Dance title Rokkasen Sugata no Irodori  In Japanese
Authors Matsumoto K˘ji I (lyrics)
Kineya Rokuzaemon X, Kiyomoto Saibŕ I (music)
Fujima Kanjűr˘ II, Nishikawa Senz˘ IV, Nakamura Katsugor˘ (choreography)

The dance "Bun'ya" is the second section of the five-role hengemono "Rokkasen Sugata no Irodori", which was staged in the 3rd lunar month of 1831 at the Nakamuraza. It starred Nakamura Shikan II in the five roles of S˘j˘ Henj˘, Ariwara no Narihira, Bun'ya no Yasuhide, Kisen and ďtomo no Kuronushi. His stage partner in the role of Ono no Komachi was Iwai Kumesabur˘ II. "Bun'ya" is performed with a Kiyomoto ensemble.

Key words Bun'ya Yasuhide
Heian Jidai
Ono Komachi

Scene: The interior of the imperial palace

Bun'ya no Yasuhide, although a courtier and also an important poet, is depicted in this play as a rather comic character. He is searching the palace in a quest for love because in the darkness, in the palace kitchens, someone - whom he fancies was the beautiful Ono no Komachi [1] - has given him a whispered assignation. Although he has written to Komachi in the past, he has never received a reply - yet the whisper in the dark has raised his hopes! However, right now, in his exploration of the palace to locate his beloved, he is having to fend off the unwanted attentions of a group of court ladies [2] (kanjo) - all of whom are very far from beautiful, and not exactly young. The ladies are intent on stopping him from meeting with Komachi, since they have designs on him themselves. Any one of them would be pleased to stand in for his lady love - but their ugly faces and their bad breath repel him, and he determinedly rejects them.

Bun'ya remembers the fate of Fukakusa no Sh˘sh˘ - another of Komachi's would-be suitors. Komachi promised to give herself to him if he stood in the garden outside of her room for 100 successive nights. But the faithful Sh˘sh˘ never achieved her love, for he died of exhaustion and exposure on the 99th night. Bun'ya compares his suit with Sh˘sh˘'s, and, depressed as he realises that his love cannot succeed, makes to return home. One of the ugly ladies tries to detain him - but Bun'ya would be ashamed to take such a woman, even though he may have been rejected by Komachi.

Bun'ya recalls, in mime, the old soothsayer H˘in [3] selling love charms in the pleasure quarter, and one of his customers returning from a night out with his favourite girl. But, tiring of this reverie, his dreams revert to the unattainable Komachi, who keeps him in tow, but apparently has no intention of doing anything except lead him on. He once again tries to escape the clutches of the ladies, but they refuse to let him go, and engage him in a verbal game, which he finally loses. After a dance section inspired by smoke - representing his smouldering passion - Bun'ya finally manages to evade the ladies, and rushes away to pursue further amorous adventures in the inner apartments of the palace.

In some versions of the play the ladies collect themselves, and immediately chase after him. However, sometimes there is a coda to the scene in which the frustrated ladies summon Lady Matsu (Pine) and Lady Ume (Plum) to engage in fortune telling. These two further ugly ladies have a comic argument about which method of divination to use, but finally their joint efforts locate the supposed whereabouts of Bun'ya, and all the ladies dash off in pursuit of him, with Ladies Matsu and Ume still arguing.

Summary written by Marion Hudson (2015)


"Bun'ya" is a short (a little bit above) 20-min long dance.


[1] Ono no Komachi herself does not appear in this section of "Rokkasen".

[2] The ugly ladies are not normally played by onnagata, but by comic actors.

[3] The soothsayer H˘in was a real person, who practised his art at the time the play was written - not during the Heian period in which it is set.

The actor Nakamura Fukusuke I playing the role of Bun'ya no Yasuhide in the dance "Rokkasen Sugata no Irodori", which was staged in the 5th lunar month of 1854 at the Ichimuraza (print made by Utagawa Toyokuni III)

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