronaga felt ashamed for having flattered himself to think that he was the best biwa player in Japan, and tried to sneak out of the shioya in secret, but the elderly couple stopped him.

Moronaga said: "I am trying to go home, but why do you stop me? "
Then he asked the elderly couple: "Who are you?"
The elderly couple revealed themselves saying that they were Emperor Murakami and Nashitsubo no nyogo (Lady Nashitsubo), and vanished into thin air.

The elderly couple's identity was Emperor Murakami and Nashitsubo no nyogo. Their intent desire to stop Moronaga from going to China reached Moronaga in his dream.

The latter part

Emperor Murakami's spirit apperaed and bestowed on Moronaga a famous biwa called Shishimaru, which the Dragon God was ordered to bring from his Palace. When Moronaga began playing biwa, eight great dragon kings joined him as supporting actors, and Emperor Murakami himself played an admirable piece of secret music, and danced haya-mai.

The spirit of Emperor Murakami returned to tenjo (in the sky) and Moronaga, too, came home carrying the biwa.

[Original Japanese]