Famous Plays

Famous Plays: NohTsuchigumo(The Ground Spider)

Category: First Number of scenes:Two Location:Minamoto no Raiko’s residence in the capital (Present-day Kyoto) / Mt. Katsuragi (Present-day Nara Prefecture)
Source:The Tale of the Heike

SummaryAbout a battle with a monster that throws spider threads

A suspicious priest (mae-shite) appears in front of the military commander Minamoto no Raiko who is feeling ill. The priest hints that he is a spider and spins out threads. When Raiko pulls out a sword by his pillow and cuts the monster, it disappears. Raiko’s servants rush over and head to Mt. Katsuragi in going after the monster. A ground spider (nochi-shite) appears from an old mound and throws threads repeatedly. A fierce battles unfolds, until the ground spider is finally slayed.

Raiko, who is considered a brave figure, and his servants appear in other Noh plays as well, and play an active role in chasing out monsters such as ogre and monstrous beings. Drawing on “The Tale of the Heike,” this work was created to be an action theatre involving fancy tricks and fighting scenes.

Watch videoBattle scene in which beautiful spider threads fly into the air

The priest who throws threads at Raiko is cut by his sword and flees. The mound that he fled into is crushed, and the ground spider engages in a fierce battle with Raiko’s servants. The white spider threads which are thrown in succession became even more beautiful when the idea was developed in the Meiji period (19th century) to wrap thin paper around a thin lead.

Depicted location

Mt. Katsuragi in Yamato where the spider monster hid is said to be an area resided by people who have been based there for a long time and did not submit to the newly ruling imperial court. In other words, by using a ground spider, it is possible that the indigenous people overthrown from not obeying the imperial court were likened to a monster.
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Relevant culture

This play became the basis of Kabuki’s “Tsuchigumo (The Ground Spider)” written in the Meiji period. It was written by Kawatake Mokuami who wrote numerous Kabuki masterpieces. The Kabuki play is a “Matsubamemono” that incorporates Noh styles into the performance.

September 15, 2013
National Noh Theatre
“Tsuchigumo (The Ground Spider), Chisuji-no-den, Sasagani,” Kongo School

Characters and Performers

Priest (mae-shite): Kongo Hisanori
Ground spider (nochi-shite): Kongo Hisanori
Minamoto no Raiko (tsure): Teshima Michiharu
Kocho (tsure): Kongo Tatsunori
Servants (tsure): Udaka Tatsushige
A sole warrior (waki): Fukuo Shigejuro XVI
Servants (waki-tsure): Fukuo Kazuyuki
Servants (waki-tsure): Murase Dai
Servants (waki-tsure): Murase Kei
Crab nymph (ai): Shigeyama Sengoro XIII
Crab nymph (ai): Shigeyama Shime II
Koken (stage assistant): Hirota Yukitoshi, Teshima Yukihiro, Kudo Kan
[Hayashi musicians]
Flute player: Sugi Ichikazu
Shoulder drum player: Sowa Masahiro
Hip drum player: Kawamura Soichiro
Stick-drum player: Komparu Kunikazu
[Jiutai chorus]
Rear row: Udaka Michishige, Sakamoto Tatsuro, Taneda Michikazu, Hirota Yasuyoshi
Front row: Tamura Osamu, Udaka Norishige, Teshima Koji, Motoyoshi Masami