Why is noh what our era needs?
How noh is used depends on the social climate, and people will always find their own way to interact with it.
“What sort of era are we living in now? I think it’s quite terrible. Our generation experienced some of the economic boom years, and saw the tail end of that wild and extravagant period. We also know the employment ice age years, and now the world is in a lingering economic depression. Even so, I personally feel that we’re at a time of peace, but society is in disarray. As a result, there’s a strong tendency to turn to entertainment to temporarily forget about unpleasant things.
There’s a popular phrase in Japanese where people say they’re suffering from a ‘loss (of someone or something – for example a famous actor’s marriage will trigger a feeling of ‘loss’ in his fans who must give up on their dreams of one day seducing and marrying him)’ but this dependence causes independent thinking to stop, and that’s very dangerous. In order to avoid this ‘loss (of something)’ you need to think on your own about what it is you need at that moment. I think the role of noh is to provide an environment where people can do that.”
One common thread with noh-watching groups such as military commanders and financiers was their refusal to live a passive life and their attitude towards finding interest in everything.
“They hated to be passive, and they hated culture that was pushed upon them. For example, when kabuki tried to show the fashionable qualities of cosmopolitan citizens, they would express it like, ‘This is what’s cool.’ but noh fans faced that with an attitude of, ‘That’s just your opinion.’ and found their own fun within noh, where everyone is free to interpret things their own way.
Noh becomes a very difficult thing to experience if one approaches it passively. I hope people take a curious attitude towards watching noh and actively think, ‘why is this happening?’ and ‘what does that mean?’”
Young noh actors gather in Shibuya
Shibuyanoh is made up of young actors from each of the noh schools, each taking one night to perform a noh piece on a specific theme in a seven-part series.
The Hosho school performed on March 1 with Kazufusa Hosho in the lead role to celebrate the opening of the series with a ceremonial number called “Okina” , and will also appear on July 26 for the fourth edition in the series under the theme of absurdity when the school will perform “Fujito” (lead role: Norimasa Takahashi). It is about a mother whose son is killed by a military commander on a battlefield for an absurd reason, and the ghost of that son, who together with his mother strike out at the military commander with their resentment.
“A mother whose child has been killed, and the child himself who was killed without just cause. It’s relatively easy to imagine how such weak and oppressed people might be feeling, isn’t it? Now, can you imagine the feelings of the military commander who killed him? This work asks that question.
The military commander provides information to the son, but then he grows afraid that he might leak it, so he kills him. He surely thought that if he hadn’t killed him, he would have been putting several hundred of his soldiers in life-threatening danger.
So, which is more important, a single life, or a hundred lives? It’s the kind of question Michael Sandel would ask, isn’t it? Of course, there’s no one absolute correct answer. But I think it’s a wonderful thing to think about. The ability to consider all possible situations – isn’t that something we all need? At any rate, I think that people who are fans of Michael Sandel’s work will enjoy ‘Fujito.’ (laughs)”
First of all, try stepping into a noh theatre as a place to remove yourself from the din and calm your heart. I want to start by having this curiosity and ability to take action.
interview&text:Natsume Date photo:Nirai Tasato translation:Claire Tanaka
Hosho School 20th generation soke (family head). Winner of the Newcomer Award at the 40th Matsuo Performing Arts Awards. Born in 1986 into the Hosho Family, tradition bearers that have practiced noh since the Muromachi period (1336 – 1573). Graduated from Tokyo University of the Arts with a major in Traditional Japanese Music in 2008, and inherited the soke title in April of that same year. In order to enlighten people of the value noh holds today, he actively puts on performances in collaboration with other noh schools, revives lesser-known works, and directs productions in addition to frequently mounting traditional productions. He also manages and handles his association’s operations, putting a focus on overseas cultural projects in locations such as Hong Kong and Italy. Personal hobbies include films, photography, scuba diving, and more.
Shibuyanoh: Commemorating 30 years of Bunkamura, at the Cerulean Tower Noh Theatre
Young artists from the five noh schools gather in Shibuya to take on the future of noh, with its history of 650 years. Watch for pre-show lectures and after-parties connected to the performances.
◆ Dates & Details
First Night: March 1 (Fri) Noh “Okina” Kazufusa Hosho (Hosho School) / Talkback with main actors from the five schools
Second Night: April 26 (Fri) Noh “Yuya” Masahiro Nakamura (Konparu School)
Third Night: June 7 (Fri) Noh “Jinenkoji” Tamon Sasaki (Kita School)
Fourth Night: July 26 (Fri) Noh “Fujito” Norimasa Takahashi (Hosho School)
Fifth Night: September 6 (Fri) Noh “Izutsu” Hikaru Uzawa (Kanze School)
Sixth Night: October 4 (Fri) Noh “Funabenkei” Tatsushige Udaka (Kongo School)
Seventh Night: December 6 (Fri) Noh Musical Performances called Maibayashi “Takasago” Yoshiki Honda (Konparu School), “Yashima” Atsuo Kanze (Kanze School), “Yuki” Tatsunori Kongo (ongo School), “Ataka” Sotaro Waku (Hosho School), “Midare” Hiroyasu Sato (Kita School)
Each performance starts at 7:00pm (doors at 6:30pm)
Cerulean Tower Noh Theatre
Weekdays: 10:00am – 6:00pm / Weekends and Holidays: 2:30pm – 5:30pm