Video clip: A scene from the play Hagoromo, “The Feather Mantel”, which falls into the category of Wig Plays. Its shite represents a heavenly maiden who descends to earth. To get back her wings, or the feather mantle, she performs a heavenly dance Veli Rosenberg

Hagoromo or The Feather Robe is one of the most popular noh plays. It is based on a pan-Asian story about a heavenly maiden who flies down to earth. Her feather robe (or wings) is taken by a male human. Only after some trials (in this case the heavenly maiden must perform a dance) does the maiden get back her wings and is thus able to fly back to the heavens. Several variants of this basic story are known in Southeast Asia, Korea etc.

Hakuryo, a fisherman (waki actor) with his two companions enters, singing about the fishing boats on the bay, after which Hakuryo introduces himself. He goes on to recount how he was wandering in a pine forest. There he found a beautiful, glittering robe hanging on a pine tree. He picks it off the tree and decides to take it home and make it a treasured heirloom of his family. The celestial maiden (shite actor) appears and announces that the robe belongs to her. Hakuryo, however, refuses to give the robe back because it is so valuable. The maiden complains that without it she cannot return to the heavens.

Together with the chorus they both describe their feelings. Moved by the maiden’s pleas, Hakuryo finally agrees to return the robe if the maiden will dance for him. She agrees if the fisherman gives the robe to her; for without it she cannot dance. After some hesitation, Hakuryo agrees and together with the maiden he describes the beauty of the magic robe. The maiden and the chorus describe the glittering moon palace, after which she dances her elegant dance dedicated to the Lord of the Moon. The maiden, together with the chorus, describes the beauty of the dance.

After a shorter dance the celestial maiden makes her exit through the hasigagari pathway while the chorus sings about her radiating loveliness and how she finally floats above the pinewoods and above Mount Fuji.