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  • Possessed by Love, Thwarted by the Bell
  • Tamagusuku Chōkun

Written around 1719 by Tamagusuku Chōkun, Shūshin Kani’iri (Possessed by Love, Thwarted by the Bell) is one of the earliest kumi odori and continues to be one of the most frequently performed. For the 250 years following the development of kumi odori, the most important performances were in the context of ukwanshin, entertainments for the official envoys sent to the Ryūkyū Kingdom by the Chinese emperor. With the demise of the Ryūkyūan court in 1879, the genre languished until it was designated as an important cultural asset by the Japanese government in 1972. This translation of a version of Shūshin Kani’iri includes stage directions and choreography based on the practice of Kin Ryōshō, an important twentieth-century master of the traditional form.

Cast of Characters

wakamatsi, a young aristocrat

woman, a village girl


chief priest

first novice

second novice

third novice

Wakamatsi’s Travel Song: “Chin Bushi” 1

The singer, who plays the sanshin, is accompanied by flute [hansō] and drum [kodaiko]. He expresses wakamatsi’s thoughts as the character enters from upstage right in the slow, stylized walk of classical dance. wakamatsi wears a salmon pink bingata kimono that is pulled up, revealing his red leggings and tabi. The short stick he carries and the wicker hat [hana amigasa] signify that he is on a journey. [End Page 98]

singer Even when the shining sunlight in the west
has become slanted to the length of a cloth, 2
I am going alone, to Shuri
because of court service.

Wakamatsi moves a few steps in one direction, turns and tries another. Finally halting in confusion, he faces the audience and introduces himself, his voice rising and falling in the gentle chant of wagin delivery.

wakamatsi I am Wakamatsi of Nakagusiku.
As I must serve at the court
I am going up to Shuri.
In the dark night of the twentieth of the month
I have lost my way.
The mountain paths are especially
heavy with dew.

He looks at his sleeve, indicating weariness, then glances toward his right.

Toward the light at the edge of that village I shall go, and there ask for a night’s lodging.

He moves upstage right and halts, facing the wings.

Is someone in this house? May I ask for your assistance? The day set while I was traveling, and I have lost my way. Have pity on me and let me stay this night.

woman [ Offstage ] Who is this that wants to have lodging
so late in the evening?
Because my parents are away,
I cannot do such a thing on my own.
wakamatsi In this world even the dew borrows
its lodging on a flower.
Please have mercy on me
and provide me with lodging.
woman If I let someone stay for the night
while my parents are out,
it will become known to others
and rumors may arise.
wakamatsi When you have said your parents are away
and you cannot act on your own,
it is hard for me to repeat my request.

[End Page 99]

But I am Wakamatsi of Nakagusiku. As I have service at the court, I am going up to Shuri. In the dark night of the twentieth day, I cannot see the way to the capital, I do not know the way to return. So I have been at a loss. Please have pity and let me stay overnight.

Song: “Hwishi Bushi” 3

The singer accompanied only by his sanshin sings the woman’s thoughts as she enters from upstage right and circles behind wakamatsi. She pauses and moves the lamp back so that she can see his face more clearly, then circles behind to survey him from the other side. Her pink bingata kimono is untied since she is at home and reveals her red and pink half-kimono, white skirt, and red tabi that she wears underneath.

singer Now that I realize it is you
why should I refuse your request for lodging?
Through the long winter’s night
let us have conversation.

As she turns away wakamatsi moves and both kneel on the...


Additional Information

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pp. 98-111
Launched on MUSE
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