Plays DataBaseMatsumushi (Bell Crickets)

Photo from National Noh Theatre

At the shop of a sake merchant who does his business in the market in Abeno, Settsu Province, young men get together and hold a party. They recite a poem of Bai Juyi and are enjoying their drinks, when one of them says “the singing of bell crickets reminds me of a friend.” The merchant asks the man the story behind what he said, so the man starts recounting it. A long time ago, two good friends were walking together in the field of Abeno-no-hara. One of them went into a thicket, drawn to the singing of bell crickets. However, he did not come back. Worried about his friend, the other man went into the thicket, where he found that his friend had laid down on the grass and died. Ever since he buried his deceased friend in the ground, the man who was left behind reminisces about his friend whenever he hears the chirp of crickets. After telling this story, the man reveals that he is the ghost of the man who lost his friend. He then vanishes.

The merchant, having heard the story about the two men from a local man, spends an entire night conducting a memorial service for the man. Then the ghost of the man appears and performs a dance after expressing his feelings for his friend by recounting ancient stories. When the new day finally breaks, the ghost vanishes and only the singing of bell crickets remains, lingering in the field.

This is a rare Noh drama with the theme of affection and attachment between men. According to tradition, a verse in the Kanajo (Kana Preface) of Kokin Waka-shū (Collection of Japanese Poems of Ancient and Modern Times) — “The chirp of bell crickets reminds me of a friend”—became the basis of this play. In kyogen performed between the first and second halves of the drama, a story is told of a man who followed his dead friend by committing suicide. Through this scene, with its sentimental atmosphere of singing autumn insects, his deep love and attachment to his friend are well expressed.

Before the interlude, shite (lead character) reveals his identity and is about to exit, but waki (supporting character) calls him back from the gangway bridge and they start a conversation called rongi. This is rare dramatic presentation and effectively emphasizes the shite who returns to the stage, drawn to the singing of crickets. The ōshiki-hayamai dance, performed in the second half of the drama, has a brisk yet melancholic atmosphere and is only performed in this play and Nishikigi (The dance changes to chū-no-mai or otoko-mai, depending on schools).

STORY PAPER : Matsumushi (Bell Crickets)

Story Paper presents noh chant stories in modern speech, with story outlines, highlights and more using Adobe PDF format, which can print out and zoom in. Print out the pages and take them with you when you see the actual noh performance.

Matsumushi (Bell Crickets) Story Paper PDF Sample

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