The Role of the Noh Play Chikubushima: An Amalgamation of Shintoism and Buddhism

By Keiko Kimura.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

From age-old Japan, people have thought gods and goddesses were omnipresent, especially in forests, mountains, and the sea. It was believed that these gods and goddesses were there to protect us. Though these gods and goddesses did not appear as figures, people worshiped them, and this kind of worship developed into the religion known as Shintoism. It is believed that in the 6th century in the Nara period, Buddhism was transferred to Japan from China via Korea. Since then, Buddhism has influenced Shintoism. The Japanese naturally accepted the interconnectedness of Buddhism and Shintoism. The reason is that Buddhism did not deny the original Japanese local gods and goddesses even though they had different characters to Buddha and his various divinities, and vice versa. The play Chikubushima was written by an unknown writer and first performed in the Muromachi period. In the play, Benzaiten (a Buddhist goddess, a water goddess) and Chikubushima Ryujin (a dragon god, a water god) vow that they offer salvation, and attempt to realize the wishes of the audience and reign over the country safely. Chikubushima Ryujin is identified with Benzaiten, i.e., as another aspect of Benzaiten. From ancient times, Ryujin was worshipped in many places in Japan as a god of Shintoism. We can find an equal amalgamation of Shintoism and Buddhism here.

Keywords: Noh Theater, Shintoism, Buddhism, Japan

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp.11-18. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.710MB).

Dr. Keiko Kimura

Professor, English, Kobe Women’s University, Kyoto, Japan

Keiko Kimura teaches at Kobe Women’s University, Japan. She specializes in Comparative Literature and Noh Theater.