Author Archives: inikyoto

INI Summer Workshop Participant: Alice Milluy

I am currently living in Japan, with a Cultural Activities Visa that allows me to make a tailored program for myself. In addition to Noh Theatre, I am also currently studying butoh, kyūdō, and several dance styles. I arrived in Kyoto after having studied the Ko-tsuzumi for a few months in Kanazawa. I was lucky enough to get into Japan, considering the global pandemic that was going on. This also explains the special conditions in which I took the Summer Intensive Course. I was the only student who was able to get into the country. Therefore, my experience was, once again, quite unique.

Alice Milluy – shimai “Yuya”


I was born in a family that treasures the arts and have always felt a strong connection to them, especially theatre. I first encountered Noh through a workshop I took out of curiosity a few years ago, when I was living in Belgium. I was practicing Iaido at the time and it seemed like a natural meeting point between Japanese Martial Arts and Theatre.

At first, I didn’t really know what to think of it. I knew I was in love with it, but couldn’t explain where my fascination for it was coming from. Everything about it seemed like it came from so far away that I doubted I would ever begin to understand it. I imagined it’d be a one-time workshop that’d just be a little experience outside my comfort zone.

I entered a Lecoq Technique Movement Theatre school in Brussels. That’s where I crossed paths with Noh again. Indeed, part of Jacques Lecoq’s work method was created from research and work with Noh professionals; mask-makers, and actors. This discovery, among other things, made me realize that, to become the actress I wished to be, I needed to broaden my horizons and truly emerge myself in foreign performing art forms, and that Japan was the place where I’d start my research. With all that in mind, I participated in the  Intensive Summer Workshop at the INI in Kyoto.

My time with Udaka Tatsushige-sensei wasn’t just about learning to dance and to sing one piece. I am truly thankful for the gift of time and of knowledge he gave me.
He made me see that Noh is more than just an ancient art form, but that it has very modern sides to it, that it evolves while respecting its roots. What makes it come to life, and, in my opinion, has helped to keep it alive for so many centuries, is its unique structure and the dedication with which it was passed onto the following generations. Being able to witness it, and to get a glimpse of what it means to be a Noh professional (an actor, mask-maker, or even musician), was incredibly inspiring to me. When I arrived on the first day, my knowledge of Noh theatre was similar to a seed that had just been planted in fresh ground. It needed that little push for its roots to go through the shell, and for the plant to start growing in hope of reaching the surface.

On a more personal note, I can say that Noh gave me a kind of stability that I’d never experienced before. Working with kata that have been passed down for hundreds of years gave me a feeling of safety and grounding during the practice. Repeating, again and again, the same movements without having to question myself every step of the way was very refreshing. The different concepts found in the practice of Noh showed me a new way to work on my future projects.

Udaka-sensei’s teaching method helped me get rid of the feeling of being just an outsider trying to get a grasp of a different culture. Through conversations before or after okeiko, he shared his insights with me and helped shape the way I look at theatre today. And for that, I will always be thankful to him and to the INI members. There is an infinitely long path ahead of me. One that I cannot wait to continue walking on. 

Short Documentary: The Flight of the Heron

In the summer of 2016 two Italian film makers, Giuliano Cammarata and Alessio Nicastro, visited Kyoto, where they documented the training sessions and performances of Udaka Michishige and his students. The Flight of the Heron is an excerpt from a forthcoming longer documentary, featuring interviews with Michishige, his sons and daughter, and with members of the International Noh Institute.

We are glad to share this short video on occasion of the First Udaka Michishige Memorial Recital, taking place on August 22 2021 at the Kongō Nō Theatre in Kyoto. Subtitles are available in English, Japanese, and Italian.

SYNOPSIS

Udaka Michishige was an important actor of nō, one of the most elegant Japanese performing arts, and the only shite actor of his generation who was also a nō mask carver. When he was twelve years old he became the final live-in apprentice, or uchi-deshi, of Kongō Iwao II, the 25th Grand Master of the Kongō School in Kyoto. Since that time, he dedicated his life to studying, practicing, and teaching nō. During the more than fifty years of his career as a professional nō actor, he reached the peak of this artistic discipline, including the authoring and performance of three original nō plays. In 1986, he founded the International Noh Institute (INI) in order to offer training in chant (utai), dance and mimetic movement (shimai), and mask carving to all the non-Japanese interested in nō theatre who approached him. Since that time, Michishige taught students from all walks of life: actors, dancers, designers, mask makers, musicians, psychologists, and scholars, from all over the world through INI programs. In 2016, to celebrate his 70th birthday and his extraordinary career, he performed the rare play called Sagi (The Heron). An actor may play this role only during two specific periods of his life: during his childhood or when advanced in years, often at the age of 70. Michishige had not performed this nō during his childhood and, on that occasion in 2016, he took this role for the first and only time.

DIRECTOR’S NOTES

The Flight of the Heron is a short documentary inspired by the documentary photography about Noh theatre taken over ten years’ time by photographer Fabio Massimo Fioravanti within the Kongō School of nō and focusing on Udaka Michishige, actor and nō mask carver. Michishige, his children, who have inherited his knowledge and craft, and his western pupils, who support his legacy with dedication, were filmed during the months before Sagi: a rarely performed play staged for the first and only time by Udaka Michishige in celebration of his 70th birthday. Through the Udaka family it is possible to discover the most human aspect of the rich artistry of nō: a form of theatre which has been transmitted continually for more than six centuries, as its traditions are passed on through its practitioners even as Japan has changed with the times, an art which demands the devotion to become one with the currents of its flow.

Live streaming of the nō play Chikubushima

This year’s Tatsushige no Kai (Nō actor Udaka Tatsushige’s annual self-produced performance) will feature the nō Chikubushima in the nyotai variant. The performance will take place on July 11th 2021 at the Kongō Noh Theatre in Kyoto and will be simultaneously streamed online for those who will not be able to attend in person.

Learn about the event in English here

In the standard version of the play Chikubushima (synopsis) a dragon god appears in the second act, accompanied by the goddess of music Benzaiten. However, in the nyotai (female body) version of the same play, the roles are inverted, and the main character in the second half is Benzaiten. Likewise, in the first act Benzaiten in the form of a woman is the main character, while the accompanying character is the Dragon God in the form of an old man.

This version of the play is particularly consistent with the topic of the play, in which Imperial envoys sent to worship at Chikubushima island (on Biwa lake, close to Kyoto) are surprised that women, too, are allowed on such sacred ground. It is then explained that women may worship here because the shrine on the island is also dedicated to Benzaiten (Sarasvati), who appears in the form of a woman. Benzaiten is also thought to be a manifestation of Buddha.

Another important feature of this year’s Tatsushige no Kai is the participation of Hatano Yoshiko, a female nō actor in the Kongō school, performing the special dance excerpt from the play Semimaru, in which Princess Sakagami wanders the mountains to the East of Kyoto to find her brother, who now lives in the wilderness after being exiled from court because of his blindness.

Finally, part of this even’s revenues will be donated to Seki Semimaru Shrine to contribute for the reconstructions of its buildings.

You can purchase the live streaming ticket here.

The vendor’s website is in Japanese only – contact us for technical support.

Call for participants – INI Kyoto Summer Intensive 2021

The INI – International Noh Institute is now accepting applications for its 2021 Summer Intensive Program. Participants will study noh dance and chant according to the Kongo school tradition, and learn about various aspects of noh performance, including masks and costumes. The training period will culminate with the participation in a recital at the Kongo Noh Theatre.

Program highlights

  • Train intensively in noh dance and chant. Practice in a small group for an immersive experience.
  • Perform with professional actors.
  • Watch noh performances on traditional stages.
  • Visit noh-related historical locations.
  • Experience living in the ancient capital, Kyoto.

Details

  • Training period : August 9-22, 2021
  • Recital: August 22nd
  • Fees: Regular ¥ 70,000 Repeater ¥ 60,000 INI member ¥50,000
  • Capacity: 8 participants

Fees include : Dance/chant lessons, materials, Kongo school fan, participation in the August 22nd recital, and a certificate of completion. Fees do not include: White tabi (split-toe socks – around ¥700- ¥1000/pair) Transportation, accommodation, and any other personal expenses.

Instructors: Udaka Tatsushige, Udaka Norishige (Kongo school actors), Udaka Keiko (noh mask carver) 

Director: Diego Pellecchia (Kyoto Sangyo University)

How to apply: Send an email to ini.kyoto[at]gmail.com Please attach your C.V. and a brief statement of interest. We are aware that traveling may be difficult during the current pandemic. Feel free to contact us for more information about the program.

Application deadline: June, 1st 2021

Images from past events

Full high-quality videos of three nō plays, with English and Japanese subtitles

This introduction to Noh, part of an initiative to make traditional arts accessible during the pandemic, offers videos of three Noh performances related to famous historical sites in Kyoto: ·      Kiyomizu Temple, where KAGETSU takes place·      Kifune Shrine and Seimei Shrine which relate to KANAWA·    Awata Shrine and other shrines related to swordsmiths and the craft of sword making in the Awataguchi area, which relate to KOKAJI Hakutō (a powerful variation of the standard Noh KOKAJI)

Video link URL

Project description:

The Culture & Arts Profitability Enhancement Project is a project of the Japanese Agency of Cultural Affairs, in cooperation with Yamaha Corporation, to enhance the profitability of traditional arts and organizations experiencing a sharp decline in revenue due to COVID-19 through introducing new initiatives.

Features:

Each video starts with an introduction to the Kongō Noh Theatre by the Head of the Kongo School, Kongō Hisanori. An introduction to stage properties used in the Noh follows, with an actor explaining and demonstrating the use of the props and stage movement where appropriate. Another actor then narrates the history of each site accompanied by scenes of the locations. This introduction also includes a synopsis of the noh with scenes from the performance. The Head of the School then introduces the masks used in each noh. His introductions to the masks include Muromachi and Edo period masks and examples of mask types for comparison. (For example: two Kasshiki masks when introducing, KAGETSU; two Deigan masks in introducing KANAWA, and two Tobide masks in introducing KOKAJI Hakutō).

Details and price:

KAGETSU: 1:03:24

KANAWA:  1:22:08

KOKAJI Hakutō: 1:14:33

Audio: Japanese

Subtitles: English and Japanese

The videos are available for ¥2,160 for each play or ¥5,400 for the set of three plays.

These videos are available through the end of March 2021 and can be viewed for one month from the date of purchase. 

Play synopses:

KAGETSU, a young acolyte reunited with his father one spring day at Kiyomizu Temple, a scene one could imagine glimpsing among the cherry blossoms of the The Kiyomizu Temple Pilgrimage Mandala painted in the Warring States period (1467 – 1615).

KANAWA, what results when a woman, cast off by her husband for a new wife, prays for retribution in this lifetime rather than love and harmony at Kifune Shrine, (and her husband seeks the aid of diviner Abe no Seimei).

KOKAJI Hakutō, swordsmith Munechika, through the aid of the God of Inari appearing as an ancient and powerful white fox, is able to fulfill the dream oracle of the Emperor Ichijo regarding a sword.

[Video] Noh: “Shōjō” Featuring actors of the Kongō School of Noh

The video of Udaka Tatsushige’s full performance of the nō play Shōjō with English and Italian subtitles is now available online.

Tatsushige-sensei is the main instructor for the INI program, and Shōjō is one of the pieces that students learn during our Summer Intensive Training program. We are very much looking forward to resuming the program as soon as possible. In the meantime, please enjoy this video!

The performance was produced by Udaka Tatsushige and Udaka Norishige, and was filmed in the fall of 2020 at the Kongō Noh Theatre in Kyoto. Rebecca Teele Ogamo and Diego Pellecchia translated and curated the subtitles in English and Italian. We hope to be able to add subtitles in other languages soon. Play summary and credits below the video.

Online Lecture/Demonstration on Noh Theatre at the 2021 Virtual House of Voices

INI Instructor Udaka Tatsushige-sensei will give an online lecture/demonstration on noh theatre at the 2021 VIRTUAL HOUSE OF VOICES event organized by the California Institute of the Arts – School of Theatre. I paste the event information below.

Booking is required but participating is free of charge!

Please join us for this CalArts School of Theater initiative, conceived by Rafael Lopez-Barrantes, in which we explore three ancestral voice practices to create a dialogue between practitioners, students, faculty, artists, scholars, researchers, and scientists.The goal is to experience different cultural forms of the voice and to promote further dialogue between those interested in all aspects of human vocal expression.  This year, the event will be conducted online via ZOOM meeting, following CalArts’ safety guidance due to the pandemic.

Event details

Friday, January 22nd  (Los Angeles Time) 3 PM – 4:30 PM //
Saturday, January 23rd (Japan Time) 8 AM – 9:30 AM //
Tatsushige Udaka // Japanese Noh Theatre Tradition
RSVP at: https://calartshouseofvoices.com/

Video – The World of Noh

Watch “The World of Noh,” a video featuring excerpts from the Noh Tsunemasa (shite: Udaka Tatsushige) as well as interviews with actors and stage assistants. You can also catch a glimpse of the backstage preparations for the performance, in particular the costuming of the main actor. The video was filmed in October 2020 and is produced by Udaka Tatsushige and Haruna.

On the Life of Udaka Michishige: September 18, 1947~March 28, 2020

Udaka Michishige, master actor of the Kongō School of Noh, and noh mask carver, passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by his family, on March 28, 2020, after living with a very aggressive type of lymphoma for over a year.

Born in Kyoto on September 18, 1947, Michishige entered the Kongō School as a live-in apprentice in 1960 at the suggestion of his father at the age of 13. The word around the theater at the time was that there were great expectations for the new member of the family who was said to be a little unusual and to like English.

Through the influence of his great-grandfather, Kawada Shoryō, a Tosa, Shikoku, clan samurai artist and scholar instrumental in debriefing John Manjiro, the castaway rescued with his comrades by a whaling vessel, returning many years later, and of his father, also an artist and historian, Michishige-sensei was always naturally curious about differing perspectives and drawn to them.

Photo: Fabio Massimo Fioravanti

  On becoming independent in 1970, he soon had international, as well as Japanese, students. A passion for making masks lead to the formation of the Men no Kai carving group in 1978. Members, attracted to his excitement in sharing the world behind the mask as well as the craft itself, followed him in seeking the goal of creating masks for use on stage.

  Michishige also had a strong conviction from an early age of the importance of the jiutai, the chorus in noh, and the support and production groups Udaka Koenkai formed in 1983, and Noh-o-tanoshimu kai started in 1984, presented opportunities for him to choose challenging plays and to highlight the importance of the chorus leader, at times taking this role rather the main role. In consideration of his activities and excellence in all aspects of noh, he was designated by the government as a representative of a National Intangible Cultural Asset in 1991.

   Always challenging himself and the world of noh, Michishige never turned away a student, regardless of nationality or gender, convinced that Noh had a transformative and evocative power that anyone could respond to and embody themselves through training. His idea of a “Noh Renaissance” encompassed this embrace of a wide range of students and an approach to training that insisted on the development of concentration and intention through meditation, voice and body through exercises he designed to complement each person’s personal instrument, their body.

  Through the noh he authored he sought to reveal how close to us the veil between past and present always is. In 2001 he wrote and performed his first original noh play, SHIKI-HOTOTOGISU on the celebrated haiku poet Masaoka Shiki. In the same year he wrote HEIWA NO INORI: GENSHIGUMO, A PRAYER FOR PEACE, for which he took the unusual step of inviting non-performers to take the stage in the role of spirits in a memorial requiem for those caught up in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The play was first performed in Kyoto in 2003. RYŌMA, focusing on Sakamoto Ryōma, one of the architects of the Meiji restoration and influenced by Kawada Shoryō, was performed in 2003 at the Kōchi Museum to celebrate its 10th anniversary, accompanied an exhibition of Michishige’s great-grandfather’s paintings.

  In 2019 Michishige was chosen as the 29th recipient of Hosei University’s Saika Prize, awarded each year since 1988 to a person involved in noh for their lifetime achievements in supporting and transmitting noh. While in the hospital, in response to receiving this honor, he wrote about his hopes and dreams for continuing to make noh more readily accessible on an international scale through training in Japan. He also wrote both a noh and a kyogen play during the early days of his hospitalization.

  The magnitude of what he shared so generously, exacting the same discipline and enthusiasm from others as he demanded of himself, is too large to comprehend as yet. He is sorely missed, even as we understand his was a life well lived, and his passing a journey he embarked on with the preparation and thought for others with which he approached every challenge. Members of INI, cherishing the gift each has received, will carry on his legacy.

  Udaka Michishige is survived by his wife, Mariko, and their three children: noh actors Udaka Tatsushige and Norishige, and mask maker Udaka Keiko.