Plays DataBaseKurozuka (Black Mound)

It is called “Adachigahara” in the Kanze school while is “Kurozuka” in the other schools.

Photo from National Noh Theatre

Ajari (a senior-ranking Buddhist monk) Yūkei, who practices ascetic disciplines at Tōkōbō in Nachi, in the province of Kii (present-day Wakayama Prefecture), travels through the provinces for Buddhist training with mountain priests and his followers. One day, the group reaches a far northern province. When they arrive at Adachigahara (the foot of Mount Adatara in current Fukushima Prefecture), the sun has set. They visit a shabby house, which is the only one in the area. A woman, who seems significantly aged, lives in the house. Although Yūkei asks her for one night’s lodging for himself and the others, she declines his request, as it would be too embarrassing to have them stay in such a shabby place. The group has nowhere else to go, however, so he implores her for help until she finally accepts the request.

In the house Yūkei finds something unfamiliar and he asks the woman what it is. She answers that it is a spinning wheel for spinning thread, which is a work for someone ignoble as her. While showing how to use the wheel responding Yūkei’s request, the woman laments her misfortune that she cannot free herself from her bitter karma in this uncertain world and feelingly describes the evanescence of this world. The night has deepened. The woman announces to Yūkei that she must go out to gather firewood to keep off the cold and makes the party promise that they will not look into her bedroom while she is out.

While waiting for her, one of Yūkei’s followers however cannot restrain himself, and despite of Yūkei’s warning, he peeps into her bedroom. There he finds a number of dead bodies piled up high. She is an ogre, the one who has been rumored to reside at Kurozuka in Adachigahara.

Enraged that her secret has been revealed, the woman transforms herself into the form of an ogre and chases Yūkei’s group, who stumble as they flee. Although she tries to catch and eat them, when Yūkei and the others pray with all their strength, the ogre is completely weakened and vanishes within the night storm.

This Noh drama is one of the three female ogre stories, together with “Dōjō-ji (Dōjō-ji Temple)” and “Aoi no Ue (Lady Aoi).” Therefore, nochi-shite (the second-half lead part) wears the mask of Hannya. This mask embodies the resentment and fierce obsession of women; its horrible look gives us an impression that it is not just a weird monster but that it deeply expresses the sadness of human beings, which hannya still feels.

The woman’s narration in the first half of drama sounds philosophical and persuades the audience to think that the woman must have found the truth of life. It is deeply poetic and even creates the solitary atmosphere of autumn. The woman however becomes enraged and turns out to be an ogre because someone broke the promise and looked into her bedroom, which she never wishes to be seen. Her horrendous transformation is perceived as even more fearful when it is linked with the atmosphere at the foot of the mountain in the lonely far northern province.

In this piece you can thoroughly enjoy “shade and shadow” in various respects.

STORY PAPER : Kurozuka (Black Mound)

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Kurozuka (Black Mound) Story Paper PDF Sample

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