Ninnaji and Otherworlds in the No¯ Tsunemasa

Elizabeth A. Oyler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This essay discusses the No¯ Tsunemasa in connection with narratives about the life of the warrior Taira Tsunemasa, killed during the Genpei War, and his biwa lute, Seizan. A mugen No¯ ("dream No¯," in which the main character, the shite, is a ghost) in one act, the play exhibits an unusual structure: it is the enactment of a memorial musical service for the dead Tsunemasa, set at Ninnaji, the temple at which he served during his youth, rather than at the locale where he died, the more common setting for such plays. Focusing on Ninnaji as the setting for the play, I discuss how its structure as a performance of a service creates connections with several other scenes of virtuoso biwa performance found in Tsunemasa's life story. I argue that the play's use of the meaningful site of Ninnaji - arguably the center of Shingon practice and a temple at which royal princes served as Omuro, or "prince-abbot" - creates complex ways of addressing the character of Tsunemasa historically and within the performance traditions of Heike monogatari recitation and the No¯.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-170
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Religion in Japan
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Heike monogatari
  • No¯ drama
  • Taira family history
  • medieval performance studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies


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