Soshi Arai Komachi (Komachi Washing the Manuscript) (草子洗小町)

草子洗小町' (Soshi arai Komachi; aka. 草紙洗 [Soshi Arai] or 草紙洗小町 [Soshi arai Komachi]) is a Noh program categorized into sanbanme-mono (third-category plays), genzai kazura-mono (realistic women plays) and daishomono (plays with three instruments of fue [a Japanese flute], kozutsumi and ozutsumi [small and large hand drums]). The story is set in Uta Awase (a poetry contest) and depicts ONO no Komachi's wit, which leads to uncovering an evil plot of OTOMO no Kuronushi.

Although its author is unknown, some believe that it was written by either Zeami or Kanami.
However, the work suggests that the author 'did not receive much education but knew much about playwriting.'

Story Line

In the poetry contest, OTOMO no Kuronushi (Waki: supporting actor) was going to compete against ONO no Komachi (Shite: main actor). Kuronushi, who knew there was no chance of winning, sneaked into Komachi's house the day before the contest to eavesdrop on the poems Komachi prepared for the contest.

The contest started with master poets gathered including KI no Tsurayuki (Tsure: accompanying actor), and as soon as Komachi's poem was read out, Kuronushi criticized it by saying 'it is not her original, but one of existing poems.'
Kuronushi showed his bound book of "Manyoshu" (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves) as an evidence to prove that her poem was from it. Actually, Kuronushi added the poem to his bound book the previous night, after eavesdropping on Komachi's poem.

Although Komachi faced a difficult situation, she detected Kuronushi's lie and rinsed the bound book with water with lord's permission. Then the line added by Kuronushi disappeared at once, and his foul deed was revealed. After his evil deed was all uncovered, Kuronushi tried to kill himself, but Komachi dissuaded him and performed a celebration dance.

Characters

maejite (main character that appears before nakairi): ONO no Komachi Mask: waka-onna (young woman), fukai (middle-aged woman) or ko-omote (the youngest woman)Female Costume: karaori (outer robes) in kinagashi style, iro-iri (with red)
atojite (main character that appears after nakairi): ONO no Komachi Female Costume: tsuboori (style of wearing a kimono tucked up at the waist), okuchi (wide sleeve hakama, pleated and divided skirt made in fine stripes), iro-iri
kokata (child character) : EmperorCostume: uikoburi (a crown on a young man's head), kariginu (informal clothes worn by court nobles), sashinuki (type of hakama trousers)
tsure (accompanying character) : KI no Tsurayuki Costume: kazaori (a traditional black fold-back cap), kariginu, okuchi
tachishu (extra) : Choshin (Emperor's servants) Costume: kazaori, kariginu, okuchi
tachishu (extra) : Kannyo (Emperor's female servants) Mask: mask of tsure Female Costume: tsuboori, okuchi, iro-iri
maewaki (supporting character that appears before nakairi) : OTOMO no Kuronushi Costume: kazaori, choken (outer garment with wide sleeves), okuchi
atowaki (supporting character that appears after nakairi) : OTOMO no KuronushiCostume: kazaori, kariginu, okuchi
ai (interlude player): a servant to Kuronushi

Sources

The poetry contest in the play is fictitious and not based on a historical fact. Although a specific source is unknown, it is speculated that the story can be based on the anecdotes of TAIRA no Munenaka from "Zoku Koji Dan"(narrative in Kamakura period), in which a poetry contest hosted by MINAMOTO no Morofusa was portrayed.

Both ONO no Komachi and OTOMO no Kuronushi were amongst six master poets, and "Kokin Wakashu" Kanajo (Preface of Kokinwakashu written in kana by KI no Tsurayuki) contains the famous review of the two; Komachi is referred to as 'she is beautiful as if she is a descendant of a beautiful Princess Sotoori-hime in ancient times. Her poem is artistic but not strong. It seems a beautiful woman is sinking into her deep thoughts. Her poem is not strong probably because it is written by a woman.', whereas Kuronushi is reviewed as 'his poems are mean and not noble. It is as if a woodcutter who carries firewood is taking a rest behind beautiful flowers. In this poetry contest, prominent poets including KI no Tsurayuki, the reviewer of the two, OSHIKOCHI no Mitsune and MIBU no Tadamine are amongst the attendance.

Difference among Noh Schools

The title of the play varies with schools; '草子洗小町' is used for Kanze-ryu school, '草紙洗' for Hosho-ryu, Konparu-ryu and Kongou-ryu schools, and '草紙洗小町' for Kita-ryu school. Also, there are some differences in dramatic interpretation of the play between Kanze and Kita schools and other three schools.

The famous Kogaki (a small writing specific to each school) for Kanze-ryu school includes 'Saishiki' and 'Ranbyoshi no den'. Hosho-ryu school has its own Kogaki, 'Ranbyoshi', which adopts different costumes and final dance performance from Kanze-ryu school.

Review

This story is reviewed as 'childlike' both for the eccentric idea to 'rinse Soshi with water' and for Komachi's childish poem itself during the play, and also the plot is seen as 'unrealistic and having many historical errors,' because master poets from different times are portrayed as if they lived in the same period.

However, it is also reviewed as 'an excellent work in which a skillful playwriting helps many scene changes to go through smoothly' and also as 'humorous and gorgeous like an imperial-court picture scroll,' because the Uta Awase at an imperial court added flamboyance to the story. It is also worth noting that the scene in which the Soshi is rinsed with water provides the most elegant verse and musical aspect.

In Noh, plays featuring ONO no Komachi is called 'Nana Komachi' (Seven Komachi) and there are many of them; however, this play is the only one, among frequently-played works, that portrays young and beautiful Komachi, while other Komachi stories depict old and ugly Komachi who fell from grace.

Shoen UEMURA, a Japanese-style painter, painted 'Soshi Arai Komachi' based on the performance played by Iwao KONGO.