Noh TriviaQuestion and Answer

Question46 Is it true that Noh actors' hearts beat as fast as those of athletes?


Noh actors wear heavy costumes that weigh up to 20 kg in total. Sometimes, they perform energetic dances for long periods. Therefore, they need to be strong in both body and spirit. Even when you see actors moving slowly, their movements may be so tough that beads of sweat gather under their masks.

You can measure how hard people are moving by checking their heart rates (bpm/beats per minute). A resting adult male's rate is around 60-70 times a minute, and should not normally exceed 100. When a Noh actor is performing, his heart rate sometimes exceeds 170 bpm, almost the same rate as that of a sprinting runner.

The maximum heart rate (MHR) is the highest number of times a human's heart can contract in one minute. You can estimate your own MHR by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you are 40 years old, your MHR is estimated at 180. The older you are, the lower your MRH becomes. A Noh actor's heart may reach 200 bpm when he is performing the ranbyōshi scene in "Dōjōji" (a highlight in Part One). If his heart is beating at over his MHR, he risks burdening his heart. An elegant performance can conceal a hidden strength that challenges human limits.

(Nov 16, 2008)

illustration : Hiroko Sakaki

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