Famous Plays

Famous Plays: NohIzutsu(The Well Curb)

Category: Third Number of scenes:Two Location:Ariwara Temple, Yamato (Present-day Tenri City, Nara Prefecture)
Source:The Tales of Ise Season:Autumn

SummaryAbout love for a childhood friend shown by a dance performed wearing his memento

A traveling priest visits an old temple connected to poet Ariwara no Narihira. There, a village woman (mae-shite) describes the love affair between Narihira and the daughter of Ki no Aritsune. The woman says that she is this daughter and then disappears. That evening, the ghost (nochi-shite) of the daughter who appears in the priest’s dream dances wearing the clothing that Narihira left behind. The ghost stares at her reflection in the well water and thinks fondly of her days with him. When dawn comes, the ghost disappears.

This play is a leading example of mugen (fantasy) Noh that was created based on a story in “The Tales of Ise” about childhood friends who fall in love after they have reached adulthood. Reminiscence of events that happened after the two were married as well as of days dating back to their childhood heightens the daughter’s feelings and evokes deep emotions in her.

Watch videoFeelings for Narihira are shown by a dance performed wearing his clothing

The daughter appears looking like a man and dances quietly thinking about Narihira. She brushes aside the Japanese pampas grass that is growing on the well curb (rim around the well) and stares at the reflection on the water that shows herself in Narihira’s clothing. She then disappears like a withering flower that leaves behind only its scent.

Depicted location

Ariwara Temple, which is depicted as a dilapidated temple in the play, was located in Isonokami (present-day Tenri City) in Yamato and continued to exist. It was demolished in the early part (19th century) of Meiji period and is now Ariwara Shrine.
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Depicted season

The play takes place in an autumn evening under the moonlight. You can hear the sound of the wind blowing on the pine trees in the temple’s ill-kept garden. Japanese pampas grass grows on the well where the daughter is staring into her reflection on the water.

Relevant culture

The source of this play is “The Tales of Ise,” which is a collection of stories based on waka poems, and many poems are cited. In particular, the two lines that the childhood couple says to each other epitomize the sentiment of falling in love. “We marked our height on the well curb. Since I last saw you it seems I have grown taller, well past those measurements on the well curb.” “The parted hair I used to compare against yours now hangs far below my shoulders. If not for you, for whom shall I put it up?”

November 11, 2006
National Noh Theatre
“Izutsu (The Well Curb),” Kanze School

Characters and Performers

Village Woman (mae-shite): Yamamoto Nobuyuki
Ghost of the Daughter of Ki no Aritsune (nochi-shite): Yamamoto Nobuyuki
Traveling Priest (waki): Kudo Kazuya
Villager (ai): Takazawa Yusuke
Koken (stage assistant): Kanze Tetsunojo IX, Asami Jiichi
[Hayashi musicians]
Flute player: Akai Keizo
Shoulder drum player: Yokoyama Haruaki
Hip drum player: Kamei Tadao
[Jiutai chorus]
Rear row: Wakamatsu Takeshi, Okada Reiji, Shimizu Kanji, Nishimura Takao
Front row: Tanimoto Kengo, Nagayama Keizo, Umano Masaki, Shibata Minoru