- Gods Beyond the Sea
“The sacred sites of Kudaka Island are bare, unadorned, yet eternally filled with something,” the renowned contemporary Japanese painter Okamoto Tarō once remarked. I imagine this invisible something to be love. When the real fifteenth-century King Shō Toku was driven from the throne of the Ryūkyū Kingdom, I think it was not because he wasn’t a strong king, but because the gods conspired to let him meet his true love on Kudaka Island. I believe this is the reason the love story between Shō Toku and Kunikasa is still told centuries later.
In Gods Beyond the Sea I wanted to depict how the history of Okinawa reflects the gradual dismantling of cultural practices in which the female element is held to be supreme, embodying the virtues of intuitive, selfless love. These cultural values are defeated by male cultural practices, in which logical thinking is the ultimate virtue.
I witnessed the Izaihō ritual of Kudaka Island many years ago. Soon after, the ritual was discontinued, but I believe the people’s religious spirit has not died. The chant, Ēfai, Ēfai, still lives in my ears, and as long as I keep hearing those voices, the praying heart of Kudaka will not die away. Those voices encouraged me to write this play.
Cast of Characters
kunikasa, head priestess of Kudaka Island
shō toku, king of the central government in Shuri
asato, priest and advisor to Shō Toku’s rival, Kanamaru
third shaman [End Page 74]
The stage is dark. The song gets louder as a moving image of a white horse appears on a screen behind the actors. The horse is galloping toward the audience from the horizon.
song (chin bushi)
A white horse emerged from the horizon And it entered the island and myself.
As the stage lights come up, we see Kunikasa and King Shō Toku holding hands.
|kunikasa||I am Kunikasa, a shaman of Kudaka Island.|
|Last night I dreamed of the horizon:|
|Beyond the deep blue water, beyond the infinite space|
|From the far-off world of uneasiness,|
|A white horse came galloping toward us,|
|Its mane bristling,|
|Toward this island, toward myself, as if attacking …|
|shō toku||I am none other than King Shō Toku.|
|The gods at Chūzan, Shuri Castle,|
|Instructed me to seek the gods of Nirai Kanai—|
|Following a white bird.|
|Who knew we would be shipwrecked by a typhoon?|
|My life was saved on Kudaka Island,|
|Saved by the father and brother of Kunikasa|
|And Kunikasa tenderly cared for me.|
|kunikasa||Although you are a king|
|Your life was saved on Kudaka Island.|
|The depth of care only I know.|
|Our meeting was planned by the gods themselves.|
|I will protect you throughout your lifetime.|
|song (agishichishaku bushi)|
|Fragrant is the wind of Kudaka,|
|Beautiful are the tender feelings between them.|
Kunikasa and Shō Toku dance happily together. Exit Shō Toku. Enter Asato.
|asato||I am Asato,|
|Residing in Asato Village.|
|I am a shaman and diviner.|
|Fortune brought me to the side of Lord Kanamaru|
|And I divined the future of the kingdom.|
|I’ve come here because I saw the spirit|
|Of the King falling onto this island|
|And saw it trapped in lust, chasing after women. [End Page 75]|
|kunikasa||An unexpected visitor|
|Bringing to this island political turmoil from Shuri Castle,|
|A hateful man upsetting our King’s peace.|
|On Kudaka, women are endowed with great spiritual power.|
|I will take care of the King and I ask that you|
|Return to Shuri immediately.|
|asato||The spiritual power of this island is known throughout the kingdom,|
|But for the future safety and prosperity of the kingdom|
|I will not trust women’s spiritual power.|
|kunikasa / asato||Because we do not trust one another|
|A test of our spiritual powers is unavoidable—|
|On a different day, in a different place.|
|song (yunabaru bushi)|
|Gods of the Horizon, give us life.|
|Two shamans—a woman and a man—|
|will engage in spiritual competition.|
Kunikasa and Asato express their antagonism in dance and then...