The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
First Performance: 2002
Performance time: 3 hr. 30 min.
Acts / Scenes: Eight acts
Cast: 42 (27 men, 15 women)
art interview
Japanese Drama Database
Play of the Month Play of the Month
Aterui   Kazuki Nakashima 
The play Aterui is set in ancient Japan. The Yamato kingdom is plotting to unite all of Japan under its rule and has just succeeded in subjugating the Kumaso of southern Japan. Now they turn to the north to undertake the subjugation of the Emishi peoples.

Amidst fierce fighting during a night raid by a group called the Tateeboshi-to, two men find themselves facing each other. One is Tamuramaro and the other is Aterui. Aterui is Emishi, but in order to save a particular woman (Eboshi) he has defeated the Emishi god Arahabaki and a spell has been placed on him that led him to leave his hometown and live in the capital. The two men turn out to be equals in strength and they part with the premonition that they will be meeting again.

Through his encounter with the Tateeboshi-to leader Eboshi, Aterui recovers his memory about his identity that had been taken from him by the spell and heads with her toward his hometown of Hitakami to help the Emishi in their fight against Yamato.

Meanwhile Tamuramaro and the woman he loves, the dancer Suzuka, have discovered through her investigation that there are actually two different groups that go by the name of Tateeboshi-to. One is the true Tateeboshi-to of Emishi women led by Eboshi while the other is a group of Yamato supporters who disguise themselves as Tateeboshi-to and go around raiding an pillaging in order to give the real Tateeboshi-to a bad name and make enemies for the Emishi. When this is revealed, the false Tateeboshi-to is eliminated one after another by Tamuramaro’s sister, the Yamato priestess Mitamagozen and Kino Furube.

Aterui’s hometown was devastated by the Yamato army. As for Aterui, he has not only been freed of his spell but has become immortal thanks to the power of the Emishi god Arahabaki and succeeds in rescuing a part of the Emishi army from captivity in a Yamato castle. With a brave pledge that “The Emishi will not run, will not be violated and will not be threatened” he becomes the new Emishi army leader.

Assigned the task of subjugating the Emishi peoples, the commander Tamuramaro leads the Yamato army on a mission to subdue the Emishi rebels. Aterui and Tamuramaro meet again in battle and fight each other fiercely until Tamuramaro is struck in the chest by Aterui’s sword. Just then a great swordsman by the name of Jinmyomaru appears to rescue Tamuramaro from his distress. Mitamagozen recognizes a spirit residing within Jinmyomaru, which turns out to be a transformation of the soul of Suzuka, who has been entombed in the pillar of a building of the capital as a living sacrificial guardian.

Returning to his camp, Tamuramaro is attacked by a mysterious group of warriors that has deceived the Emishi. In fact, the attack is the work of Kino Furube, who is jealous of Tamuramaro, but once again the attackers are eliminated one after another by Furube’s own hand.

After setting fire to his own hometown as part of the strategy to hold off the Yamato conquest, Aterui has grown weary of the absurdity and devastation of war, and it weighs heavily on his heart. And, at this crucial time, Aterui learns from the words of Jinmyomaru that Eboshi is in fact Suzuka. The woman who claimed to be Eboshi was in fact the god Arahabaki who cast the spell on Aterui. Arahabaki had intended to transform Aterui into a god of war in order to defeat Yamato. Believing that his own existence has been the cause of war, Aterui decides to surrender to the Yamato on the condition that the people of Emishi be spared. When Arahabaki opposes this plan, Aterui slays the god.

However, when the Yamato Emperor, Mitamagozen and Kino Furube break the promise and massacre a tribe of Emishi, Aterui is angered and sets out in a campaign of revenge. Although the power of the god Arahabaki has made Aterui immortal, he allows himself to be defeated in a head-to-head battle with Tamuramaro in order to end the fighting. Warning that if any further harm befalls the Emishi he will transform himself into a god of wrath and attack the capital, Aterui secures a promise from Tamuramaro that any further attacks of the Emishi will be forbidden.

After Aterui’s death, Suzuka regains consciousness, the bond of her imprisonment as a living sacrifice being broken. This too has been the work of Aterui’s divine power.

Profile: Born: 1959
Born in Fukuoka Pref. in1959, Kazuki Nakashima is active today primarily a theater scriptwriter. He has served as the company writer for theater company Gekidan Shinkansen since 1985. Since then he has primarily written play scripts that stress story narrative for the series of period action plays known as “Inoue Kabuki.”
His play Aterui starring Somegoro Ichikawa and Shinichi Tsutsumi (2003, Shinbashi Enbujo Theater) won the 47th Kishida Drama Award. In recent years, he has also been writing scripts actively for productions other than those of Shinkansen, such as Lady Zoro starring Hibiki Takumi and Oinari – Asakusa Ginko Monogatari starring Nobuko Miyamoto.