Noh TriviaQuestion and Answer

Question163 In which area of Japan does a remnant of the “Shundō” school survive?


In the aftermatch of the Meiji Restoration (1868), sarugaku faced a severe crisis. With the disappearance of the feudal government and the samurai class, Noh actors lost their salaries and the status of sarugaku as a ceremonial performance for the shogunate vanished. The survival of the art was even threatened. Sarugaku subsequently recovered with the support of noblemen, became known as nohgaku and moved forward to renewed prosperity. Some Noh schools, however, were overwhelmed by the tides of history and disappeared. One such group was the Sagi school of kyōgen (see Trivia 133).

Among schools of waki actors, the long-established Shundō school grouping would later become the precursor to the Shimokagari Hōsho school, seen as the most significant current school of waki actors. Still, at the end of the Edo period, Shundō School was in decline. By the Shōwa 20s (1950s), its last successor became the Shimokagari Hōsho school, and Shundō school disappeared from the Noh stage.

In recent years, however, it was discovered that a particular area in Tōhoku had inherited a tradition of the Shundō school that was thought to exist no longer, surprising many in the world of Noh. In the Tajiri Ōnuki district of Ōsaki city in northern Miyagi Prefecture, residents have long had the custom of singing “Takasago” and “Yōrō” on celebratory occasions, with a way of singing that seems unique to the Shundō school.

How did this remnant of the Shundō school come to survive in rural Tōhoku? The Date family of Sendai feudal lords, who ruled the area, gave important positions to the Konparu and Kita schools of shite actors, with a rule that the Shundō school should be paired with the Konparu school as “accompanist”. In the Meiji era, warriors familiar with the Shundō school started farming, and the custom of Noh chanting at weddings and the like became established.

(Sep. 24 2020)

illustration : Hiroko Sakaki

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