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Question148 Is it possible to learn Noh performance for personal interest?

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Did you know you can learn Noh performance as a hobby? In the Edo era, Noh became a ceremonial performance for the shogunate and there were not many occasions for the common people to watch actual performances, unlike Kabuki, but Noh became popular among them through chanting, similar to karaoke in the modern age. After this boom, however, Noh experienced a sharp decline in the early Meiji period. The art overcame the crisis with the backing of key figures including Iwakura Tomomi, and lessons in chanting and dancing became an activity for elite people in the upper class, including nobles, entrepreneurs, government officials and educators.

Today, anyone can take lessons in Noh for personal pleasure, as they can for tea ceremony or flower arrangement. Outside the heads of schools and some other players, there are many Noh performers who give lessons, including leading and supporting actors, kyōgen actors and musicians. It is possible to learn the same elements performed in actual plays, such as chanting, dancing, kyōgen and music. If you study deeply and diligently, you may be able to acquire professional skills and even teach the art. In fact, some existing performers became professionals after taking public programs.

Why not try joining experiential seminars offered at Noh theatres and public halls around the country? There are even courses for children. Especially popular are lessons on kyōgen plays with comical movements, and practice for drums and tabors, which are easy to produce sounds from.

If you want to learn the art in depth, or if you have limited time, personal lessons offer flexibility on scheduling and location. Some Noh performers, especially in the younger generation, provide information on the art via their blogs and social media. You are also welcome to observe lessons.

(January. 22 2018)


illustration : Hiroko Sakaki
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