The Mirror Lion


Shunkyo Kagami Jishi

A lion materializes in the ladies chamber of Edo Castle

A beautiful servant does an elegant dance for the shogun’s wife, but when she puts on a lion’s mask, it takes on a life of its own. She is ultimately overtaken by the spirit of the lion, which emerges on stage in an energetic dance of its own, shaking his long mane in an impressive display.


by Abe Satomi

For the master

Yayoi is a servant to a warrior’s wife, her main job being serving tea. She is suddenly asked by the shogun to perform a dance for New Year’s celebrations on January 6. Dragged up by the head maid and another servant, she initially shies away, but eventually submits. The square cloth tucked in her obi indicates that she was in the middle of a tea service when called to dance.

[from left]Asukai(Nakamura Kosanza)、Servant Yayoi(Nakamura Kankuro)、Yoshino(Sawamura Kunihisa) August 2013 Kabukiza Theatre


Dance in long-sleeved kimono

Yayoi dances wholeheartedly. She shakes the long sleeves of her kimono indicating her youth, first using hand mimes and later the tea cloth. The narrator sings variously of the gods and goddesses who created Japan, Yayoi’s hard labors in the castle and other topics.

Servant Yayoi(Onoe Kikunosuke) May 2014 Kabukiza Theatre


Series from spring to summer

Then she appears with a “female fan” (black lacquered frame with gold and silver paper). Her dance shows her viewing the cherry blossoms in spring to the sounds of the wind through the pines and a valley stream. The scene then shifts to summer as the flowers fall and the foliage blooms. The choreography fascinatingly uses the fan to depict the breeze and blooming flowers. The idyllic hand gestures, the portrayal of rice growing, the depiction of nightingale viewing, the scene of falling peonies and other movements are rhythmical and entertaining.

Servant Yayoi(Onoe Kikunosuke) May 2014 Kabukiza Theatre


Peonies in full bloom

Yayoi begins to dance with two fans. She illustrates the scent of the blooming peonies on the breeze, which attract the butterflies. She employs numerous tricks such as circling the fans like a windmill and throwing a fan and catching it with the other hand.

Servant Yayoi(Nakamura Kanzaburo) January 2009 Kabukiza Theatre


Stone bridge scene

The dance reaches its climax. She depicts a lion playing in the peonies in the solemn story of the stone bridge on a mountain in China. It is a narrow and slippery bridge over a deep valley. Yayoi takes the lion’s mask in her hand. When a butterfly suddenly appears, the lion’s mask starts to move toward it, dragging Yayoi along. The right half of her body is pulled by the mask, while the other half tries to resist.

【Left】[from left]Servant Yayoi(Onoe Kikunosuke)、assistant(Onoe Ukon) May 2014 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】Servant Yayoi(Ichikawa Somegoro) February 2008 Kabukiza Theatre


Dance of butterfly spirit

Yayoi exits via the hanamichi. Two butterfly spirits appear, personifying butterflies dancing in the peonies. The lyrics describe the butterflies’ emotions, singing, “Were there no flowers in this world, where should we rest?” They perform delightfully with tambourine and drums, using gestures and stomping their feet to joyous musical accompaniment.

[from left]Spirits of Butterfly(Nakamura Tsurumatsu)、Spirits of Butterfly(Nakamura Toranosuke) August 2013 Kabukiza Theatre


Dignified lion spirit

The lion spirit appears on the hanamichi. After a dignified dance, he eventually falls asleep. The butterflies wake him up, and they play together. After a dynamic dance comes the highlight, the shaking of the mane. The actor stands on a platform and swings his long hair dramatically, bringing the play to a close. The solemn Noh music is remixed with the three-stringed shamisen in a gorgeous combination. This, along with the nimble movement of the lion spirit, brings the show to a dynamic climax.

【Left】[from left]Spirits of Butterfly(Nakamura Tamataro)、Spirit of Lion(Nakamura Kanzaburo)、Spirits of Butterfly(Kataoka Sennosuke) January 2009 Kabukiza Theatre 【Right】Spirit of Lion(Nakamura Kanzaburo) January 2007 Kabukiza Theatre