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Question60 What is the purpose of kizahashi?

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Around the edge of a Noh stage is a border of white pebbles, called shirasu. The shirasu remain from the days when the audience watched the Noh performance from seats separated from the main stage. In the centre of the downstage area are steps from the stage to the shirasu known as kizahashi, a word which originally meant simply “steps.” The kizahashi were there in case the performers fell from the stage and needed to climb back up, but they were not built just for emergencies such as these.

During the Edo era, official performances attended by the Shōgun were organized by the local officials (jisha bugyō). Before the start of shikisanban, the official would step onto stage from the kizahashi, take a knee in front of the hashigakari, face the current and signal the start of the performance. Although the kizahashi is rarely used as a set of stairs in modern performances, the masked performers will use the visible edges of the kizahashi as a reference point for the downstage area.

(Jun 4, 2009)


illustration : Hiroko Sakaki
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