Keene translation: Varley, H. Paul

About the electronic version
Keene translation: Varley, H. Paul
Creation of machine-readable version: Charlotte Robertson and Winnie Chan
Creation of digital images:
Conversion to TEI.2-conformant markup: University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center.
University of Virginia Library.
Charlottesville, Va.


   Japanese Text Initiative

Note: (ETC) The text has been given an id of KeeNono because this edition is commonly referred to as the Keene translation.
About the print version
Twenty Plays of the No Theatre
H. Paul Varley Editor Donald Keene

   1st Edition

Columbia University Press
New York

   Records of Civilization: Sources and Studies, number LXXXV

   Prepared for the University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center.

Published: 1970

Revisions to the electronic version
August 1997 corrector Catherine Tousignant, Electronic Text Center
  • Added milestones to correspond with ZeaNono.

  • February 1997 corrector Winnie Chan
  • Added TEI header and tags.

  • Commercial use prohibited; all usage governed by our Conditions of Use:
    Final checking: David Seaman

    Page 180


        The Shrine in the Fields, a play of the third category, has traditionally been ascribed to Zeami, but in recent years some scholars have expressed doubts about this attribution, largely for technical reasons of style. It is hard, however, to imagine who else but Zeami could have written so hauntingly evocative a work. Perhaps he wrote it in the last years of his life, a period not covered by the critical writings that are the firmest evidence for attribution; or perhaps, as Professor Konishi Jin'ichi has suggested, Zeami's second son, Motoyoshi, who is not credited with any plays in the repertory, may have written The Shrine in the Fields, Yuya, and various other masterpieces whose authorship is uncertain.

        The play recalls the love affair between Prince Genji and Lady Rokujo, here called by her title, Miyasudokoro. Readers of The Tale of Genji will remember Rokujo mainly as the proud and elegant woman whose jealousy led to the death of Genji's wife, Aoi; this story is treated in the play Aoi no Ue, translated by Arthur Waley in The No Plays of Japan. In The Shrine in the Fields, however, Rokujo is treated with the utmost sympathy, and

    Page 181

    nothing suggests that her living ghost killed Aoi. The scenes from The Tale of Genji which provided material for the play include: Genji's visit to Rokujo; the humiliation of Rokujo when Aoi's carriage forced back her own at the Kamo Festival; and the visit to Nonomiya, the Shrine in the Fields, by Genji, when Rokujo's daughter, the new Virgin of the Ise Shrine, was in residence there.

        The Emperor was always represented at Ise by a virgin of imperial blood. When a new virgin was appointed, before going to Ise she would reside for a considerable period just outside Kyoto at Nonomiya. (The word miya primarily means a shrine, but can also mean a palace.) Nonomiya was intimately associated with Ise, the chief shrine of the Sun Goddess. It served its main function only intermittently, however, and was therefore built like a temporary shrine with a torii of logs.

        The season is the end of autumn and an air of melancholy and impermanence dominates the play.

        The Shrine in the Fields is performed by all schools of No.

    Page 182


    A Traveling Priest (waki):
    A Village Girl (mae-jite):
    Miyasudokoro (nochi-jite):



    Sagano in Yamashiro Province



    Late autumn, the seventh day of the ninth month

    Page 183


    [The stage assistant places a torii at the front of the stage. To either upright of the torii are attached short sections of fence made of brushwood twigs.
    The Priest enters. He carries a rosary in his hand. He stands at the naming-place.


        I am an itinerant priest. Recently I have been staying in the Capital, where I have visited all the famous sites and relics of the past. Autumn is nearing its close and Sagano will be lovely now. I think I shall go there for a visit. [ He turns towards the torii, indicating that he has already arrived in Sagano. ]
    When I asked people about this wood they told me it is the ancient site of the Shrine in the Fields. I would like to visit the place, though I am no more than a passing stranger. [ He advances to stage center, still facing the torii.) ]

    I enter the wood and I see
    A rustic log torii
    And a fence of brushwood twigs.
    Surely nothing has changed from the past!
    But why should time have spared this place?
    Be that as it may, how lucky I am
    To have come at this lovely time of year
    And to be able to worship at such a place.

    [ He kneels and presses his palms together. ]

    The Great Shrine at Ise
    Makes no distinction
    Between gods and Buddhas:
    The teachings of the Buddhist Law
    Have guided me straight along the path,
    And I have arrived at the Shrine.
    My heart is pure in the evening light,
    Pure in the clear evening light!

    [ The Girl enters. She wears the fukai mask and carries a branch of sakaki. She stands at the shite-position and faces the musicians. ]

    Page 184


    Shrine in the Fields
    Where I have lived with flowers;
    Shrine in the Fields
    Where I have lived with flowers --
    What will be left when autumn has passed?

    [ She faces front. ]

    Now lonely autumn ends,
    But still my sleeves
    Wilt in a dew of tears;
    The dusk racks my body,
    And my heart of itself
    Takes on the fading colors
    Of the thousand flowers;
    It withers, as all things, with neglect.

    Each year on this day,
    Unknown to anyone else,
    I return to the old remains.
    In the wood at the Shrine in the Fields
    Autumn has drawn to a close
    And the harsh winds blow;
    Autumn has drawn to a close
    And the harsh winds blow;
    Colors so brilliant
    They pierced the senses
    Have faded and vanished;
    What remains now to recall
    The memories of the past
    What use was it to come here?

    [ She takes a few steps to her right, then faces front. ]

    Ahh -- how I loathe the attachment
    That makes me go back and forth,
    Again and again on my journey
    To this meaningless, fugitive world.

    [ The Priest rises and faces her. ]


        As I was resting in the shade of the trees, thinking about the past and refreshing my mind, a charming young lady has suddenly appeared. Please tell me who you are.


        It would be more appropriate if I asked who you are. This

    Page 185

    is Nonomiya, the Shrine in the Fields, where in ancient days the virgin designated as the Priestess of Ise was temporarily lodged. The custom has fallen into disuse, but today, the seventh day of the ninth month, is still a time for recalling the past. Each year, unknown to anyone else, I come to sweep the shrine and to perform a service. I do not know where you have come from, but your presence here is an intrusion. Please leave at once.

    [ She takes two steps towards the Priest. ]


        No, no. There can be no objection to my being here. I am only a wandering priest who has renounced the uncertain world. But tell me, why should you return here, to these old ruins, on this particular day each year in search of the past?


        This is the day when Genji the Shining One visited this place, the seventh day of the ninth month. He brought with him a twig of sakaki and pushed it through the sacred fence. Miyasudokoro at once composed the poem:

    "This sacred enclosure
    Has no cypress to mark the spot;
    By some error you have picked
    A twig of sakaki wood."
    It happened on this day!


    That was truly a worthy poem.
    -- And the sakaki branch
    You hold in your hand
    Is the same color it was in the past.


    The same color as in the past?
    How clever to put it that way!
    Only the sakaki stays green forever,
    And in its unvarying shade,


    On the pathways through the wood,
    The autumn deepens


    And leaves turn crimson only to scatter.


    In the weed-grown fields

    [ She goes to the torii and places the sakaki branch there. The Priest kneels. ]


    The stalks and leaf tips wither;

    Page 186

    Nonomiya, the Shrine in the Fields,
    Stands amidst the desolation
    Of withered stalks and leaves.
    The seventh day of the ninth month
    Has returned again today
    To this place of memories.

    [ She moves to stage center. ]

    How fragile it seemed at the time,
    This little fence of brushwood twigs.

    [ She gazes at the fence. ]

    And the house that looked so temporary
    Has now become the guardian's hut.

    [ She turns towards the gazing-pillar. ]

    A dim glow shines from inside:
    I wonder if the longing within me
    Reveals itself outwardly?
    How lonely a place is this shrine,
    How lonely a place is this palace!

    [ She gazes across the front of the stage. ]


        Please tell me more of the story of Miyasudokoro.

    [ The Girl kneels at stage center. ]


    The lady known as Miyasudokoro
    Became the wife of the former Crown Prince,
    The brother of Kiritsubo's Emperor,
    A man at the height of his glory;
    They were like the color and perfume
    Of the same flower, indissolubly bound.


    They knew, of course, the truth
    That those who meet must part --


    Why should it have surprised them?
    But it came so soon -- like a nightmare --
    His death that left her alone.


    She could not remain in that state,
    Helpless and given to tears;


    Soon Genji the Shining One
    Imposed his love and began
    Their clandestine meetings.


    How did their love affair end?


    And why, after they separated,

    Page 187

    Did his love never turn to hate?
    With customary tenderness
    He made his way through the fields
    To distant Nonomiya.
    The autumn flowers had all withered,
    The voices of insects were sparse.
    Oh, the loneliness of that journey!
    Even the wind echoing in the pines
    Reminded him there is no end
    To the sadness of autumn.
    So the Prince visited her,
    And with the deepest affection
    Spoke his love in many ways;
    How noble and sensitive a man!


    Later, by the Katsura River,
    She performed the cleansing rite,


    Setting the white-wrapped branches
    Adrift on the river waves;
    Herself like a drifting weed,
    No roots or destination,
    She moved at the water's will. 7
    "Through the waves of the eighty rapids
    Of Suzuka River to Ise,
    Who will worry if the waves wet me or no?" 8
    She wrote this poem to describe her journey.
    Never before had a mother
    Escorted her daughter, the Virgin,
    All the way to the Také Palace. 9
    Mother and daughter on the way
    Felt only the bitterness of regret.

    [ for Priest ]

    Now that I have heard your tale,
    I am sure you are no ordinary woman.
    Please tell me your name.


    Revealing my name
    Would serve no purpose;
    In my helplessness
    I am ashamed of myself.
    Sooner or later

    Page 188

    My name will be known,
    It can't be helped;
    But now say a prayer for one nameless,
    And not of this world.

    [ for Priest. ]

    Not of this world?
    What strange words to heart
    Then, have you died and departed


    This world, long ago,
    A name my only monument:




    Is myself.


    Autumn winds rise at dusk;

    [ She stands. ]

    Through the forest branches
    The evening moonlight shines

    [ She goes to the shite-position. ]

    Dimly illuminating,
    Under the trees,

    [ She looks at the torii. ]

    The rustic logs of the torii.
    She passes between the two pillars
    And vanishes without a trace;
    She has vanished without a trace.

    [ She slowly exits. A Villager then enters and performs the kyogen interlude, a lengthy recapitulation of Miyasudokoro's story. The Priest asks the Villager to tell what he knows, and then the two men agree that the Priest has just seen the ghost of Miyasudokoro. The Priest decides to stay and read the sutras and prayers for her. The Villager withd raws. ]


    Alone I lie on the forest moss,
    A sleeve of my robe spread beneath me --
    Under forest trees, a mossy robe:
    My mat is grass of the same color.
    Unfolding my memories
    I shall offer prayers all night long;
    I shall pray for her repose.

    [ The Girl, now revealed as Miyasudokoro, enters and stands at the shite-position. ]

    Page 189


    In this carriage,
    Lovely as the autumn flowers
    At Nonomiya,
    I too have returned to the past,
    To long ago.


    How strange!
    In the faint moonlight
    The soft sounds
    Of an approaching carriage,
    A courtly carriage
    With reed blinds hanging --
    A sight of unimagined beauty!
    It must be you, Miyasudokoro!
    But what is the carriage you ride in?


    You ask about my carriage?
    I remember now
    That scene of long ago --
    The Kamo Festival,
    The jostling carriages.
    No one could tell
    Who their owners were,
    But thick as dewdrops


    The splendid ranks crowded the place.


    Pleasure carriages of every description,
    And one among them of special magnificence,
    The Princess Aoi's.


    "Make way for Her Highness's carriage!"
    The servants cried, clearing the crowd,
    And in the confusion


    I answered, "My carriage is small,
    I have nowhere else to put it."
    I stood my ground,


    But around the carriage


    Men suddenly swarmed.

    [ Her gestures suggest the actions described. ]


    Grasping the shafts,
    They pushed my carriage back
    Into the ranks of the servants.
    My carriage had come for no purpose,

    Page 190

    My pleasure was gone,
    And I knew my helplessness.
    I realized now
    That all that happened
    Was surely retribution
    For the sins of former lives.
    Even now I am in agony:
    Like the wheels of my carriage
    I return again and again --
    How long must I still keep returning?
    I beg you, dispel this delusion!
    I beg you, dispel my suffering!

    [ She presses her palms together in supplication. ]


    Remembering the vanished days
    I dance, waving at the moon
    My flowerlike sleeves,


    As if begging it to restore the past.

    [ She goes to the shite-position and begins to dance. As her dance ends, the text resumes. ]


    Even the moon
    At the Shrine in the Fields
    Must remember the past;


    Its light forlornly trickles
    Through the leaves to the forest dew.
    Through the leaves to the forest dew.


    This place, once my refuge,
    This garden, still lingers


    Unchanged from long ago,


    A beauty nowhere else,


    Though transient, insubstantial


    As this little wooden fence


    From which he used to brush the dew.

    [ She brushes the fence with her fan. ]

    I, whom he visited,
    And he, my lover too,
    The whole world turned to dreams,
    To aging ruins;
    Whom shall I pine for now?
    The voices of pine-crickets

    Page 191

    Trill sin, sin,
    The wind howls:

    [ She advances to stage front. She gazes at the torii. ]

    How I remember
    Nights at the Shrine in the Fields!

    [ Weeping, she withdraws to the area before the musicians and starts to dance. The text resumes when her dance has ended. ]


    At this shrine we have always worshiped
    The divine wind that blows from Ise,

    [ She goes before the torii. ]

    The Inner and Outer Shrines.
    As I pass to and fro through this torii
    I seem to wander on the path of delusion:
    I waver between life and death.

    [ She passes back and forth through the torii. ]

    The gods will surely reject me!
    Again she climbs in her carriage and rides out
    The gate of the Burning House,
    The gate of the Burning House.

    Page 192


    1. The passage above hints at the fading love of Genji for Miyasudokoro.

    2. The verb shinobu, "to recall the past," leads into the noun shinobu no kusagoromo, a robe made of a kind of printed cloth, the design pressed from leaves. This cloth is mentioned effectively in The Brocade Tree, but here it seems an extraneous ornament and is hence omitted from the translation.

    3. The poem is quoted from The Tale of Genji, where it seems to mean that the visitor has come without invitation, pretending he had been invited. The poem is an allusive variation on poem no. 982 of the Kokinshu: "My hut is at the foot of Mount Miwa. If you love me come and visit me; my gate is the one with the cedar by it."

    4. Commentators disagree on the nature of the hut, some taking it as the place where the guardian lives, others as a place where sacred food is prepared. The meaning in either case is that buildings which, like everything else at the Shrine in the Fields, seemed highly perishable have miraculously survived.

    5. Kiritsubo was Genji's mother.

    6. Streamers of paper or mulberry bark were inscribed with prayers and attached to sakaki branches, then tossed into the stream.

    7. There are allusions here to the famous poem by Ono no Komachi in which she compares herself to a floating waterweed. See Komachi at Sekidera.

    8. A slightly modified version of the poem Miyasudokoro sent to Genji at Nonomiya. Being wetted by the waves has the additional meaning of having her sleeves wetted by tears. In other words, she is sure nobody will care whether she weeps with sorrow or not.

    9. The Virgin resided at Ise in the Také Palace.

    10. A priest's robe was frequently called kokegoromo, literally "moss robe." Here it has that meaning, but also refers to the moss on the ground. Because it is autumn the grass too is faded like the priest's robe.

    11. The Burning House is a familiar image for this world, which an enlightened person should flee as eagerly as from a burning house.