Noh Workshop

Traditional Japanese Performing Arts "Noh" and "Kyogen"

We organize special Noh Workshops for foreigners in English with Genjiro Okura who is a master of Kotsuzumi in Tokyo and with Haruhisa Kawamura who is a Shite-kata in Kyoto.

This workshop is a great opportunity for you to experience the traditional Japanese performing arts. Noh has been designated a "Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" by UNESCO. Scholars consider it the world's oldest form of full-scale theater. Noh plays have maintained virtually the same dramatic structure since the birth about 650 years ago.

Noh and Kyogen represent a wellspring for the traditional Japanese performing arts and, as such, they have had tremendous influence on Kabuki and other arts that developed later. Noh Plays originated from sarugaku, a public entertainment that came to Japan from China during the Nara Period. In Japan, saru means monkey and it also means mimicry. Early sarugaku was an assortment of popular public entertainment centered on humorous mimicry and acrobatics.

Nara-based artist Kan-ami and his son Ze-ami transformed the Yamato style of sarugaku into a highly sophisticated musical drama from the 14th to 15th centuries, and it has survived intact the subsequent years of war and social upheaval and still performed today.

Ze-ami is said to have brought Noh to its present form with his father Kan-ami, was born 200 years before Shakespeare. He was a playwright, a composer, a musician, a director, and a great actor as well who served as head of his troupe. He clearly was a superstar on his age.

In the late 14th and early 15th centuries, the eminent military shogun of Japan, Yoshimitsu Ashikaga, became the patron of Noh and in particular Zeami's troupe. Through this process Noh crystallized into an artform having an aesthetic of the nobility. Later military leaders of Japan including Nobunaga Oda, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, and Ieyasu Tokugawa all loved Noh and even learned to perform it themselves. During the Edo period(1603-1868), Noh became the official performing art of ruling military class and thus became established as a classical performing art. Its performance became infused with the spirit of Bushido, the path or art of the samurai.

With a story containing strong elements of the fantastic, a richly symbolic performance pared to the barest essentials, a stage stripped to the most basic elements, Noh plays attained the highest levels of artistic perfection.

Eriyo Watanabe

Founder and Director

Center for Arts and Wellness (CAW)

Incense Research Institute (IRI)

#301, 3-20-15, Tsurumaki, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo

154-0016 Japan

tel: 080-6552-4709