【 CONTENTS 】

The mysterious Noh theatre’s history has prospered up through today.

Noh and Kyogen are collectively called “Nogaku,” or Noh theatre. It is said that Noh music is a fusion of “Sangaku” (a form of ancient Chinese entertainment) and “Seigaku” (chanting of Buddhist hyms). The famous Noh actor Zeami, who established Noh during 1336 to 1573, described Noh’s world as “subtle and profound.” The music feels very “subtle and profound” to everyone who sees a Noh play. In Nogaku, “subtle and profound” refer to the way of elegance, gentleness, and gracefulness.
From this explanation, you might imagine good-looking girls or boys, but Nogaku claims that greedy or poor people, or even monsters, also have a high level of “subtle and profound” beauty. Apart from Nogaku, there is a traditional performance called “Kyogen.” Kyogen is a fun traditional performance played during intermissions at Noh theatres. The instruments and costumes used in Noh are more than 300 years old and are still are used today.

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Noh’s stage is where you associate with god.

The stage of Nogaku is composed of 2 stages; 1 square stage (5.4meters x 6meters) where actors perform and 1 long corridor (2.5meters in width and 13-14meters long) to connect the stage with the backstage. It is usually dependent on the scale of the current hall. In addition, the main stage is divided into the “Noh chorus seating area” (地謡座) for the Noh chorus that plays a background chorus, the “Noh orchestra(囃子方) seating area” in the back for the Noh orchestra that plays drums and flutes, and the main area for the actors.
On stage, actors play many roles to entertain audiences and god. Occasionally non-human entities like a god or a ghost can be a leading part. During this time, actors themselves become something non-human and try to take us into a world of delicate beauty.

A symbol of the Noh theatre is the panel.

Many people might imagine this pine tree drawn on the panel when hearing the word “Noh.” If you look at it more carefully, there is another plant on the panel. Please try to find it when you visit a Noh theatre.
This pine tree is derived from the origin of the Noh play. There are so many performances that the pine tree appears in. The famous ones are “Old pine tree” (老松) and “Takasago” (高砂).
During these performances the pine tree is thought to enshrine god, so the pine tree on the panel represents god and Noh, and Kyogen is dedicated to god.

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The highlight is the entrance curtain(揚幕).

The entrance curtain divides the stage into the front stage and backstage.
The curtain is often made with 5 colors; red, green, yellow, white, and black (or purple) which are derived from Chinese Ying and Yang principles. According to the theory, these 5 colors represent components; fire (red), wood (green), dirt (yellow), gold (white), water (purple) creating everything in this world.
Like this, Nogaku has thrived for a long time and is based on Chinese culture, but established in Japan. It’s a world class performance art that Asia can be proud of.

【For your information】
Lists of Japanese Noh theatre

National Noh theatre 
operation hours:10:00~17:00
Entrance fee:free ※If you want to watch a play, you’ll need to pay for a ticket.
Access :5 minute walk from Sendagaya station by JR Chuo Sobu line.
    5 minute walk from Exit A4 of Kokuritsu- kyogijyo station by Toei Oedo line.
    7 minute walk from Exit 1 of Kitasando station by Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin line.
Official website:http://www.ntj.jac.go.jp/nou.html

Tessen-kai It’s only open when they have a public performance.
Access : 3 minute walk from Exit A4 of Omotesando station by Tokyo Metro Ginza line, Chiyoda line, Hanzomon line.
Official website: http://www.tessen.org/

Hosho-kai’s Hosho Nogaku-do
It’s only open when they have a public performance or related events.
Access: 3 minute walk from East exit of Suidobashi station by JR Sobu line.
    1 minute walk from Exit A1 of Suidobashi station by Toei Mita line.
Official website : http://www.hosho.or.jp/

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AUTHOR

miki iwai

miki iwai

Writer

I love Japanese traditional culture and travelling all over Japan. I also like to see Noh performances, doing calligraphy, and reading/making Japanese poems called “Tanka.” Through writing, I’d like to introduce a unique culture that only exists in Japan.