Noh Theater is a classical form of Japanese theater which has existed since the 14th century. It was viewed by samurai and warriors, rather than the common folk.
Typically, one main character is on stage. The stage is left bare (except, perhaps, a pine tree painted as background). Musicians are on stage to chant the tale of the main character.
A full performance of Noh theater can run about 6 hours, but we’re lucky to be able to see only 2 performances at a time, which is a chance to get a taste of this traditional Japanese theater without being completely overwhelmed by it (if it isn’t your cup of tea). Added bonus is the reduced price.
*Note: Some people liken Noh to a “slow dance”. A past professor of mine likened it to a “form of meditation”. This isn’t theater as we’re used to. It’s traditional and chances are you won’t understand the chanted-Japanese. However, it’s a very famous form of theater and it’s a rare opportunity to be able to see it performed live. If you’re still interested, more information follows.
January 31 (Saturday) – Doors open at 2:00; performance begins 3:00 (introduction at 2:40)
“Kuchi-mane”, Kyogen (a funnier style of theater, typically used as a palate cleanser between Noh performances)
“Ukai”, Noh –
When two travelling priests meet an old cormorant fisher one of them recognises him as the man who gave him shelter two or three years ago. The old man then tells them that as he broke the strict prohibition against taking life in the nearby river by fishing there nightly with his cormorants, he has been drowned in the river as punishment. In return for the priests’ promises to pray for his soul he shows them how the fishing is done and then disappears. Nichiren (one of the priests) takes up some stones and after writing part of the Lotus Sutra on them, throws them into the river. Emma, the King of Hell, appears and tells them that although the fisherman deserves to suffer for his sins, he will send him to Paradise because of the kindness he showed the priest. – Gustavo Thomas
February 21 (Saturday) – Doors open at 2:00; performance begins 3:00 (introduction at 2:40)
“Kobu-uri”, Kyogen Performance
“Tamura”, Noh Performance –
A priest visiting the Kiyomizu-dera hears from a boy working there how the temple was founded by Genshin under the patronage of Sakanoue no Tamura-maru, after the priest had met a manifestation of Kannon. The child points out the famous spots around the temple and then vanishes into the Tamura Hall. The priest recites the Lotus Sutra throughout the night, until the ghost of Tamura-maru appears and tells of the divine assistance he received from Kannon in his task of bringing peace to the land and driving away devils. – Gustavo Thomas
Tickets: 1,000 yen (1,200 at the door) – purchase at the Music Hall (next to Kanazawa Station), the Noh Theater (near Kenrokuen), DAIWA, or M’ZA (music shop).
Performances: At the Ishikawa Prefectural Noh Theater (in Kanazawa, near Kenrokuen). Tel. 076-264-2598.
video: Gustavo Thomas