Niwabi (庭燎)

Niwabi (garden fire) is a piece of music used for the court kagura (sacred Shinto music and dancing performed in the Imperial Court).

According to the 'Gakkaroku' (fifty books on gagaku written by Suehiro ABE in 1690), the Niwabi was performed as follows: a nincho (chief kagura dancer) would go to a point in front of the shoku (straw mat), dance in triple meter, kick the shoku with his right foot, and then stand to the side of the motokata (leaders who sat to the left of the garden fire during the performance of the Mikagura, a type of music performed in court Shinto ceremonies).

Next, a fue (Japanese flute) player would go up to the shoku, play the Niwabi and then sit on the seat of the motokata.

The nincho then moves in front of the shoku, faces the shrine, kicks the shoku with his right foot and stands on the side of suekata (followers, seated on the right side of the niwabi at Mikagura). Subsequently, a player with a hichiriki instrument (short recorder) moves onto the shoku, plays Niwabi and takes his place on the seat of the suekata.

The nincho then moves to the motokata side.

The next performance is that of a wagon koto (Japanese harp). Before the performance, a suino (officer for all general affairs, including the receipts and disbursement of the treasury of Kurododokoro) takes the wagon koto and places it in front of the wagon koto player. The player goes on to the shoku, plays Niwabi, and sits on the seat of the motokata.

Next, the nincho goes in front of the shoku and stands, facing the shrine.

Next, the fue flute and hichiriki instrument players play in unison.

When the nincho stands on the motokata side, motoutakata (本歌方) (the first singers) come, sing Niwabi and take their places on the seat of the motokata. When the nincho stands on the suekata side, suenoutakata (末の歌方) (singers who sing after motoutakata) come, sing Niwabi and take their places on the seat of the suekata.

To put it simply, in the manner of a nincho he has fue flute, hichiriki instrument and wagon koto players play Niwabi as an initial trial so as to permit them to sit. Next, the musicians join together to play in concert for rehearsal, and the singers sing Niwabi. This is called yoriai (gathering). In fact, the process from the nincho's manner and Niwabi to yoriai is considered the prelude to torimono (symbolic offerings), and the torimono follows Achime no waza (Manners of Achime).

The singers chant the poem of torimono, 'Mountains seem to be fog, because the vines of spindle trees over the hill colored' which is one of the kami asobi no uta (poems for singing and dancing in front of a deity) in Kokin Wakashu (A Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry).

This poem was formerly called the 'morouta' (entire verse) of Niwabi because the entire part of the poem was chanted at one time; however, in recent times only the first part of the poem was chanted, whereas the last part was not chanted.

Additionally, the singing of the kazura (vines) song is not performed in the torimono.

The singing is accompanied only by the wagon koto, and Sugagaki (a way of playing the koto) is used for accompaniment.

It was necessary to light a niwabi (garden fire) because the kagura was performed at night.

It is assumed that, in the past, only the ceremony was conducted without singing or with netori (tuning of Japanese instruments) only, which was performed by musicians for the purpose of rehearsal.

The purpose of performing this song was to assess the musician's skill. It means that this performance was aimed at singing about the lighting of the fire as well as testing the skills of musical performance.

[Original Japanese]