In Yamato Province in Mount Miwa (now Nara Prefecture), there lives a lady who comes every day to the cottage of the hermit priest Genpin Sōzu to give water and flowers as an offering to Buddha. One day Genpin decides to wait and ask her who she is. The lady (shite in the first act) comes as usual and asks the hermit to lend her some clothes so that she can warm herself up in the autumn chill. Genpin gives her a robe and asks her where she lives. The woman replies that she lives nearby in a place that is described in the famous poem "My shelter is in the foot of Mount Miwa...".
She adds that if Genpin is interested he should come to "the gate with a cedar tree". Having said that, the woman disappears into thin air.
A local man on his way back from the shrine of Miwa Daimyōjin (the deity of Mount Miwa), meets Genpin and tells him that he has seen the hermit's robe hanging from a sacred cedar tree. Genpin goes out and finds the robe he had given to the woman hanging from a branch. On its hem, embroidered with gold thread is a poem that reads "Let's forget all material attachment. Lend me your robes with pure heart and I shall receive them with pure heart".
In that moment, Genpin hears a divine voice and the deity Miwa Daimyōjin appears before him. The deity tells a story of the primordial Age of Gods and even performs the sacred dance that the gods had performed in ancient times in front of the Celestial Cave where the sun goddess Amaterasu had retreated. Finally, the deity's dance recreates the moment when Amaterasu moved away the rock at the entrance of the cave. At the break of dawn, Miwa Daimyōjin disappears into thin air.
This Noh play depicts the mysticism of the deity of Mount Miwa through myth and the sacred dance of Kagura.
Genpin was a noted priest who lived in the 9th century. It may seem strange for a Buddhist priest to encounter a Shinto deity, but due to the unification of Buddhism and Shintoism in medieval Japan it was believed that all shinto deities would ask Buddha for salvation and would in turn lead humans to enlightenment.
The highlight of the play is the Kagura dance, as well as the narration that tells the myth of the marriage between deity and human.
The myth of the marriage of the deity of Mount Miwa can be found in "Kojiki" and other ancient manuscripts, in which the deity assumes the shape of a snake. The god of Miwa has a very complicated image. The deity is considered to be the son of the god of wind Susanoo and is worshipped as the deity Ōmononushi in Ōmiwa shrine, where the actual object of veneration is the whole Mount Miwa. Myths depicting the deity as a female can be found in some medieval Shinto manuscripts. The Noh play ends with the revelation of the secret that the deity of Miwa and the goddess of the sun Amaterasu are one god with two different manifestations.
The rich story of the Noh play depicts a deity that assumes various shapes in order to reveal itself to the humans.
The scene featuring the Kagura dance is characterized by artistry unique only to the Kagura dances in Noh. The peculiar tune of the flute, the shamanistic rhythm of the kotsuzumi drum, the wielding of the gohei wand and the distinct movements of the dance are mesmerizing. A prop representing a sacred tree is used in this play.
Since this is a Shinto-related play, there are many kogaki (special directions) that emphasize the deity's grandeur.
The costumes, props and musical accompaniment differ in each kogaki. They all aim to stress the solemnity of this unique Noh play.