Noh TriviaQuestion and Answer

Question22 How heavy is a Noh costume?


You may have a chance to put on a Noh costume and mask in a demonstration program. People who have an experience of putting on such costumes are invariably surprised at how heavy they are. In the Muromachi era (1336-1573), simple daily attire was worn in Noh plays.

Then in the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573-1603), after the technology of the textile industry was introduced from China, Noh costumes began to be designed exclusively for stage performances.

In the Edo era (1603-1867), the Noh schools under the patronage of feudal lords competed with each other in the gorgeousness of their costumes. The style of the Noh costume, including the design and the combination, was established in this period and has been handed down since then. Costumes of gold or silver brocade are gorgeous and elegant to see, but on the other hand they are very heavy to wear. It is a considerable burden for an actor to wear such firm costumes gracefully and dance in the performance. It is said that a set of ceremonial dress of a court lady in the Heian era weighed about 10 kg (22 lb), and a suit of armour in the Age of Civil Wars (Sengoku era) weighed about 25 kg (55 lb).

Some of the Noh plays even require the costumes that weigh over 20 kg (44 lb) per role. Even though the play seems gentle and the actors are performing elegantly, they may be wearing costumes with a weight similar to a suit of armour.

(Apr 10, 2008)

illustration : Hiroko Sakaki

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