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Here we have collected a series of interesting stories from Yasujirō Yamaguchi that we did not have room to share with you in the main interview.

The Various Chants of Nohgaku

Yasujirō really loves the chants of Noh. In Nishijin, there are elderly neighbours who teach Noh chants, and even Yasujirō learned from one of these teachers. The first chant he learned was Chikubushima, which begins, “warblers born in the bamboo.” He tends to prefer the Kongoh style, but occasionally will attend Kanze School gatherings.

When asked for about his favourite chants, he responds, “I like nibanme-mono from Heike Monogatari or sanbanme-mono with beautiful lead characters.”

Until a few years ago he would gather with friends to play different roles and sing chants, and would attend Kanze and Kongoh school events each month. Naturally he tends to look at the costumes and how they match with the role of the shite. “I enjoy the dance, but I really notice if the costume doesn’t match.”

In 2005 (Heisei 17), at the Sano Art Museum in Mishima City, Shizuoka Prefecture, he held a Nishijin textile exhibition with his older brother Itarō, and after his brother’s speech, he was asked by the head of the museum for a few words, in response to which he said, “Since my brother has already given a speech, I will take this opportunity to sing you a chant.” The chant he chose was Shunnei, after the nearby Mishima Temple. After I sang “When the winds of Izu blow over Mishima marking the start of the blooming of a new age, I am reminded that after sadness happy days are to come,” everyone was quite moved, and wondered if it was an improvisational performance. That made me feel quite happy.

As we were looking at photographs and hearing about Iwao’s performances, Yasujirō immediately began singing the verses to Tōru during Iwao’s explanation. Tōru is actually his favourite chant.

Yasujirō Yamaguchi surrounded by his karaori.
Yasujirō Yamaguchi surrounded by his karaori.

Photo: Shigeyoshi Ohi

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