check the REPORT of the first performance of WINGS OF LOVE - a
Christian Noh Drama, by Dr. Yuko Yuasa
On the publication of WINGS OF LOVE and its author
Professor emeritus, Doshisha University and Professor, Seiwa College.
the 170th anniversary of Ryokan's passing an international symposium
on Ryokan is held in Niigata, his birthplace. This is the occasion
of the first performance of a Noh drama, "WINGS OF LOVE,
a Story of Ryokan, and St.
Francis of Assisi, told by Teishinni
and St.Chiara," created by Dr.
As an aftermath of the economic crisis, dark clouds covered the
country and people were disheartened. In this atmosphere the publication
of my book "Ryokan and Christ" was celebrated in Niigata,
supported by Mr. YAGIMOTO Yuji, the director of Kokodo Publishing
Company. I suggested that it would be high time to send out a
bright message from Japan, saying "What about to hold an
international symposium on Ryokan, as a powerful and positive
message from Niigata?" The response resulted in the effort
of Zenkoku Ryokan Kai (the National Ryokan Society) and the cooperation
of Niigata City, with the fruit of "Ryokan Festival"
commemorating the 170th anniversary of his passing.
On the first day of the festival, "WINGS OF LOVE, a Story
of Ryokan and St. Francis of Assisi" was performed. Without
exaggeration it was an epoch-making event and a historical endeavor.
An important element for the realization of this event was the
beautiful and correct Noh stage in the Niigata-City Performing
Arts Center, already completed under the leadership of Mr. HASEGAWA
Yoshiaki, the Mayor of Niigata, a keen promotor of art and culture.
The author of "WINGS OF LOVE," YUASA Yuko, a graduate
of the International Christian University, continued her biblical
studies and theology at Edinburgh University. Completing the mother's
tasks of child-rearing, she was enrolled in Doshisha University
Graduate School of Theology, specializing in Christianity and
Culture. She received her Master's degree with honor by her thesis
on Christianity and Noh drama. Her further pursuit in the subject
with feminist perspective in U.S. A. resulted in her doctorate
degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary, CA.
What we must not forget is her family background. Her husband
Dr. YUASA Yo was my classmate in Greek at the theological department
of Doshisha University. Educated at the International Christian
University and Amherst College, he received his medical training
at the Edinburgh University where he was awarded his medical degree.
Now he is working as a doctor in the international field and on
the advisory committee of the World Health Organization. His overseas
works in various countries offer Yuko chances to see the world.
This must be a source of inspiration for her cross-cultural creation.
Yo's father. Dr. YUASA Hachiro served as a president of Doshisha,
and the first president of the International Christian University.
An entomologist and educator, he also appreciated and promoted
the cause of Mingei, the folk art. This atmosphere must have been
a source of stimuli for her works.
Now the biblical studies on one hand, and the research in the
history and texts of Noh drama on another. Dr. YUASA Yuko started
creating new Noh dramas and staging their performance. The first
phase was a small work based on Jo Neesima poem titled "Truth
blossoms as Plum blossoms," which was performed by young
artists. In 1995 Kansai Seminar House' Noh stage saw her "Magdalene
Dances in Crimson," a Noh drama about the first human encounter
with resurrected Jesus in a garden. "Consider the Lilies
of the Field" was the next resonance between the sermon on
the mount and a Haiku by Basho, staged in the following year.
Then the second phase came with the production of Hannya Miriam."
Miriam is the sister of Moses, the leader of the Exodus. Her agony
and joy are the theme of this drama, which serves as the fountainhead
of works with biblical themes. "Hannya Miriam" was performed
at the celebration of the restoration of "Hokyoden,"
a historically important Noh stage at the Kansai Seminar House,
which was used in commemoration of Hideyoshi's 300th anniversary.
On this occasion Mr. KANZE Hideo lectured on "Cross-cultural
exchange and Noh drama." He gave a blessing, with his dance
of auspicious "Takasago" on the newly restored Noh stage.
Even more, he led the chorus of "Hannya Miriam," and
encouraged all. It was an unforgettable episode dear to our heart.
The author's activities have encompassed the world from Bali to
Zimbabwe, Korea, USA, Switzerland, Germany and Britain through
her network of ecumenical studies and feminist theology. She has
introduced her theological method in various workshops and lectures,
and has staged her works based on a resonance between the Noh
drama and the Biblical message, inspiring people of many lands,
with biblical and non-biblical cultures.
Recently at the annual Maple Festival of the Kansai Seminar House
she continuously creates and stages her works such as "Magnificat,
Love Song between the Heaven and the Earth (1998)" and "Let
There Be Light! (1999)." With the cooperation of the talented
player Nobushige and his troupe, the KAWAMURA Noh Stage Company,
a holder of precious tradition and caliber led by KAWAMURA Teiji,
a national treasure, the performances are well received by the
Before the drama begins here are some hints for the enjoyment.
There are four points;
Who and Why "Ryokan and St. Francis of Assisi?"
Who and Why "Teishinni and St.Chiara?"
What and Why "Mugen-Noh (Noh drama with dream scene)?"
"Why the dialogue now?"
and Why "Ryokan and St.Francis of Assisi?"
Ryokan (1758~1831), a Zen priest, preached about Buddha's
love while begging and playing with children among birds and flowers.
His poems and calligraphy have been treasured down through the ages.
St. Francis of Assisi (1181~1226) traveled even to the crusaders'
enemy to preach Christ's love. Both men led lives of poverty while
helping all they met, speaking of peace between peoples, birds,
animals, plants, water, rocks and the whole nature.
and Why "Teishinni and St.Chiara?"
Through Eros, as well as other forms of love, God speaks to us.
Teishinni and St. Chiara, both nuns, held the light of love in their
hearts for the two saints. The reciprocal love of the two men gave
depth and hight to the life of all. The stories told by these special
nuns ring with truth because of love.
and Why "Mugen-Noh (Noh drama with dream scene)?"
In the drama form "Mugen-Noh" created by Zeami (14th century),
ghosts of love and battles' losers appear. Their mortifying sorrow
and disappointment do not allow them silent Their ardent desire
to tell their stories has formed a device of powerful communication.
Mugen-Noh (Noh drama with dream scene) has adapted their skill and
the mysterious method.
the dialogue now?
The key for life in the new century will be the coexistence of different
The common message of the saints from the east and the west, namely
eco-justice, peace and love, gives us a hope of having a meaningful
of Assisi (1181~1226)
Giovanni Francesco Bernardone, Christian saint and founder of the
Franciscans. As a rich merchant's son with a merry-making disposition
he dreamed about earthly glory in his youth. But imprisoned in Perusia
as a defeated warrior, he returned his life's direction. He established
an order based on begging, believing that poverty would enhance
dependence on God (1210). He went to Egypt with the crusaders trying
to stop the war (1219). 1224 is the year of his stigma experience
(receiving on his body Christ's stigma on the cross). His Canticle
of Brother Sun (1225~6), praise Christ's Resurrection that has realized
the salvation of humankind and nature. He was canonized in 1228.
He was designated as the patron saint of ecology in 1979.
of Assisi (1193~1253)
Chiara Offreduccio di Bernardino was born in a rich house of nobility
class in the days of civil wars and the Crusaders. In 1211 she met
Francisco who had completed repairing the church of St. Damiano.
In 1212 she fled from her feudal household and became a nun by the
hand of Francisco. She was made an abbess and received a "right
of poverty" from the Pope Innocent III in 1215. She led an
Order of the Poor based on Francis' principles.
After his death she kept the Order according to his' ideal; dependence
on God alone. She was canonized in 1255. Her spirit continues to
live in 15 groups of her name.
As a son of leading family who had a position similar to a mayor,
at Izumozaki in present Niigata Prefecture, Eizo (Ryokan's childhood
name) experienced some frustration of youth and showed little interest
in power and wealth. At the age of 22 he followed Kokusen, a Zen
priest, to Entsuji Temple in Okayama. Though given a license to
hold a head priest's post, he chose a life of begging rather than
a job in a temple. He lived a life of compassion and tolerance by
the rigorous practice of solitude, meditation and poverty. His poems
and calligraphy as well as his way of living filled with love of
children and nature are treasured by people of many lands.
(taken from the
book WINGS OF LOVE by YUASA Yuko)
A daughter of a Samurai in Nagaoka, in present Niigata Prefecture,
Masu (her secular name, Teishinni being her religious name), spent
her younger days as a book-lover with her stepmother. Divorced after
5 years of childless marriage, she became a nun at the age of 23.
Working at a small temple of Emmado, Teishinni kept studying about
Ryokan. In 1828 Teishinni (30) finally met Ryokan (70) and remained
friend/disciple until his passing. In her "Dew of Lotus"
she relays to us Ryokan's poems and the poetry of the two souls
who lived in the Buddha's love.