ARTIST: Utagawa Toyokuni I (Japanese: 歌川豐國; 1769 in Edo – 24 February 1825 in Edo)

SIZE: Ôban

DATE: c.1815

PLAY: Dance drama Kyô-ganoko musume dôjôji (The Maiden at the Dôjô Temple).

The kabuki actor Bando Mitsugoro III as the shirabyoshi dancer Hanako, being watched by Ichikawa Danjuro VII (right) and Onoe Kikugoro III (left) as the priests Kongara-bo and Seitaka-bo.

Kongara and Seitaka — two attendants of Fudō Myō-ō deity.

This dance-drama is a Kabuki adaptation of the famous Nô play “Dôjôji”. It has been performed for the first time in the 3rd lunar month of 1753 in Edo at the Nakamura-za. The main role of the dance was played by the great star Nakamura Tomijûrô I. The performance’s success was beyond expectation and it was extended for several months. [kabuki21]

The drama starts in the precincts of Dôjôji Temple where your eyes are drawn to the great hanging bell. The priests of the temple are happy with this new bell, which has just recently been dedicated. There has not been a bell in the temple for a long, long time. The following story explains why:

According to legend the temple used to have a handsome priest named Anchin, with whom a young girl named Kiyohime fell in love. Since he was a priest, he tried to discourage her affection. But she could not forget him and continued to pursue him with great persistence. Finally after all these attempts had been thwarted, her passionate love for him turned into a deep hatred; and she turned into a fierce, fire-breathing serpent. The terrified priest ran to Dôjôji Temple and hid beneath its huge bell, which the abbot lowered over him. In frustration the serpent coiled itself around the bell and poured fire out from its mouth until the bell melted and the priest burned to death.

Since then no women have been allowed to enter the temple precincts on any account. For a long, long time the temple made do without a bell. But then, just recently, a new bell has been constructed and dedicated. Today a pretty, young girl appears and introduces herself as Hanako, a dancer traveling around the country. She says that she has heard of the new bell at Dôjôji Temple and come out of curiosity to see it. Although she is, at first, refused admittance, her disappointment is so great that it moves the priests stern hearts. At last they accept her offer to dance in the bells honor and allow her to enter the grounds.

First she dances with a hat, then with a hand towel, then with one after another. Before long her dancing arouses some strange feelings in the priests for every time she changes her kimono she emits an enigmatic aura. Remembering the story of Anchin and Kiyohime, the priests begin to drive her out of the temple. But she just gives them a sardonic smile and climbs atop the huge bell, revealing herself to be the spirit of Kiyohime. [Hisao Watanabe; Edited by R. Jeffrey Blair]