Farewell Addresses to the late Atsumori and the Late Lady Rokujo: Justifications for Attachments and Guides to Enlightenment

Farewell Addresses to the late Atsumori and the Late Lady Rokujo: Justifications for Attachments and Guides to Enlightenment

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Although noh is known for its long tradition and valued as part of Japanese culture, most Japanese people today would not enjoy the play due to its slow-tempo motions of the performers, language spoken, that is, medieval Japanese of between 14th and 16th centuries which modern Japanese speakers would not understand, and lack of its penetration in the society as entertainment. However, some knowledge of plots of the play, such classic literature works as Ise monogatari, Genji monogatari, or Heike monogatari, can make a noh performance enjoyable and appreciated as an intermediary “between the worlds between gods and men” (Handout 14). Although I have not viewed any of these stories as a noh play, I found mere reading of noh scripts with understanding of their sources very interesting in that it enabled me to connect new perspectives toward the event which is already described from the mainstream angles in a literature work. In this paper, I will discuss how those viewpoints differ from each other and the meaning of a story revised for a noh performance.

Atsumori illustrates the sorrow, anger, and eventual forgiveness of Atsumori, who is depicted as a young, beautiful, musical, and brave aristocrat, and is killed by Kumagai, the Genji warrior, in Heike monogatari. This one-on-one battle causes the late Atsumori lingering attachment to this world, as well as Kumagai a great deal of regrets and long-term apologies for the elegant boy. The time is when mortal combats between the Taira and the Genji are constantly waged and finally the latter wins victory. Kumagai finds Atsumori catching up with his clan offshore of Ichi-no-tani. The former gives the challenge and the latter bravely complies with the battle. Kumagai, however, almost ...


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...ere pray to her throughout the night in order to release her grudge and attachment to this world and send her to enlightenment.

In summary, classic literature works are good representatives of humanity with feelings, positive or negative: happiness, love, excitement, anger, sorrow, humiliation, jealousy, etc. The noh playwrights of the Muromachi era were skillful in treating human inner feelings as more important than external niceties, which, otherwise, would have been ignored, or even not recognized in later times. Delivering a story from different angles enables the reader to appreciate the work more thoughtfully and sympathetically. Also, their harmonious endings between the mysterious spiritual world and this world must have offered a great deal of relief about death to the society, as well as encouragement with religious practices during Muromachi era.

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