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Wondrous Brutal Fictions

Wondrous Brutal Fictions: Eight Buddhist Tales from the Early Japanese Puppet Theater

Translated, with an introduction, by R. Keller Kimbrough
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 288
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    Wondrous Brutal Fictions
    Book Description:

    Wondrous Brutal Fictionspresents eight seminal works from the seventeenth-century Japanesesekkyoandko-joruripuppet theaters, many translated into English for the first time. Both poignant and disturbing, these whimsical narratives contain stories of cruelty and brutality, as well as love, charity, and outstanding filial devotion, representing the best of early Edo literary and performance traditions and acting as important precursors to the Bunraku and Kabuki styles of theater.

    As works of Buddhist fiction, these texts relate the histories and miracles of particular buddhas, bodhisattvas, and local deities. Many of their protagonists have become recognizable cultural icons through their representation in later works of Japanese drama, fiction, and film. The collection includes suchsekkyo"sermon-ballad" classics asSansho Dayu,Karukaya, andOguri, as well as the "oldjoruri" playsGoo-no-himeandAmida's Riven Breast. R. Keller Kimbrough provides a critical introduction to each vibrant performance genre, emphasizing the role of seventeenth-century publishing in their spread. He also details six major sekkyo chanters and their playbooks, filling a crucial scholarly gap in early Edo-period theater. More than fifty reproductions of mostly seventeenth-century woodblock illustrations offer rich, visual foundations for the critical introduction and translated tales. Ideal for students and scholars of medieval and early modern Japanese literature, theater, and Buddhism, this collection provides an unprecedented encounter with popular Buddhist drama and its far-reaching impact on literature and culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51833-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Religion, Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Notes on the Translation
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    In the first decades of the seventeenth century, Japan witnessed an urban revival of the medieval storytelling art ofsekkyō, orsekkyō-bushi, a kind of lay Buddhist preaching about the workings of karma and the miraculous origins of celebrity Buddhist icons. The revival began sometime in the early 1600s whensekkyōbegan to be staged in theaters before large paying crowds. Oldsekkyō, which is also known askado-sekkyōor “street-cornersekkyō” in order to distinguish it from the latersekkyōperformed at dedicated venues, apparently was chanted in the sixteenth century for small audiences of men, women, and children...

  6. Sanshō Dayū
    (pp. 23-59)

    Ask me about the origins of the Branded Jizō of Tango Province, and I will tell you that he was once the guardian deity of the Japanese general Iwaki no Hangan Masauji of the province of Michinoku.¹ This Masauji had two children: a daughter named Anju-no-hime and a son named Zushiōmaru, who was also Masauji’s heir. The daughter was five years old, and the son was three. They were adorable, and their parents doted on them constantly.

    Times were good for Masauji and his family, but it seems that someone slandered him to the emperor, for the poor man was...

  7. Karukaya
    (pp. 60-95)

    I shall speak to you now about the origins of the Parent and Child Jizō Bodhisattva that is worshipped to the left of the Main Buddha Hall at Zenkōji Temple in Shinano Province.¹ Ask me about its past, and I will tell you that it was once a man by the name of Lord Shigeuji, chieftain of the Matsura League of Chikuzen Province in Great Tsukushi.² Lord Shigeuji ruled the six provinces of Chikugo, Chikuzen, Higo, Hizen, Ōsumi, and Satsuma.³ He owned ten storehouses in the ten directions, seven springs in the south, a self-propelled carriage, and all the


  8. Shintokumaru
    (pp. 96-122)

    Now as for the tale I tell, in the Takayasu district of Kawachi Province there was once a wealthy lord by the name of Nobuyoshi.¹ He had erected forty thousand storehouses in the four directions, eighty thousand in the eight, and there was nothing for which he lacked. Nothing, that is, except a child. He was without a son or a daughter, and for this he grieved, morning and night. He summoned his wife one day and spoke: “Listen, dear—you and I don’t have a single child, and the pain of this is more than I can bear. Is...

  9. Oguri
    (pp. 123-160)

    Now the tale that I tell concerns Lord Oguri Hōgan, son of a Second Avenue chamberlain.¹ This Oguri Hōgan was a child of the Shō Hachiman Shrine in Sunomata Village in the Anpachi district of Mino Province.² He was born in the tenth month of his mother’s pregnancy and raised by six nannies and six nurses, for a total of twelve doting attendants.

    The years quickly passed, and Oguri was soon seventeen. With the strength of seventy-five men, he was unlike any human being. He took a bride, but complaining that her fair skin made her look like a daughter...

  10. Sayohime
    (pp. 161-190)

    Ask me about the origins of the Benzaiten of Chikubushima Shrine in Ōmi Province,¹ and I will tell you about an especially fortunate man known as Matsura Chōja, “the Millionaire of Matsura.” He went by the name of Lord Kyōgoku, and he lived a long time ago in a place called Tsubosaka in Matsura Valley in Yamato Province. He was known throughout China and Korea, where people spoke of his fabulous wealth. Indeed, how could even the great, ancient Sudatta have compared?² Lord Kyōgoku built rows of storehouses in the four directions, as well as scores of gates with splendidly...

  11. Aigo-no-waka
    (pp. 191-215)

    On careful reflection, we can see the importance of embracing moral principles, revering the emperor, showing compassion for the people, and upholding the five lay precepts in the practice of government.¹ Our seventy-third human sovereign was a ruler named Emperor Saga.² In the age of his reign there was a noble in the flowering capital by the name of Second Avenue Chamberlain Kiyohira, former minister of the left. His wife was a daughter of First Avenue Chancellor Munetsugu, and people said that she was beautiful beyond compare.

    Among the treasures passed down to Kiyohira from former generations were a special...

  12. Amida’s Riven Breast
    (pp. 216-231)

    There was once a vast realm on the outskirts of India known as the Land of Bishari.¹ In a place called Katahira Village in the Enta district, there was a great wealthy man by the name of Kanshi Bōye. Among his many riches, Kanshi Byōe possessed seven special treasures: first, he owned nine gold-gushing mountains; second, he owned seven silver-streaming mountains; third, he owned two demon-ridding swords; and fourth, in his south-facing garden, he owned a singleotowapine. The pine was a wondrous tree. When a gentle breeze blew through its branches on an eighty- or ninety-year-old man or...

  13. Goō-no-hime
    (pp. 232-248)

    Yoshitsune was studying hard at Kurama Temple.¹ He thought to himself, “It’s already the thirteenth anniversary of my father Yoshitomo’s death this year. I’d like to honor him by having a priest perform some services, but the Taira rule the land now and the Minamoto are in decline. I think I’ll sneak out and ask Master Hōnen at Shinkurodani to say some prayers.”²

    Translated from the 1673Goo-no-hime.

    1. Yoshitsune was the youngest son of the late Minamoto no Yoshitomo (d. 1160), one of two leaders of the failed Heiji uprising against Taira no Kiyomori in 1159. Although spared execution,...

  14. Appendix 1. Major Sekkyō Chanters
    (pp. 249-252)
  15. Appendix 2. Works in This Volume
    (pp. 253-266)
  16. Glossary
    (pp. 267-268)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 269-274)