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Question98 Why is “Hagoromo” so popular?

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“Hagoromo” (Celestial Feather Robe), one of the most popular of all Noh plays, is about a beautiful celestial maiden who in the end returns to the sky and flies over Mt. Fuji. The story is based on a legend about a feather mantle in Miho, Shizuoka Prefecture, although similar stories are found in many places around Japan, as well as in Fudoki records of culture and geography that were written in the Nara era (710-784).

In Ōmi Fudoki, a man discovers a celestial maiden bathing in Lake Yogo in Nagahama, Shiga Prefecture, and hides her feather mantle. Pretending to know nothing, the man consoles her as she grieves and subsequently marries her. One day, however, she finds her mantle and returns to the sky. Places around Japan with similar legends include Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture.

In Tango Fudoki, told in Mineyama in Kyōtango-shi, Kyoto Prefecture, the feather mantle is concealed by an old married couple. They take on the maiden and she does a lot for them, such as teaching them how to brew top-quality sake. Later, however, she is later turned out of the house. There is also another legend about a feather mantle told in Mineyama, similar to the one found in Ōmi Fudoki. The play "Hagoromo" may be so popular because the legend of the feather mantle is loved by many people in different regions across Japan.

(June. 6, 2011)


illustration : Hiroko Sakaki
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