Japanese Text Initiative
Records of Civilization: Sources and Studies, number LXXXV
Prepared for the University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center.
The Shrine in the Fields, a play of the third category, has traditionally been ascribed to Zeami, but in recent years some scholars have expressed doubts about this attribution, largely for technical reasons of style. It is hard, however, to imagine who else but Zeami could have written so hauntingly evocative a work. Perhaps he wrote it in the last years of his life, a period not covered by the critical writings that are the firmest evidence for attribution; or perhaps, as Professor Konishi Jin'ichi has suggested, Zeami's second son, Motoyoshi, who is not credited with any plays in the repertory, may have written The Shrine in the Fields, Yuya, and various other masterpieces whose authorship is uncertain.
The play recalls the love affair between Prince Genji and Lady Rokujo, here called by her title, Miyasudokoro. Readers of The Tale of Genji will remember Rokujo mainly as the proud and elegant woman whose jealousy led to the death of Genji's wife, Aoi; this story is treated in the play Aoi no Ue, translated by Arthur Waley in The No Plays of Japan. In The Shrine in the Fields, however, Rokujo is treated with the utmost sympathy, and
The Emperor was always represented at Ise by a virgin of imperial blood. When a new virgin was appointed, before going to Ise she would reside for a considerable period just outside Kyoto at Nonomiya. (The word miya primarily means a shrine, but can also mean a palace.) Nonomiya was intimately associated with Ise, the chief shrine of the Sun Goddess. It served its main function only intermittently, however, and was therefore built like a temporary shrine with a torii of logs.
The season is the end of autumn and an air of melancholy and impermanence dominates the play.
The Shrine in the Fields is performed by all schools of No.
[ The Girl enters. She wears the fukai mask and carries a branch of sakaki. She stands at the shite-position and faces the musicians. ]
I am an itinerant priest. Recently I have been staying in the Capital, where I have visited all the famous sites and relics of the past. Autumn is nearing its close and Sagano will be lovely now. I think I shall go there for a visit. [ He turns towards the torii, indicating that he has already arrived in Sagano. ]
When I asked people about this wood they told me it is the ancient site of the Shrine in the Fields. I would like to visit the place, though I am no more than a passing stranger. [ He advances to stage center, still facing the torii.) ]
I enter the wood and I see
A rustic log torii
And a fence of brushwood twigs.
Surely nothing has changed from the past!
But why should time have spared this place?
Be that as it may, how lucky I am
To have come at this lovely time of year
And to be able to worship at such a place.
[ He kneels and presses his palms together. ]
The Great Shrine at Ise
Makes no distinction
Between gods and Buddhas:
The teachings of the Buddhist Law
Have guided me straight along the path,
And I have arrived at the Shrine.
My heart is pure in the evening light,
Pure in the clear evening light!
[ The Priest rises and faces her. ]
Shrine in the Fields
Where I have lived with flowers;
Shrine in the Fields
Where I have lived with flowers --
What will be left when autumn has passed?
[ She faces front. ]
Now lonely autumn ends,
But still my sleeves
Wilt in a dew of tears;
The dusk racks my body,
And my heart of itself
Takes on the fading colors
Of the thousand flowers;
It withers, as all things, with neglect. 1
Each year on this day,
Unknown to anyone else,
I return to the old remains.
In the wood at the Shrine in the Fields
Autumn has drawn to a close
And the harsh winds blow;
Autumn has drawn to a close
And the harsh winds blow;
Colors so brilliant
They pierced the senses
Have faded and vanished;
What remains now to recall
The memories of the past 2
What use was it to come here?
[ She takes a few steps to her right, then faces front. ]
Ahh -- how I loathe the attachment
That makes me go back and forth,
Again and again on my journey
To this meaningless, fugitive world.
As I was resting in the shade of the trees, thinking about the past and refreshing my mind, a charming young lady has suddenly appeared. Please tell me who you are.
[ She takes two steps towards the Priest. ]
It would be more appropriate if I asked who you are. This
is Nonomiya, the Shrine in the Fields, where in ancient days the virgin designated as the Priestess of Ise was temporarily lodged. The custom has fallen into disuse, but today, the seventh day of the ninth month, is still a time for recalling the past. Each year, unknown to anyone else, I come to sweep the shrine and to perform a service. I do not know where you have come from, but your presence here is an intrusion. Please leave at once.
No, no. There can be no objection to my being here. I am only a wandering priest who has renounced the uncertain world. But tell me, why should you return here, to these old ruins, on this particular day each year in search of the past?
This is the day when Genji the Shining One visited this place, the seventh day of the ninth month. He brought with him a twig of sakaki and pushed it through the sacred fence. Miyasudokoro at once composed the poem:
"This sacred enclosure
Has no cypress to mark the spot;
By some error you have picked
A twig of sakaki wood." 3
It happened on this day!
That was truly a worthy poem.
-- And the sakaki branch
You hold in your hand
Is the same color it was in the past.
The same color as in the past?
How clever to put it that way!
Only the sakaki stays green forever,
And in its unvarying shade,
On the pathways through the wood,
The autumn deepens
And leaves turn crimson only to scatter.
[ She goes to the torii and places the sakaki branch there. The Priest kneels. ]
In the weed-grown fields
The stalks and leaf tips wither;
Nonomiya, the Shrine in the Fields,
Stands amidst the desolation
Of withered stalks and leaves.
The seventh day of the ninth month
Has returned again today
To this place of memories.
[ She moves to stage center. ]
How fragile it seemed at the time,
This little fence of brushwood twigs.
[ She gazes at the fence. ]
And the house that looked so temporary
Has now become the guardian's hut. 4
[ She turns towards the gazing-pillar. ]
A dim glow shines from inside:
I wonder if the longing within me
Reveals itself outwardly?
How lonely a place is this shrine,
How lonely a place is this palace!
[ She gazes across the front of the stage. ]
[ The Girl kneels at stage center. ]
Please tell me more of the story of Miyasudokoro.
The lady known as Miyasudokoro
Became the wife of the former Crown Prince,
The brother of Kiritsubo's Emperor, 5
A man at the height of his glory;
They were like the color and perfume
Of the same flower, indissolubly bound.
They knew, of course, the truth
That those who meet must part --
Why should it have surprised them?
But it came so soon -- like a nightmare --
His death that left her alone.
She could not remain in that state,
Helpless and given to tears;
Soon Genji the Shining One
Imposed his love and began
Their clandestine meetings.
How did their love affair end?
And why, after they separated,
Did his love never turn to hate?
With customary tenderness
He made his way through the fields
To distant Nonomiya.
The autumn flowers had all withered,
The voices of insects were sparse.
Oh, the loneliness of that journey!
Even the wind echoing in the pines
Reminded him there is no end
To the sadness of autumn.
So the Prince visited her,
And with the deepest affection
Spoke his love in many ways;
How noble and sensitive a man!
Later, by the Katsura River,
She performed the cleansing rite,
Setting the white-wrapped branches 6
Adrift on the river waves;
Herself like a drifting weed,
No roots or destination,
She moved at the water's will. 7
"Through the waves of the eighty rapids
Of Suzuka River to Ise,
Who will worry if the waves wet me or no?" 8
She wrote this poem to describe her journey.
Never before had a mother
Escorted her daughter, the Virgin,
All the way to the Také Palace. 9
Mother and daughter on the way
Felt only the bitterness of regret.
[ for Priest ]
Now that I have heard your tale,
I am sure you are no ordinary woman.
Please tell me your name.
Revealing my name
Would serve no purpose;
In my helplessness
I am ashamed of myself.
Sooner or later
My name will be known,
It can't be helped;
But now say a prayer for one nameless,
And not of this world.
[ for Priest. ]
Not of this world?
What strange words to heart
Then, have you died and departed
This world, long ago,
A name my only monument:
[ She slowly exits. A Villager then enters and performs the kyogen interlude, a lengthy recapitulation of Miyasudokoro's story. The Priest asks the Villager to tell what he knows, and then the two men agree that the Priest has just seen the ghost of Miyasudokoro. The Priest decides to stay and read the sutras and prayers for her. The Villager withd raws. ]
Autumn winds rise at dusk;
[ She stands. ]
Through the forest branches
The evening moonlight shines
[ She goes to the shite-position. ]
Under the trees,
[ She looks at the torii. ]
The rustic logs of the torii.
She passes between the two pillars
And vanishes without a trace;
She has vanished without a trace.
[ The Girl, now revealed as Miyasudokoro, enters and stands at the shite-position. ]
Alone I lie on the forest moss,
A sleeve of my robe spread beneath me --
Under forest trees, a mossy robe: 10
My mat is grass of the same color.
Unfolding my memories
I shall offer prayers all night long;
I shall pray for her repose.
In this carriage,
Lovely as the autumn flowers
I too have returned to the past,
To long ago.
In the faint moonlight
The soft sounds
Of an approaching carriage,
A courtly carriage
With reed blinds hanging --
A sight of unimagined beauty!
It must be you, Miyasudokoro!
But what is the carriage you ride in?
You ask about my carriage?
I remember now
That scene of long ago --
The Kamo Festival,
The jostling carriages.
No one could tell
Who their owners were,
But thick as dewdrops
The splendid ranks crowded the place.
Pleasure carriages of every description,
And one among them of special magnificence,
The Princess Aoi's.
"Make way for Her Highness's carriage!"
The servants cried, clearing the crowd,
And in the confusion
I answered, "My carriage is small,
I have nowhere else to put it."
I stood my ground,
But around the carriage
[ Her gestures suggest the actions described. ]
Men suddenly swarmed.
Grasping the shafts,
They pushed my carriage back
Into the ranks of the servants.
My carriage had come for no purpose,
My pleasure was gone,
And I knew my helplessness.
I realized now
That all that happened
Was surely retribution
For the sins of former lives.
Even now I am in agony:
Like the wheels of my carriage
I return again and again --
How long must I still keep returning?
I beg you, dispel this delusion!
I beg you, dispel my suffering!
[ She presses her palms together in supplication. ]
Remembering the vanished days
I dance, waving at the moon
My flowerlike sleeves,
[ She goes to the shite-position and begins to dance. As her dance ends, the text resumes. ]
As if begging it to restore the past.
Even the moon
At the Shrine in the Fields
Must remember the past;
Its light forlornly trickles
Through the leaves to the forest dew.
Through the leaves to the forest dew.
This place, once my refuge,
This garden, still lingers
Unchanged from long ago,
A beauty nowhere else,
Though transient, insubstantial
As this little wooden fence
[ Weeping, she withdraws to the area before the musicians and starts to dance. The text resumes when her dance has ended. ]
From which he used to brush the dew.
[ She brushes the fence with her fan. ]
I, whom he visited,
And he, my lover too,
The whole world turned to dreams,
To aging ruins;
Whom shall I pine for now?
The voices of pine-crickets
Trill sin, sin,
The wind howls:
[ She advances to stage front. She gazes at the torii. ]
How I remember
Nights at the Shrine in the Fields!
At this shrine we have always worshiped
The divine wind that blows from Ise,
[ She goes before the torii. ]
The Inner and Outer Shrines.
As I pass to and fro through this torii
I seem to wander on the path of delusion:
I waver between life and death.
[ She passes back and forth through the torii. ]
The gods will surely reject me!
Again she climbs in her carriage and rides out
The gate of the Burning House,
The gate of the Burning House. 11