Tamamonomae asahi no tamoto: Shinzen-en no dan

Tamamonomae asahi no tamoto: Shinzen-en no dan

Tamamonomae asahi no tamoto: Shinzen-en no dan

Background

Current realization of “Tamamonomae asahi no tamoto”, consisting of 5 acts and belonging to jidai-mono or a historical heroic genre in jôruri and kabuki, was premiered in 1806 at the stage settled in Goyrô-jinja shrine, Osaka. It was based on a preceding play performed at Toyotake-za theater, Osaka, in 1751 and an illustrated book “Ehon sangoku youfu-den (literally ‘Illustrated book of a story of evil women in India, China, and Japan’)” published in 1804. The “Tamamonomae asahi no tamoto” in 1806 settled the first Act in Tenjiku (India), the second in Morokoshi (China), and the third through fifth in Japan, while the illustrated book of 1804 puts all acts in Japan. An evil golden fox with nine tails tried to destroy the three countries. The fox transformed into Queen Kayou, a wife of King Hansoku in India, Queen Dakki, a wife of King Chu in China, and Lady Tamamonomae, a concubine of Emperor Toba in Japan, in order to seduce and kill the kings and emperor. But it was defeated by a sorcerer and chased away to Nasuno field in north Kanto region. A stone called Sesshô-seki, literally meaning ‘a killing stone’, in Nasuno is said to be a transformation of this nine-tailed fox.

As a puppet play, it features acrobatic movement of puppets, which is one of the strong characteristics of Awaji troupes. Awaji ningyô-za theater was invited to perform through the entire acts of this piece at the National Theater Japan Tokyo in 1970. In Osaka, the play had been frequently staged in the modern period, although the performance going through all acts ceased after the concert in 1934 at Naniwa-za theater. The all-act performance was revived in 1974 at National Bunraku Theater Osaka, in which the lost two sections, ‘Shinzen-en’ and ‘Keigoto omokage sesshôseki’ were reconstructed by the help of Awaji tradition.

Scene of ‘Shinzen-en’ is the beginning part of Act 4, in which the fox killed Lady Tamamonomae and incarnated into her. This killing scene is a new invention of Awaji tradition and not found in the original version in the Edo period. The play uses a special puppet head called ‘Menketsu’ that can quickly change from human face to fox one and vice versa.

Synopsis

Princess Hatsuhana, a daughter of the late Minister of the Right named Michiharu, attracted the heart of Emperor Toba by her graceful poem and married him. She changed her name to Tamamonomae. When she visited Shinzen-en garden and was reminiscing her deceased sister in grief, an evil fox appeared with a gusty wind and bit her to death. It threw the lady’s body into a pond and disguised as Tamamonomae.

Prince Usugumo, an elder brother of Emperor Toba, came in to seduce her. As he exposed his intension to destroy his own brother Emperor Toba and come to the throne, Tamamonomae also revealed her real shape as an evil fox and proposed a help to him to make this country a world of demons. However, after Prince Usugumo went out, a chief of magic sorcerers of the Court, Abe no Yasunari came. When he raised a holy mirror, the fox revealed its true character and flew away to Nasuno moaning in pain.