Noh TriviaQuestion and Answer

Question156 Why is the Hōshō school known as “Utai Hōshō”?


Of the five shitekata schools, Hōshō is the second most prosperous, after Kanze. In the Edo period, Hōshō flourished under the auspices of fifth Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi and eleventh Shogun Tokugawa Ienari, among others. In the Hokuriku region of northwest Japan, the Hōshō school became very popular among samurai and commoners, especially in Kanazawa, due to the endorsement of fifth-generation Kaga clan lord Maeda Tsunanori. This influence continues even today, producing many people interested in Noh, frequent related events, and the opening of Kanazawa Noh Museum in 2006 (see Trivia 58).

One commonly noted feature of the school is its characteristic chanting, leading to the nickname “Utai Hōshō” (literally, chanting Hōshō school). Why did this reputation develop?

There are various interpretations. Some people liken the chanting to the charm of oxidised silver, noting the subtle yet profound and steady style of performance; others highlight features such as treating each note clearly and articulating points that match the beat.

Another critical point is the tunes themselves, which are rich in brilliant variations. An easy-to-understand example is the use of the ultra-high note “kan” in yowa-gin (weak chanting). This is one level higher than the high note “kuri,” and there are almost no examples in other schools. The tune is known as kanguri (kan-kuri); meaning, to move up (kuriageru) to kan. It appears mainly in exciting scenes and widens the expression of the chanting.

Conversely, there are also cases of dramatic effects, including for scenes that are particularly lonely, painful or dark, or don't seem exceptional.

Hōshō Fusakatsu, the 14th generation school head who became the household director of Shogun Ienari in the Edo period, is said to have created kanguri chanting in yowa-gin. He is also credited with laying the foundations for the chanting and performance style of today's Hōshō school.

If you have an opportunity to experience the chanting of the school, please do all you can to enjoy the unique flavour of the way it handles tunes.

(Jun. 28 2019)

illustration : Hiroko Sakaki

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