The story takes place on Mt. Hibari, which is on the border between the provinces Yamato (Nara prefecture) and Kii (Wakayama prefecture). A man (Princess Chūjō’s servant) who serves the Minister of the Right Toyonari relates Princess Chūjō’s situation. Toyonari had been tricked by someone into believing malicious lies that slandered his daughter Princess Chūjō (performed by a child actor, kokata), and had ordered this man to kill her on Mt. Hibari, but the man had not been able to make himself kill Princess Chūjō, and instead is sheltering her together with the Jijū, her nanny (the protagonist), in a hut on Mt. Hibari. The nanny sells flowers to villagers in order to provide for Princess Chūjō. When the man asks the nanny to go sell flowers, the nanny laments how Princess Chūjō is being forced to live in poverty. Eventually, the nanny leaves for the village to sell flowers.
Toyonari and Toyonari’s servant come to Mt. Hibari to do hawking (hunting using a hawk). Toyonari orders his servant to commence hunting. The hawker, the beater (a person who drives game towards the hunter), and the dog handler (all performed by kyogen actors) use a hawk and dogs to hunt a pheasant, and they successfully kill one.
The nanny appears in a frantic demeanor and tries to sell various types of flowers. Seeing this, Toyonari’s servant talks to her, and she eloquently describes the beauty of flowers while referring to classical Chinese poetry. When Toyonari’s servant requests her to sell him a flower and explain to him her circumstances, the nanny dances and chants about love for flowers while referring to classical Chinese and waka poems related to spring and flowers. She also utters her feelings of concern for Princess Chūjō, who lives in hiding. Toyonari sees the flower seller as she leaves to return to Princess Chūjō’s hut, and he notices that she is the nanny, Jijū. He expresses his remorse for the way he treated his daughter and asks where she is. The nanny guides him to the hut, and the father and daughter reunite. The father and daughter and the nanny return to the capital.
Princess Chūjō (Chūjōhime) is a legendary figure who is said to have took her vow to Buddhism at Taima-dera temple in today’s Nara prefecture during the eighth century and achieved rebirth in paradise after weaving a mandala out of lotus thread in one night. By the Muromachi period, the legend of Princess Chūjō had been passed down and existed in various forms, including this noh play.
Hibariyama is a play in the monogurui-noh category. In general, monogurui-noh plays tell stories of people who have become distraught or deranged (monogurui) as a result of being separated from their loved ones, such as their children or their lovers. In these plays, the monogurui characters perform dances or songs, and this leads them to reunite with their loved ones. In the case of Hibariyama, the monogurui is not the person suffering separation (the father), but the nanny. However, like other monogurui-noh plays, song and dance performed by the monogurui character is a central part of this play. The monogurui songs and dances of the nanny comes in the form of poetic conveyance of compassion and love for flowers. This takes place as a performance for the purpose of selling flowers in the play, and the flowers and Princess Chūjō are symbolically tied, suggesting that the nanny became distraught out of her love and concern for Princess Chūjō.
One of the highlights of this play is the scene where the nanny asks Toyonari’s servant to buy various flowers such as unohana (a flower of a shrub in the hydrangea family), irises, tachibana tangerine flowers, lilies, and peonies; and ferns. Words from classical Chinese poetry and Japanese waka poetry are skillfully woven into her lines visually expressing each flower. Another highlight is the utai chanting performed towards the end. It has a distinctive rhythm and is expressive of the character’s heightened emotions. Toyonari’s servant’s words that are said in between the flower seller’s lines have an effect of continuously adding momentum to the monogurui chanting.
Another highlight is in the second half of the play, where the feelings of trying to enjoy spring while it lasts and of loving flowers are chanted with reference to waka and classical Chinese poetry after Toyonari’s servant buys the flowers. The second half of this chanting includes a reference to Princess Chūjō’s situation, and the nanny dances beautifully while thinking about Princess Chūjō who is waiting for her alone (in the kuse and chū-no-mai dance sections).