T1 his year, the National Theater’s summer program “Kabuki Class” will be showing the 75-minute play “Narukami” (“Thunder God”), part of a classical play known as “Narukami Fudo Kitayamazakura,” originally written in 1742 by the Kamigata (Kyoto-Osaka) playwrights Yasuda Abun and Nakada Mansuke. Based on the Noh play “Ikkaku Sennin” (“Ikkaku, the Wizard”), it was written for Ichikawa Danjuro II to take the lead role of a young Buddhist monk with supernatural powers, who violates the Buddhist commandments when corrupted by a woman.
It begins with the handsome priest Narukami hiding in a cave on Kitayama Mountain north of Kyoto. Angry at the imperial court for not rewarding him for conjuring the birth of an imperial heir through his prayer, he has summoned a serious drought by confining a ryujin (dragon god) in a waterfall. When a woman’s voice reciting the Buddha’s name in the distance distracts him from his religious austerities, however, Narukami’s downfall begins. Two disciples are sent to find out whose voice they hear, and they return with a beautiful woman in a striking red kimono. When Narukami asks her why she has entered an area forbidden to women, she tells him that she has come to find water to wash a garment that her recently deceased husband left to her. Unknown to Narukami, the woman is Princess Kumo no Taema, sent by the imperial court to destroy Narukami’s magical power and end the drought.