The Black Mound



Kabuki Plus

by Abe Satomi

Woman’s heart in a demon’s breast


The old woman in Kurozuka ties her hair with a special ornament called a takenaga. It is rare in Kabuki for demons to wear this headgear, indicating that she is still a woman at heart even when she becomes a demon. It is also worth noting that the character does not make eye-catching mie poses. In the middle act, the firewood she carries has a lily (known as a demon lily) growing on it, representing her joy at being saved and her appreciation for flowers. This is a tasteful understated bit of stage direction.

Which way does the moon face?

In the middle scene, a large crescent moon hangs over a vast field. It originally curved toward stage right, but in the early 1990s, Ennosuke III reversed the direction, which has become the standard. The demon dances with the moon in both versions, and the moon gives the impression of caressing her, but the impression is subtly different.

Russian dance


The woman’s moonlight dance includes elements of Russian ballet. Ennosuke II, who created the piece, saw Russian ballet in his youth and used the technique of dancing on his toes. This makes the body seem to float, giving the impression of a joyful heart. Also, the footsteps of the luggage carrier as he runs uses elements of Cossack dance. This reflects a time when new dance styles were being explored.

Taboo of peeking

There are plentiful legends around the world involving either separation or tragedy, in which someone defies explicit orders not to look at something. Greek myth has Pandora’s Box, the Bible has Lot, and the Japanese have the story of Izanagi looking back into hell and the folk tale of a crane. The same pattern can be found in the animated film “Spirited Away”.

Legend of Demon Woman

There are various dimensions of the story involving the man-eating devil woman of Adachi-ga-hara. It can be interpreted as a religious story from the monk staying overnight, the discovery of the mountain of bodies, and the demon’s salvation from the power of the goddess of mercy. There are many folk stories of the demon woman, in one of which she kills a pregnant woman who turns out to be her real daughter, a message of karma from a previous life. That is the basis for the Kabuki drama Oshu Adachi-ga-hara.

Koto and shakuhachi


One musical highlight of this piece is the inclusion of the koto (type of zither) and shakuhachi (flute) along with the standard nagauta ensemble, a rare combination for a Kabuki dance. In the middle act, the stage displays the beauty of autumn in northern Japan, a bright moon in a clear evening sky, and the joy of a women released from long years of sadness. The koto and shakuhachi have a plaintive sound that adds immeasurably to the atmosphere, especially when played by masters of these instruments.