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Portrait of Tomomori played by Somegoro the 7th


gYoshitsune Senbonzakura `o{/ Daimotsu-no-ura@啨Yh
July 2016 at Kabuki-za

Ichikawa Somegoro
sܘY@as gTaira no Tomomori@mh

Intoroduction gYoshitsune Senbonzakura ` Daimotsu-no-urah



1)  I saw everything I should see in my life.

Taira no Tomomori
imj is a warm-hearted chief commander in gHeike Monogatari (The Tale of the Heike).h During the battle of Ichi-no-Tani (the area in present Kobe City in Hyogo Prefecture) in 1184, Heikefs position, Ikuta-no-Mori, is taken up by Genjifs surprise attack. Tomomori tries to escape to the seashore with his son Tomoakira but both are captured by the enemy. Tomoakira fights for his father and loses his life there. Owing to his sonfs death, Tomomori is able to board on the Heikefs boat to escape. He cries saying gwhere on earth is there such a shameful parent who abandons his child being attacked? But once it happens to my son and myself, I realize for the first time how dreadful it is that I die.h This is a scene when Tomomori, who is regarded as one of the best and bravest Heike commanders, shows his weakness to others.


According to gHeike Monogatarih, Tomomori delivers an impressive speech to his fellow warriors to encourage them by saying, gHeike clanfs luck ran out and now our defeat is obvious. However, we must keep fighting for our honor. Do not run away from the enemy but fight hard and die in the battle. That is all we can do.h Then they launch into their last battle of Dan-no-ura (the coastal area in present Shimonoseki City in Yamaguchi Prefecture) in 1185.


On their inevitable defeat in the battle of Dan-no-ura, Tomomori gets on the vessel where the child Emperor Antoku (j has boarded and says, gThis world is not ruled by Heike anymore. Let us throw everything we no longer need into the oceanh, and starts to clean up the vessel. He even makes a little joke to relax the anxious court ladies, saying gyou havenft seen the rough men from the East Japan (indicating Genji), but you will be able to soon.h Tomomori is said to have worn double armors as a sinker, or held an anchor on his shoulder, and committed suicide by drowning. He does not wish his dead body to be exposed to the enemy.

This story reveals Tomomori is conscious of Heikefs doomed destiny, and calmly accepts his death. What is the most important for him is how he dies with honor without showing weakness or disgraceful behavior to the enemy, which becomes an ideal way of dying for the posterity, especially Samurai. There is not a glimmer of grudge in Tomomorifs death. On the contrary, it gives them a positive impression.

The people at that time do not want to believe such a brilliant commander died so easily, and hope he survived and lived somewhere. Their desire is transformed into a legend that the defeated commander survived, and the legend is passed down in various places in Japan. But even so, it is too much of a leap from gHaike Monogatarih to think Tomomori turns into a ghost.


As you may know, gYoshitsune Senbonzakura / Daimotsu-no-urah is based on the Noh play gFuna-benkei (Dٌcj.h Minamoto no Yoshitsune i`ojcan no longer stay in Kyoto due to the trouble between his brother, Yoritomo, and decides to escape to Kyushu island from Daimotsu-no-ura, Settsu county (present Hyogo Prefecture) by ship. Unfortunately, a sudden storm strikes his ship and pushes it back to Settsu. Fail of his first escape plan changes his destination to Oshu (far end of the east Japan). However, Oshu Hiraizumi becomes the place where Yoshitsune dies. If he could have escaped to Kyushu safely, his fate might have been different greatly. In the Noh play, gFuna-benkeih, the key point is that the storm is caused by a ghost of Tomomori.


Typical pattern of Noh plays is that the soul of a main samurai character confesses his agony of not being able to rise to heaven because of his deep fixation to life, but finally accepts his fate peacefully by monkfs prayers. However, gFuna-benkeih does not follow this pattern. While most of the other Noh plays do not describe Tomomori as a ghost, only gFuna-benkeih describes him as a vengeful ghost. This is a worth-mentioning point to understand dynamism about Tomomori in Kabuki play.


In gDaimotsu-no-urah (啨Yjof Kabuki, Tomomori tells Yoshitsune that he is seriously wounded and no longer able to survive. He is going to throw himself into the sea. His last wish is that this battle against Yoshitsune is caused by a ghost. This means the battle of Daimotsu-no-ura does not happen at all by pretending Tomomori already died in the previous sea battle in Dan-no-ura. This is how Kabuki fictional story comes to an end identifying with the real history. It also indicates that the storm in gFuna-benkeih of Noh is thus caused by a ghost of Tomomori since he already died in the battle of Dan-no-ura. On one hand, Tomomori is full of grudge in gFuna-benkeih, and on the other hand, Tomomori is proud of his death in gSenbonzakurah saying he saw and experienced everything he should. The latter Tomomori is the one described in gHeike Monogatari.h Two stories of Noh and Kabuki have opposite settings, but influence each other over the different stages of performing art.



2) Yesterdayfs Enemy is Todayfs Friend.

Here is Tomomorifs lines in gDaimotsu-no-urah: gI survived to have my revenge on Genji. Genji and Heike have long been fighting each other, and this battle will continue forever.h It indicates he is like a living ghost at this moment believing he cannot die until his revenge on Yoshitsune is done.

Tomomori in gHeike Monogatarih, on the contrary, is a nobleman capable of understanding Heikefs destiny. He is described as a man generous enough to accept his death and the end of Heike. Let us compare Tomomori with Hector, the greatest fighter for Troy in gIliadh by Homer. Tomomorifs death must also be as sublime as Hectorfs funeral to tell the audience that he is free of grudge and despair when he dies. That is how the fictional gDaimotsu-no-urah story is led back to the right track of Japanese real history that he did not survive the last battle.


There is one ideology in Edo period that the two clans, gGenjih and gHeikeh take turns running a political power. Although it is impossible for Tomomori to know this ideology as he is living in the Heian period, he says gGenji and Heike have been rival each other. When one wins, the other loses. We have been competing and will be so forever.h This time crossing suggests us Tomomori is a man wise enough to know how history flows and truth of history.


Therefore, when the child Emperor Antoku thanks Tomomori for having protected him and Yoshitsune for saving his life today, and reasons Tomomori why he should not blame Yoshitsune, he finally realizes his big mistake. It is not Yoshitsune who destroyed Heike in Dan-no-ura battle, but tyranny of Kiyomori, his father and the leader of Heike, is the true reason of Heikefs corruption. Heike is too arrogant to keep their power. This is the moment when Tomomori realizes the essence of gHeike monogatarih which is gthe proud do not endure, they are like a dream on a spring night; the mighty fall at last, they are as dust before the wind.h

Tomomori asks Yoshitsune to protect the child Emperor Antoku and says gYesterdayfs enemy is todayfs friend. I feel refreshed and I am glad about myself.h He is completely free of grudge. He becomes aware that his role in history is finally completed and he can die in peace. The scene he throws himself into the sea holding an anchor may be too shocking to see his death as peaceful. However, this is the important scene expressing his real death in the battle of Dan-no-ura. He chooses the best way of dying.


Yoshitsune asks Benkei to put on a Buddhist rosary around Tomomorifs neck, which suggests Tomomori a way to become a priest to live as an ordinary person, however, he chooses to die. This means his firm decision to go back to the real history.

His choice to die makes sense as Suke-no-Tsubone, a nanny of the child Emperor says gif I lived and continued to support the child Emperor Antoku as before, Genji would doubt Heike might rebel against them. I myself cannot promise that I will not have such a will to fight against Genji again as I am just a humble human being. To prevent such a situation, I must not live.h Tomomori has the same feeling as her. As long as the child Emperor Antoku is secured, Tomomori does not need to be obsessed with life. Thus, he goes back to the world of gHeike Monogatarih from the fictional gDaimotsu-no-urah story.


3) A man who knows the transience of life

Although it is not categorized as gAragotoh
irj, gDaimotsu-no-urah wears an atmosphere of Aragoto. Aragoto is one of the Kabuki genre which expresses a person who died with grudge as a strong and rough god. Tomomori is described as ga demon with a fierce lookh and regarded as a ghost. The violent ghost is settled by Benkei (monk)fs prayers in the end. This is the typical pattern of Aragoto, and is very Kabuki as well. Successive Aragoto actors were good at playing Tomomori. In Kabuki, Tomomori is a big-scale dynamic role to play.


Observers tend to have their own images of characters in plays and movies. For example, the images of Sherlock Holmes and James Watson. When actors do not fit the images, we feel uncomfortable. The actorfs looks is one big factor, but also an overall atmosphere the actor creates by his expression and how he carries himself is very important.

In Kabuki, we use a word, gNinh meaning a type or a color of an actor. Nin is always regarded as the most important thing in Kabuki. Each role is a temporary figure that an actor wears in the play, which is a typical way of thinking of Kabuki.

For example, Oboshi Yuranosuke (main character of gKanadehon Chushingurah
启RǏ) performed by Danjuro the 9th iڎsc\Yjgives us an impression which reminds us of the other roles he played such as Benkei (main character of gKanjinchoh i) and Kumagai Naozane (main character of gKumagai Jinyah FJw). Such impression leads to Nin imjof Danjuro the 9th. It is unique to Kabuki that Nin does not come from the role image, but from an actor himself.


Tomomori was performed by Somegoro the 7th iڎsܘYj(at Kabukiza, June, 2016). Somegoro is more of an elegant and gentle actor, which might not give a dynamic image to the audience. Therefore, there are some people who do not think Tomomori is suited for Somegoro compared to the previous Tomomori actors. However, as mentioned before, Nin should be created by an actor. There is nothing wrong that Somegoro creates his own Tomomori based on his own Nin. What is important is whether he could perform Tomomori suitable for his Nin.


Main theme of Tomomori is the essence of gHeike Monogatarih described as gthe proud do not endure, they are like a dream on a spring night; the mighty fall at last, they are as dust before the wind.h An actor must embody this idea. Tomomori is a man with delicate feeling sympathizing with the transience of life. Kabuki expresses such an element by elegance and gentle impression. As told before, Tomomori dies in peace, not in agony or despair, which tells dynamism is not the only image of him. He also wears a beauty of transience like a falling flower.


Real Tomomori in gDaimotsu-no-urah might be different from the one performed by the previous Aragoto actors. Somegoro showed a new aspect of Tomomori by performing with his own Nin.


Written by@Yamamoto@Kichinosuke
Translated by Kayo
All rights reserved.

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