Sokendai Review of Cultural and Social Studies


The Relationship between Early Japanese Puppet
Plays and the Teachings of Buddhism with Reference
to the Story of “Amida’s Riven Breast”

KUME Shiori

(SOKENDAI (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies),
School of Cultural and Social Studies,
Department of Japanese Literature)

Key words:

sekkyô, ko-jôruri, Amida’s Riven Breast, Kôhfu, raw heart, Buddhist teaching in literature, scapegoat

In Japan, the performing arts have, from the early medieval period onwards, no less work have often followed themes found in Buddhist literature. Buddhist parables have been passed down in oral and written form, with the spread of the latter being effected through both hand-written texts and woodblock-printed books known as “dangibon”. Existing researches in the fields of Noh, Kyôgen and kôwaka ballads have already shown their various connections with Buddhist literature, but no one has yet published comprehensive research into the Buddhist influence on the early puppet plays of sekkyô and ko-jôruri. In order to do this, I have chosen to use as an example “Amida’s Riven Breast” (see Kimbrough 2013 for an English translation).

“Amida’s Riven Breast” is a story about a brother and sister in India who sell themselves into slavery. Performance records beginning in 1614 made both at Kyoto Imperial Palace and in Kanazawa have been researched as well as surviving libretti e from both the sekkyô and the ko-jôruri traditions.

This paper contains a study of a kokatsuji-ban (movable-type) edition of the Noh play, “Kôhfu”, in the collection of the National Institute of Japanese Literature. I confirm that the play is based on a Buddhist fable from Japan’s of medieval era, which has clear connections with the story of “Amida’s Riven Breast”.

My research has uncovered many similar narratives in Buddhist sermon literature, such asthose in the Konjaku Monogatari (book 4, number 40), the “Sekkyô Saigakusyô, and in the Kenmonzuisinsyô and the Ouinruijusyô. Compared with them, I analyzed the process of incorporation of parables from Buddhist literature in the early modern theater of Japan.

Finally, I focus on the scene in which Amida becomes a scapegoat. Depiction of the flow of blood, so common in Christian imagery, would appear to have influenced the “Munewari Amida” image of Japan. Furthermore, the idea of this production is, it was presumed to be involved deeply and entertainment environment that 1614 saw a repeat performance.