The Basic Knowledge to Enjoy “Noh”❖Japanese traditional arts✪How to Japan TV


The Basic Knowledge to Enjoy In this video, we will introduce one of the Japanese
traditional performing arts. Which is called ― Noh. Together with Kabuki, Noh is a unique,
world‐class Japanese form of drama, whose most remarkable characteristic is that a protagonist performs
wearing a mask, which is called “a Noh mask”. Noh has a 650 year tradition, and it has been
named as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO. First of all, we’ll briefly introduce the history of Noh. Then, we’ll introduce the performing stage,the roles of the characters, and the musical instruments used. [The history of Noh]
Noh is a traditional performing art of Japan. Its original source came from China long ago in the sixth
or seventh century, and mixed with traditional ancient Japanese arts. Then it mixed with other kinds of dance and songs over the years, finally evolving into today’s Noh with its plots and matching dances. Noh’s very existence had been in imminent danger in its long history. But thanks to the people who love Noh and the people who tried their best to preserve and
transmit Japanese traditional performing arts to posterity, Noh could be inherited by each generation up to today. Here, let’s listen to what a Noh actor‐Jiichi Asami,
has to say about the ways to enjoy Noh. A multitude of Noh tales have been made over the years,
and today over 200 tales are being performed. Noh is divided in 5 groups, depending upon the “Shite,” which means protagonist. Now, let ‘s see them one by one. [Waki‐Noh mono (Shobanme‐mono)]
The Shite (protagonist) of Waki‐Noh Mono is a God. [Shura‐mono (Nibanme‐mono)]
The Shite of Shura‐mono is a warrior who falls into Shurado (that is, the Asura realm — an unhappy re-birth). [Kazura‐mono (Sanbanme‐mono)]
The Shite of Kazura‐mono is a woman. [Zouno (Yobanme‐mono)]
The tales which do not belong to the other 4 types are called Zouno. Their subjects are various. [Kirino (Gobanme‐mono)]
The Shite of Kirino is a creature other than a human being. The tales of Noh consist of the characters, persons
who play musical instruments, chorus and so on. The Performers each have different roles in a play. [Roles of Characters]
First, let’s look at the characters and their different roles The characters are “Shite”, “Waki”,” Tsure”, “Wakitsure”,
and “Ai kyogen”. “Shite” means the role of a protagonist. “Tsure” means a supporting actor. Because “Shite” leads “Tsure ,” so it is also called “Shitetsure”. Depending on the tales, a Tsure can also play what
is almost the same role as a Shite. Sometimes Tsure will not enter the stage all, and sometimes Tsure will enter the stage many times.
Moreover, Shitetsure will wear a Noh mask in many cases. “Waki” is an opposite role to Shite. Shite play many roles of Gods and ghosts etc. In contrast,
Waki play flesh‐and‐blood characters. “Wakitsure”is a supporting actor of Waki.
Waki and Wakitsure can not wear Noh masks. “Ai kyogen” plays a role for connecting the
interlude between two scenes of Noh. It introduces the characters in a play and explains the situation. [oles of performers who are not characters.]
Next, let’s look at the roles of performers who are not characters. There are “Kouken”, “Jiutai”and “Hayashi”. “Kouken” are people who are sitting at the back of the stage. They help characters dress,
and they carry and hand over stage properties. Moreover, “Kouken” would have to stand in for
Shite if some accident happens to Shite, so it is an important role. “Jiutai” is composed of 8 members. It’s a chorus that chants the situation of a scene,
and of the character’s inner life etc. “Hayashi” have a role of playing musical instruments. In addition, other performers, except the one who plays the flute, shout to create a particular mood for the performance. Hayashi is composed of 4 people who play the flute, Kotsuzumi (small hand drum), Otsuzumi (big hand drum)
and Taiko (big drum). Sometimes, no Taiko is used. Noh is performed on Noh stage. Today the seats for the audience are set in an indoor Noh
theater, but the theater was bulit outdoors in old times. The form of the Noh stage is very distinctive. It is roughly divided into 4 types. They are “Main stage”, “Side stage”, “Rear part”
and “Bridge passageway”. The arrangement of the audience is also unique. It is commonly divided into “the front”, “middle front”, and “side seating”. “The Front” is the place where the Noh performance can be viewed
from the front, so it is the most expensive seat. “Side Seating” is the place where the characters coming from the
side of the bridge passageway can be seen up close. While the “middle front “is the place from which
the whole stage can be seen, the downstage right pillar obstructs the view of the characters on
the main stage. So, it is the very cheapest seat. Although each seating section is priced differently, each has its own different benefit. The best seats from which to enjoy Noh also
vary with the hightlights of different Noh songs. Here, let’s look at how the costumes are worn. Did you enjoy Noh and feel the charm of Noh? Noh is Japan’s oldest performing art with a history of 650 years. How about going to watch Noh in a theater next time? Thank you for watching this video.

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