Yashima (Noh play) (八島 (能))
Yashima is a Noh play based on Heike Monogatari (The tale of the Heike). It was written in the Muromachi Period. The author was Zeami. It has been said to be a masterpiece of Fukushiki Mugen-Noh (dream-noh in two parts) and Shura-Noh (warrior plays). It has often been performed for a long time as evidenced by the fact that this title can be found in a lecture about Sarugaku by Zeami and "Tadasugawara Kanjin Sarugaku-ki"has recorded this having been performed in 1464. Yashima is based on stories such as 'Yuminagashi,' which is a story in the Tale of the Heike, Vol.11, and the great performance of MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune and his retainers at the battle of Yashima as well as the suffering of the warlord who spent the afterlife in a hell known as Shurado (which is short for Ashurado: World of Fighting and Slaughter), are written in a flowing and elegant style.
Structure of the Play
The work is written in the classic form of Fukushiki Mugen-Noh, which consists of three parts: a first part in which travelling monks happen to see fishermen, the Kyogen part (a farce played during a Noh play cycle) in which the fishermen have disappeared and the monks ask a local villager about this mystery, and a last part in which the main character Yoshitsune appears as a ghost.
(note: the text shown below in bold
(Although, as stated in the references, the quotation comes from "Yokyoku Taikan" [a complete anthology of Noh plays], the kanji and punctuation used by the author of this webpage may differ from that of the original text.)
(The modern translation has also been done by the author.)
The first part
Noh Waki (supporting role): a monk from Kyoto, (Waki Tsure [companions who appear with the supporting actor in a Noh play]: two retainer monks)
Mae Noh Shite (main roles of the first half in the Noh play): a fisherman, (Tsure [companions who appear with the main actor in a Noh play]: another fisherman)
A monk journeying from Kyoto with his retainers passes by Yashima Bay in Sanuki Province and decides to ask if he can stay for one night at a cottage where salt is made in pans. Then an old fisherman comes back with his attendant. The fisherman starts telling the monk a story of a Genpei War that happened in the area in olden times. It was a battle of an offshore fleet of the Taira clan against forces of the Minamoto clan led by Yoshitsune, on May 7, 1184 (the historical date for the actual battle was March, 1185). The fisherman describes every detail of incidents such as the following: the kumiuchi scene (grappling fight) between Shiro MIHONOYA of the Minamoto clan and TAIRA no Kagekiyo of the Taira clan (this legendary fight is called 'Shikorobiki' in Japanese); the scene in which Yoshitsune's trusted retainer, Tsugunobu SATO, was struck by an arrow and died while rescuing Yoshitsune; and the scene in which Kikuo—a beloved son of TAIRA no Noritsune, who shot the arrow that killed Tsugunobu SATO—dies. The monk feels suspicious of the fisherman, who disappears saying the followings.
With the break of day, when the tide is out, it will be the time of the battle'
At that time you will know who I am.'
[snip] Don't wake me up from the dream of this transient world, Yoshitsune ['eternally'].'
Ai kyogen (comic interlude in Noh)
Waki (supporting actor): the monk from Kyoto
Ai (the role of a kyogen actor in Noh): Tokoro no mono
The real owner of the cottage (Tokoro no mono = an inhabitant of the place) comes in for a look-around. When the monk says 'I'm here with the permission of the fisherman,' the owner suspects that the monk might be telling a lie because surely the local people wouldn't let others stay here. The monk from Kyoto tells him what has happened to him just now and asks the Tokoro no mono if he knows about the battle between the Minamoto and Taira clans. The Tokoro no mono tells the monk the story of the battle waged here in the past (it is the same story as the one told by the fisherman in the first part, but it is a convention of noh to change the spoken style from the metrical style used by Shite in the first part to a colloquial style in ai kyogen). As the monk thanks him and asks who the fisherman was, Tokoro no mono answers that it might have been a ghost of Yoshitsune, and he leaves the scene saying that he is going to prepare some accommodation for the monk.
The latter half
Waki: the monk from Kyoto
Nochi Shite (the leading role in the latter half of a Noh play): Yoshitsune
While the monk from Kyoto is taking a nap, Yoshitsune's ghost appears wearing armor (Yoshitsune appears in a costume consisting of a plate, happi [workman's livery coat] and hangiri [divided brocade skirts with pleats in front and stiffened backs decorated with bold designs in either brocade or gold or silver leaf] in Shura-noh). Telling the monk that 'the battle fought between on the land and sea is unforgettable,' Yoshitsune recalls details of the battle, that is, taking back his bow at the risk of his life, by riding on his horse into the sea to avoid the enemy and taking it from where he had dropped it. Being excited, the ghost of Yoshitsune exhibits a dance expressesing his suffering from shura (scenes of fighting) and reenacting his battle with Noritsune.
The enemies that I thought were seagulls and the battle cries that I thought was the wind blowing through the bay of Takamatsu.'
The wind blew so harshly through Takamatsu Bay that it became a morning storm.'
With this noh song, the monk was awakened out of his dream and the noh play comes to a close.