Atsumori and Nonomiya

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In Zeami Motokiyo’s Noh play, Atsumori, he retells the story of Atsumori as seen in Heiki Monogatari. The story revolves around the young Taira no Atsumori who was killed at the age of fifteen by Kumagai of the Minamoto clan during the Genpei War at Ichinotani. Atsumori was left behind and spotted by Kumagai along the Suma shore. Kumagai felt sorry for Atsumori because he was about the same age as one of his sons and was torn between whether or not to kill him. He decides to kill Atsumori because if he did not, then someone else from his clan would. He figured it would be better for him to do it because he would pray for Atsumori after his death. Shortly after killing Atsumori, Kumagai renounces his ways and becomes a monk name Rensho and travels back to Ichinotani to pay his respects to and pray for the soul of Atsumori. This play is a continuation from Heike Monogatari because it tells the tale of Kumagai and what he encounters in his new life as a monk while stressing the importance of Buddhist values, such as nonattachment and karma, and character transformation of warrior to priest and enemy to friend.

Rensho appears in the first scene retelling why he decided to become a monk and his reason for revisiting Suma shore. He speaks of a “wandering moon” and “pounding waves” which are two Buddhist symbolisms for a traveling monk and cyclical life. Just as the waves constantly return to the shore, Rensho is returning to Suma because he is compelled to pray for Atsumori’s soul. Rensho has given up his former life and pursued life as a monk because he feels he owes it to Atsumori to pray for him and make sure he is able to reach salvation.

Upon meeting the Youth, Rensho learns that he too is heading back to Suma shore e...

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... she be able to find her way out of the “Burning Mansions gate”. The Burning Mansion is in reference to the lotus sutra that symbolizes desire. Even though the monk prays for Lady Rokujo, ultimately she needs to figure out on her own a way to get out of the burning mansion and relinquish her desire for Genji, which is what ties her down.

This play gives insight on Lady Rokujo that is not seen in The Tale of Genji and the addition of Buddhism is also highly stressed. Lady Rokujo serves as a demonstration on how karma will eventually catch up to one in the end and how one needs to constantly follow Buddhist belief because sometimes prayer is not enough. She is also a Buddhist model like the characters in Atsumori because if one follows Buddhist belief, they too can find peace.

Works Cited

Tyler, Royall. Japanese Nō Dramas. London: Penguin, 2004. Print.
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