Sekkyo-bushi (説経節)

Sekkyo-bushi (sermon ballads), written as 説経節 in Japanese, is oral literature in the beginning of the early-modern times in Japan. It is also called sekkyo.
It is sometimes wrongly written as '説教節.'

Sekkyo is a public entertainment which appeared between the Kamakura period and the Muromachi period based on shodo, which is the guidance leading all living things by explaining the Buddhist sutras and doctrines. This was also called 'sekkyo-joruri' because it also gradually took on the character of joruri (dramatic narrative chanted to a samisen accompaniment), but it is commonly called sekkyo-bushi at present.

It was at its height from the beginning of the Kanei era to the Kanbun era, and the performers in priestly attire showed the performances of kadotsuke (also called as kadozekkyo, which represents a performance in front of the gate of a house) or the performances with an umbrella stood on a street accompanied by sasara (a percussion instrument made of finely split bamboo and played by rubbing against a ridged rod), shoko (a small gong), and kakko (a small drum used in the Court music of Japan and hit with sticks at each end). Subsequently it introduced shamisens, and the performers also started to show their performances at a playhouse with puppets.
This type of sekkyo is called 'sekkyoza' (which literally means "sitting sekkyo"), while the outside performances are called 'utasekkyo' (which literally means "singing sekkyo") or 'kadozekkyo.'
In addition, the sekkyo called 'sekkyo saimon,' the combination of sekkyo and saimon (a written paean to the gods), also began. However, since the contents of sekkyo eventually focused on the Buddhism topics because of its characteristic, Gidayu-bushi (music in Gidayu ballad drama) gradually became more dominant. Still it had great influence on the early-modern performing arts.

The sekkyo-bushi 'Ishidomaru,' 'Shintokumaru,' 'Oguri Hangan,' 'Sanshodayu,' and 'Bon Tengoku' are referred to as Gosekkyo (five sekkyo), and these sekkyo have been recited repeatedly. Today the most available text is "Sekkyo-bushi" (edited by Shigeru ARAKI and Kichizo YAMAMOTO, in 1973) in the edition of Toyo Bunko, Heibonsha Limited.

Wakatayu WAKAMATSU in the Wakamatsu school is one of the major performers (the current Wakatayu is the third generation). There was Wakatayu SATSUMA (until the 12th generation) in the Satsuma school in the past as well.

[Original Japanese]