Oni shimizu (鬼清水)

Demon's Clear Water,

orig. 1927-1928

by Yamaguchi Ryōshū

IHL Cat. #2697


Depicting Tarō Kaja disguised as a demon in the play Oni shimizu from the print collection "Kyōgenga taikan." Originally published in 1927-1928, this collection's print may be from the original edition or one of the later editions using the original blocks, issued in 1966 and again in 1976.

ONI SHIMIZU (Demon's Clear Water)

Source: translation of story summary appearing on goo blog at https://blog.goo.ne.jp/porima2/e/eebf70889dd3ce0e990f31a7e9f59226 [accessed 1-28-24]

Shite [lead role] MASTER

Ado [supporting role] TARŌ  KAJA

Tarō Kaja, at the behest of his Master, was ordered to fetch clear water for a tea ceremony. Reluctant and fearful of demons emerging in the evening, Taro firmly declined. Nevertheless, his master accusing him of acting like a child handed him a treasured bucket and compelled him to go.

As Tarō went, he was attacked by a fierce demon, forcing him to abandon the bucket and return home. 

Upon realizing the loss of the treasured bucket, the master went in search of it. Tarō, anticipating this, disguised himself as a demon and frightened the master. Taking advantage of the situation, Tarō, in the guise of the demon, persuaded his master with favorable words and made him swear an oath.

However, upon careful consideration, the master recognized the similarity of Tarō's voice, exposing the ruse. Tarō, now revealed, was chased and forced to flee.

Tarō kaja disguised as a demon frightening his master in an unattributed production

What is Kygen

In formal terms it is "the medieval comic form [dating from the mid-14th century] that evolved alongside the serious noh and, like noh, became a seminal influence on kabuki and puppet theater."[1] While "noh is usually about gods and spirits . . .  kyōgen is always about human beings."[2] It is noh's comedic counterpart, "sandwiched between two noh plays, or even between two halves of a single drama."[3] Today, there are two schools of kyōgen, the Ōkura school 大蔵流  and the Izumi school 和泉流.

"The kyōgen doings are based on a slender repertoire of situations. [About 260 plays.] A lord has a stupid servant (always called Tarō Kaja. . .) who cannot tell a fan from an umbrella [as in the play "Suehirogari"], or who inadvertently gives away to his mistress his master's philanderings, or who drinks up all the sake and fills up the bottles with hot water and then tries to talk the master into thinking he is getting drunk. Tarō is joined by a large cast of comic characters, each as distinctive as himself, each sublimely stupid, as gloriously sly, as eternally innocent. [I]t is our foibles that kyōgen celebrates.[4]

[1] New Kabuki Encyclopedia: A Revised Adaptation of Kabuki Jiten, Samuel Leiter, Greenwood Press, 1997, p. 374.

[2] A Guide to Kyogen, Don Kenny, Hinoki Shoten, 1968, p. 7. 

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid., p. 8.

Print Details

Kurikono Shinmei (栗隈神明)

蓼洲作 Ryōshū saku with Ryōshū seal