Plays DataBaseKoi no Omoni (The Deadweight of Love)

Koi no Omoni
Photo from National Noh Theatre

There was a gardener, Yamashina no Shōji, who was taking care of the Retired Emperor Shirakawa’s (Shirakawa-in) beloved chrysanthemums in Shirakawa-in’s garden. One day, Shōji took a glance at a consort of Shirakawa-in and fell in love with her. The consort, who recognizes his romantic affection for her, has a retainer deliver a message to Shōji that says she will appear before him if he can complete a certain task. (During the Heian period, noble women were always hidden behind screens in their rooms and rarely appeared before unfamiliar people). The required task is to carry a beautifully-decorated package and walk around the garden hundreds of times. The package looks so light. Shōji is delighted with this slender opportunity to meet with the lady. Confident that it must be an easy task for a man like him whose body has been trained by gardening, Shōji tries to lift the package with all the might in his body. It is, however, incredibly heavy and he cannot lift it at all. Although he tries again and again, he is never successful. Exhausting all his energy, the despairing Shōji holds a grudge against this raw deal. As he passes away, he curses that the consort will pay for it.

The consort hears about Shoji’s death from the retainer. She goes out to the garden, finds his body, and mourns his death. When she tries to stand up, she cannot move just as if there were a rock on her body. Then, the ghost of Shōji appears before her. The ghost, who is infuriated at her bitter treatment, repeatedly expresses his resentment and blames her for his suffering in Hell.

In the end, however, the ghost says that he will forget the grudge and act as a guardian to protect the consort to realize her happiness for good, if the consort gives memorial services for him. Then he disappears.

This is a story describing woe and animosity of an old man who fell in love with a beautiful woman. Another Noh piece, Aya no Tsuzumi, also has a similar story line.

The woman is a consort of a retired emperor. The old man is a lowly man sweeping and maintaining a garden. Although people say class and status cannot prevent love, there are status and age gaps between these two. In the first place, the consort does not have any special feeling for the old man, and the man also knows that there is no hope for him. The terrible tragedy starts when the consort offers him hope which he should not have. Imagine the misery of the old man clinging to a thread of hope and tackling an impossible task to lift the heavy burden. The old man’s love is crushed by her bitter treatment. He dies of a grudge against her and he turns into an evil ghost. This piece vividly expresses the old man’s emotional moves with the character’s limited movements, accompanied by the chorus which quickly changes its singing speed. The sophisticated expressions easily grab the audience’s hearts and quickly enchant them.

The old man does not hold his bitter feeling but announces at the end that he will become the guardian spirit of the consort. Although his love will never be rewarded, he chooses to stay close to his beloved one and support her, rather than keep blaming her. His earnest and undistracted heart strikes our hearts.

STORY PAPER : Koi no Omoni (The Deadweight of Love)

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Koi no Omoni (The Deadweight of Love) Story Paper PDF Sample

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