Introduction to the Hei-kyoku
I suppose there are only few people who
had heard about Heike-Biwa(in another name,
Hei-kyoku), but many people may be fond of
the masterpiece Kwaidan by Lafcadio Hearn.
Don't you know about one of the tales in
Kwaidan, "The Story of Mimi-Nashi-Hoichi"?
The music Hoichi played in front of Heike's
ghosts in this tale is what we call the Hei-kyoku,
a song of melody on words of "Heike-Monogatari"
with accompany played by Biwa, a Japanese
lute. The "Heike-Monogatari" written
by Shinano Zenji Yukinaga is about the rise
and fall of Heike family 800 years ago in
late Heian period. The blind bonze recited
the "Heike-Monogatari" on the tune
of Tendai-sect's Buddhist music, and this
is told to be the origin of Hei-kyoku. In
those days citizens were illeterate unlike
nowadays, so the story of Heike chanted by
this blind bonze, the Biwa-Houshi, had amazed
many people's heart. In Muromachi period
Heikyoku was at the height of it's prosperity,
and in those times a matchless master of
Biwa-Houshi such as Kakutsu Akashi had emerged
in the society. However, Hei-kyoku had declined
at Meiji period, and when the World War II
was about to end, Mr.Kougo Tateyama at Sendai
city was left to be the only one who can
chant all 200 pieces of Hei-kyoku. Then Mr.
Tateyama instructed the traditional Hei-kyoku
to Mr. Haruhiko Kindaichi, and Mr. Kindaichi
became the one and only successor of traditional
Hei-kyoku. My teacher, Mr. Seishu Suda became
the disciple of Mr. Kindaichi and studied
hard. Now, he had inherited the Heike-Biwa
of the orthodox tune and is instructing me.
The original from of the Heike-Monogatari
as a reading book is in a narrative form,
and the Hei-kyoku contains nearly 200 pieces
in all. When you categorize them roughly,
you can find there are four types of pieces;
bravery pieces about the battles called the
Hiroimono, tragedies called Fushimono, Hikyoku,
and the volume of Kannjou. For further explanation
of instrument, the lute played for Heike-Biwa
is one size smaller than the lute of Gagaku,
or the ancient court music of Japan. The
history of Heike-Biwa's lute is older than
the lute of Satsuma-Biwa, which we hear much
often today, and it takes the part of accompaniment
to the song.
Hei-kyoku has one of the oldest history
in Japanese traditional culture, and it had
gave a great influence to Nogaku, Kyogen
and other later Japanese culture. Hei-kyoku
is the traditional culture that Japan proud
to the world, and I hope many people will
enjoy listening the Heike-Biwa or the Hei-kyoku.
That will be a great pleasure for me.
by Haruka Ide
The Last of Atsumori
The Heike escaped to Dazaifu, Kyushu,
and soon prepared their base at Yashima.
Then they constructed a firm fortress at
Ichi-no-Tani of Fukuwara, today's Kobe city,
and gathered a vast army. On the next year
1184, Juei the 3rd, February, Genji started
to attack Ichi-no-Tani. Although Heike had
desparately fought in defense, Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune
and his 3000 horsebacks were behind Heike's
back, and because of the surprise attack
of these horse riders from above the cliff
of Hiyodorigoe, finally the base seemed to
be impregnable had fall.
Heike became routed and they were compelled
to escape on the sea by ships. Atsumori,
the youngest son of Taira-no-Tsunemori, was
also about to escape to the ship that was
already launching, but he was challenged
by Kumagai-no-Naozane and had to return to
the single combat. Of course, young Atsumori
who was only 17 years old was a no match
for the well-experienced warrior like Naozane.
Naozane held him down and looked at his face
to strike off his head. Then Kumagai realized
that Atsumori was a youngster seemed to be
only as old as his son Koujirou, so Kumagai
pitied him and tried to let him go. However,
Genji's troop had arrived just on that time,
and therefore Kumagai had to behead Atsumori
with tears. Afterwards, Kumagai found out
the youngster he killed was an aristocrat
of Heike from the flute Atsumori left. From
this occurrence, Kumagai felt the vanity
of the samurai, and he started to wear a
will to become a bonze and renounce the world.
The piece "The Last of Atsumori"
is an exceedingly beautiful passage chanting
Atsumori's aristocratic gracefulness and
Kumagai's strength and tenderness of samurai
and his conflict. It is the most popular
story in the "Heike-Monogatari"
moving many people to tears.
by Haruka Ide