Plays DataBaseHigaki (Cedarwood Fence)

Photo from National Noh Theatre

In Iwato of Higo Province, there is an old woman who comes to offer water to the Buddha every day. One day, a monk living in Iwato asks her name. The old woman requests the monk to expiate her sin and reveals that she was a shirabyōshi dancer (a female dancer in male costume) who lived in the house surrounded by the fence of cedarwoods in Dazaifu. Furthermore, she mentions that the poem in Gosen Wakashū where a shirabyōshi made a reply to Fujiwara no Okinori is indeed her poem. After asking the monk to console her soul, she disappears.

Recommended by a local person, in order to console her soul the monk visits the place by Shirakawa River where tradition says that the shirabyōshi lived in her old age. Then in dense fog, he meets the old woman in a hut in dim light. She tells the unstableness of this world and her suffering in hell and laments her old and feeble self. Remembering the communications with Fujiwara no Okinori, she dances the dance of shirabyōshi and disappears into thin air while wishing to attain buddhahood.

This Noh drama is counted as one of the “Three Old Women” pieces, together with Sekidera-komachi and Obasute*, and is considered one the most advanced pieces to perform. Among the Noh pieces about an old woman that are currently performed, Higaki is considered the second oldest piece after Sotoba-komachi.

In the drama, the old woman describes herself as a courtesan who used to enjoy the reputation of her beauty and superb dancing skills and elegantly lived in her younger days in the house surrounded by a cedarwood fence. On the stage, however, the audience sees no sign of her glory days that connotes the sadness of a woman who has aged and declined.

Sad and quiet ambience exists throughout this piece, but Zeami said this is the piece that describes the ultimate profoundness, as it shed off any and all unnecessary elements. That is the reason why this piece is considered highly advanced for Noh performers.

*The Kongō School counts Sekidera-komachi, Ōmu-komachi and Sotoba-komachi as their Three Old Woman pieces.

STORY PAPER : Higaki (Cedarwood Fence)

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Higaki (Cedarwood Fence) Story Paper PDF Sample

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