Momijigari (Noh play) (紅葉狩 (能))

"Momijigari" is a Noh piece. It depicts the onitaiji (ogre extermination) of TAIRA no Koreshige.

It is a work of Kojiro Nobumitsu KANZE. Nobumitsu also composed "Funa Benkei" (Benkei in the Boat) and "Kanemaki" (Coil Around a Bell) (the model for "Dojo-ji Temple [Noh play]"). This piece also includes many earlier characters. This is a relatively new style of Noh aimed at dramatic composition, with the active involvement of the waki (supporting actor). The visual highlights of the first part are the beautiful autumnal foliage, a party of beautiful women and their dancing. It is an enjoyable Noh piece, with the contrast with the latter part that features a showy, fierce fight scene.


Noh shite (main role): Joro (high ranking female servant in the Imperial Court) viewing autumnal foliage (actually an Oni [ogre])
Tsure (companions of the main role): Party of beautiful women viewing autumnal foliage
No waki (supporting role): TAIRA no Koreshige
Wakizure (companion of the supporting role): TAIRA no Koreshige's party
Noh kyogenkata (Actors who perform lighthearted plays that are often staged between the more serious noh pieces): Attendant of the party of beautiful women
Noh kyogenkata: God of Hachiman-gu Shrine
Stage setting: ichijo-dai (a platform the size of one tatami mat) at center back of the main stage, and a rocky mountain and autumn foliage above it

Structure of the Play

The piece is set at Mt. Togakushi-yama, Shinano Province. The play begins with the travel-dance scene of the party of Mae-Shite (leading role of the first half). Several young beautiful women have come to view the autumn foliage together. The stage is enclosed with a curtain before the jiutai (Noh chorus) and a banquet starts in magnificent scenery. Next, the waki appears on stage on horseback with his attendants in tow. It is the party of TAIRA no Koreshige who has come to hunt deer. After a travel-dance scene at the hashigakari (bridge-form passageway to the main stage), Koreshige discovers the joyous banquet and tells an attendant to find out what is happening. There is a dialogue with the ai (role of the kyogen actor – here, the women's attendant) but the beautiful women do not reveal their identities. Koreshige gets off his horse and tries to walk past, but the shite appears and tempts him by asking him to join them and enjoy the autumn leaves and sake (wine) together.

Unable to reject the offer, Koreshige participates the banquet, however he carelessly overcome by the power of sake and dances of the beautiful women. The beautiful Naka no mai (dance) performed by the shite suddenly becomes a violent Kyu no mai (high-tempo dance) and shows the true nature of the beautiful women, but Koreshige remains asleep. The women disappear, telling him not to wake up.

It is now nighttime. The god of Hachiman-gu Shrine, an ai, appears in Koreshige's dream and tells him to slay the oni taking the form of beautiful women, granting him the Divine Sword. Koreshige wakes up and stands ready to slay the oni. He clashes swords with the nochi-shite (leading role of the latter half) (wearing either a shikami [angry demon] or hannya [female demon] Noh mask) who appears with a storm breathing fire, and after a fierce battle finally succeeds in slaying the oni.


Although unclear, Onitaiji legends can be found in Dai Nihon shi Taira no Koreshige den (Japanese literature, collection of TAIRA no Koreshige) and Taiheiki (The Record of the Great Peace). In these legends the oni have a hiding place in a cavern within the autumn leaves in Togakushi, and are annihilated by Koreshige.

Influences to Later Generations

In many cases, oni in Noh plays are products of female obsessions (for example, Kanawa [Iron Wheel], Aoi no Ue [Lady Aoi] and Dojo-ji Temple [all Noh plays]). However in this Noh piece, the oni are the true forms and the beautiful women their assumed forms (Kurotsuka (Noh play) may also be interpreted likewise). For this point, the story is related to the legend of Kijo (an ogress) set in Kinasa-mura Village at Mt. Togakushi, suggesting that the latter was influenced by the Noh piece. Later, based on this piece, Monzaemon CHIKAMATSU composed a Kabuki Jidaimono (Historical drama in traditional style performed by male actors) (Momijigaritsumugi no Honchi [land of origin for Maple Viewing sword], 1714) and Daniuro ICHIKAWA the ninth composed a Kabuki Buyo (Kabuki Dance) (Momijigari, 1887).

[Original Japanese]