Organized Panel Session
This panel brings together an international team representing a variety of disciplines for collaborative research on the Noh drama Taniko. Noh dramas weave together tropes from everyday life, poetics, religion, art, performance, music, (etc.) to evoke episodes that touch multiple heartstrings simultaneously. Nowhere is this observation more apt than in Taniko, a unique play (now known primarily through Bertolt Brecht's adaptation) about a boy who loses his life in accordance with the harsh strictures of Shugendo ritual only to attain divine resuscitation.
This play provides an important vantage point from which to investigate a host of vital questions about premodern Japanese drama and culture: the nature of life and death, the interdependence of gods and buddhas, bonds between sons and mothers, Buddhist attitudes toward motherhood, religious miracles, ethics, and so forth. Our panel focuses especially on mother-son relationships.
Taniko provides a didactic message in the ways that it praises filial edification and assumes the dependence of humans on the protection and compassion of the gods and buddhas. These subjects frequently appear in medieval religious literature. Taniko, however, defies stereotypes and thereby raises essential questions about the limits of human affection in premodern Japan.
Finally, Taniko differs in important ways from the format known as Mugen-Noh, especially in the ways that so many characters participate in a religious miracle. By analyzing the background of this play, we can reveal the hidden depths of this entertainment and clarify the many layers within this play.