The Spider

土蜘

Tsuchigumo

A mysterious monk, who has come ostensibly to cure a lord through prayer, is betrayed by his shadow.

The show’s main character is the spirit of a spider, a monster aiming to take over Japan by spreading thousands of webs. As his first step, he disguises himself as an itinerant monk in order to assassinate the hero Minamoto Raiko. The drama is inspired by the Noh play of the same name but includes a number of unique and vivid Kabuki elements throughout the play, with a notably evil aura. The dance drama exemplifies the type of show that elevated the status of Kabuki in the modernist Meiji Era.

Synopsis

by Abe Satomi

Raiko’s illness

The mansion of Lord Minamoto Raiko, who is severely ill. He has recently showed some signs of recovery. His retainer Hirai Yasumasa visits him, and the lord relates the history of his illness. He says he was returning on an autumn morning from a visit to his lover, enjoying the dew-covered wisteria, when he felt the chill of the morning air. He subsequently came down with chills and fever.

【Left】Hirai Yasumasa(Bando Mitsugoro) June 2013 Kabukiza Theatre
【Right】Minamoto Raiko(Nakamura Shichinosuke) August 2016 Kabukiza Theatre

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Beauty of late autumn depicted in dance

A maid named Kocho delivers a specially prepared medicine. In response to a request by Raiko, she performs an elegant dance portraying famous scenes of the autumn leaves in Kyoto: the wild leaves of Mt Takao, the beautiful Mt Atago, the peak of Mt Ogura in the sunset, and the Oi River covered by the falling leaves of Arashiyama. Upon finishing, she goes back to prepare the medicine.

Kocho(Nakamura Fukusuke) February 2012 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre

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Traveling monk tells his story

Raiko has a sudden attack of pain. When he comes to, he notices a man standing in the darkness. The mysterious man says he is a monk named Chichu from Mt Hiei. He has come to cure Raiko’s illness. He tells the story of how he became a monk and his rigorous training as he wandered around the country, sleeping under trees or on stones in the wind and snow.

Chichu, actually Spider Spirit(Nakamura Hashinosuke) August 2016 Kabukiza Theatre

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The monk’s true identity

Chichu approaches Raiko to say a prayer. The candlelight projects a strange shadow. A servant notes that the shadow is not in a human shape. The candle suddenly goes out, and the room goes dark. Raiko suspects this is the work of spirits. Chichu reveals that he is the one who has caused Raiko’s illness and cites an old poem about a spider, indicating that he himself is the spirit of a spider. He casts a web over Raiko and attacks.

Otowaka(Nakamura Yoshio) February 2012 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre

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Spider spirit vs. Raiko

Raiko grabs the family’s treasured sword in order to defend himself. The spider spirit covers his wide-open mouth with his prayer beads, a pose called the “animal mouth”, in a show of his fearsome nature. But he cannot overcome the divine power of the sword and vanishes. Yasumasa rushes in, and Raiko orders him and the Four Guardians to kill the spirit.

【Left】Chichu, actually Spider Spirit(Nakamura Kichiemon) January 2005 Kabukiza Theatre
【Right】Chichu, actually Spider Spirit(Nakamura Kankuro) February 2012 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre

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Prayers of servants

The scene shifts to the vast garden of the mansion. Several hapless servants who have gathered to help exterminate the spider perform a humorous dance. The frightened servants pray to the stone god enshrined in the garden and perform a dance of a female priest, which turns into a comical portrayal of an argument between a married couple. The servants come to realize that what they thought was a god was in fact a young boy.

【Left】[from left]Taro(Nakamura Karoku)、Jiro(Nakamura Kasho)、Tonai(Ichikawa Komazo) January 2005 Kabukiza Theatre
【Right】[from left]Sakaki(Nakamura Shibajaku)、Shirogo(Nakamura Tamataro) November 2007 Kabukiza Theatre

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Spider spirit vs. Yasumasa and Four Guardians

Yasumasa and the Four Guardians follow the tracks of blood and find the spider’s location. They break down an old tomb, from which the horrendous spider emerges. He shouts his name and reveals that he attacked Raiko as a first step in taking over the world. The spider spirit casts his web to throw the warriors off but, after a tough battle, is ultimately killed.

【Left】Chichu, actually Spider Spirit(Onoe Kikugoro) June 2013 Kabukiza Theatre
【Center】[from left]Hirai Yasumasa(Nakamura Hashinosuke)、Chichu, actually Spider Spirit(Nakamura Kankuro) February 2012 Shinbashi Enbujo Theatre
【Right】Chichu, actually Spider Spirit(Onoe Kikugoro) June 2013 Kabukiza Theatre

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