Plays DataBaseSesshōseki (The Killing Stone)

Photo from National Noh Theatre

One day, when the high Buddhist priest Gennō passes through Nasuno-no-hara field in Shimotsuke Province (present-day Nasu town, Nasu county in Tochigi Prefecture), he witnesses birds flying above a particular stone falling to the ground. A woman mysteriously appears before wondering Gennō, who tells him that he should not get closer to the stone because it is the Sesshōseki (the Killing Stone), a stone which kills all living creatures that approach it. She narrates the history of the Killing Stone, answering the priest’s question.

“Once upon a time, under the reign of Jōkō (retired emperor who still exerts power) Toba, there was a woman serving in the royal court called Lady Tamamo. Beautiful and intelligent, Lady Tamamo won the heart of Jōkō Toba. However, an onmyōji (a yin-yang diviner), Abe no Yasunori, detected her true identity as the incarnation of an evil fox spirit. Returned to her true self, Lady Tamamo managed to run away to Nasuno-no-hara but she was killed there. The spirit of the fox haunted the big stone and it turned out to be the Killing Stone.” The woman completes the story and reveals as she disappears that she is the ghost of Lady Tamamo.

Gennō conducts a memorial service for the spirit of the stone so that it is led to the way of Buddha. Then, the Killing Stone splits, and the spirit of the fox appears from inside the stone. The spirit of the fox recollects its past: “I caused trouble all over India, China, and Japan. Abe no Yasunori, however, beat me by prayer, so I fled, and when I reached Nasuno-no-hara field, the hunters directed by Miura no suke and Kazusa no suke hunted me down. I was shot and died as a dew drop on a grass in the Nasuno-no-hara field. Since then, I transformed myself into Sesshōseki and spent years killing people.” Today, however, I received the precious law of Buddha. I will never again commit a harmful act. The demon, the spirit of the evil fox, vanishes by transforming itself into a rock embodying the solemn promise.

You might have heard about the “the fox o’ nine tails.” The legendary specter is recognized as the spirit of the fox which is incarnated in Lady Tamamo. It was said that it transformed itself into a woman of extraordinary beauty in India and China, seduced the kings of the time, and disturbed the peace of the world.

This dynamic piece of Noh drama was based on this large-scale legend. In the first half, the woman and the high priest continue their dialogue in an uncanny environment, around the Killing Stone in the field of Nasuno-no-hara. Although they hardly move, the scene is filled with an eerie atmosphere. In the second half, the spirit of the fox restages its own chased-down-hunted-down story, full of up-beat movements. You can enjoy the quick and snappy development of the story with this piece.

The outstanding presence of waki, the high priest Gennō, is also a must-see. He was renowned as a priest who possessed excellent spiritual powers and left many anecdotes. In the story of assuaging the Killing Stone, his exclamation, Katz! , shattered the rock, and the debris splashed all over Japan. A big iron hammer whose ends are flat is called gennō in Japanese. This is named after the anecdote of smashing the Killing Stone

STORY PAPER : Sesshōseki (The Killing Stone)

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Sesshōseki (The Killing Stone) Story Paper PDF Sample

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