Noh TriviaQuestion and Answer

Question151 Are there any unusual Noh theatres?


There are about 80 Noh theatres in Japan today, counting only those with a certain capacity.

Each theatre has its own character, but a performance space you should try and see is the one at Itsukushima Jinja shrine in Hiroshima, which is surrounded by sea. At high tide, the theatre appears to be floating on water. One of its unique features is the acute angle of the bridgeway, similar to that of the theatre believed to have been in the keep of Edo-jō castle. Due to the angle, it is difficult for the flutists to look in the direction of the bridgeway, so they sometimes start playing “nanori-bue,” the music played as the supporting actor enters the stage, by instinct. According to one anecdote, a Noh actor famous for his accurate foot movements, Udaka Kidayū, once hit his toe against the “shite-bashira” (the pillar at the far-left corner) because the carpenter who had refurbished the stage had made the pillar thicker. Since then, the pillar has been known as “Kidayū-bashira.

There are also many Noh theatres concentrated in the Kinki area of southwestern Japan, including the ones at Hikone-jō castle, the North Noh Theatre in Nishi Hongan-ji temple in Kyoto, which is the oldest in Japan, and the Kongō Noh Theatre, which is the home of the Kongō school. The Kongō Noh Theatre moved from Muromachi to Karasuma-Ichijō in Kyoto in 2003, so it is quite a new establishment, but some traditional features inherited from the old theatre of Imperial Palace Noh remain, including the seigaiha (blue ocean wave) patterns on the wall of the bridgeway, as well as the bamboo blinds and the paper sliding doors.

(Jun. 12 2018)

illustration : Hiroko Sakaki

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