Author Archives: inikyoto

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.

  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.

Photo: Fabio Massimo Fioravanti

Announcing, with regret, the passing of Udaka Michishige-Sensei

On March 27th, 2020, Udaka Michishige-Sensei passed away quietly at home surrounded by his family. He had been battling cancer for over a year.

While we are greatly saddened to have to give you this news, we are also relieved that Michishige-Sensei is now free of the trials of his illness, and that he was able to spend his last days at home with his family as he wished.

Michishige-Sensei has left to continue his journey, leaving us to cherish our memories of what we have learned, the gifts we received, and to nurture and pass on the seeds of his passion for noh which he shared with us all so generously. He lives on in each of us.

Please enjoy a glass of wine and sing some lines of utai in his memory, and in celebration of a life well-lived.

On behalf of INI, Kyoto, Rebecca Teele-Ogamo

Cancelled: Call for participants – INI Kyoto Summer Intensive 2020

Dear Applicants to the INI Kyoto Summer Intensive 2020

I regret to inform you that because of the recent outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) the 2020 Summer Intensive course has been cancelled.

The whole world is being affected by the outbreak, and Japan is no exception. Though we may be experiencing a slower increase in the number of infections as opposed to other countries, it has become clear that holding our intensive course and recital this summer would be unrealistic. 

On behalf of our main instructor, Udaka Tatsushige, I would like to thank you all for sending your applications and statements of interest. Though we do not have a definite plan for 2021, we are committed to re-schedule the intensive program when possible. It would be wonderful to see you all then. 

All best wishes and please do take care during this difficult time.

Diego Pellecchia (Course Coordinator)


The INI – International Noh Institute is now accepting applications for its 2020 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 10-22, 2020
  • Recital: August 23rd
  • 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 23rd 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 expense.

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. Application deadline June 1st 2020


Images of previous training programs and recitals

Study Noh theatre’s theory and practice in Venice

Nō theatre classes resume at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, Italy. Monique Arnaud, certified instructor of the Kongō School and INI senior member, will teach nō chant and dance in a series of five meetings organized by Gesshin, a student association led by Luca Domenico Artuso, who also trained with INI in 2018.

For info: gesshincafoscari@gmail.com

Udaka Michishige to perform noh ‘Kagekiyo’ in Tokyo 24-08-2018

Kagekiyo

performed by

Udaka Michishige

The story:

A young woman called Hitomaru leaves her home in Kamegae near Kamakura to go with an Attendant in search of her father, the Heike warrior Taira-no-Kagekiyo, also known as Akushichibyoe, the ‘Hot-tempered’. It is rumored that he lives in exile in Hyuga, destitute and blind after putting out his own eyes rather than see his clan in defeat. Though she has not seen him since childhood, she hopes to meet him and hear of his life. Hitomaru and her Attendant find a blind man in a poor thatched hut who is, in fact, Kagekiyo, but he pretends not to know who they seek, both out of shame for his present condition and fearing that his daughter will be disgraced. In response to their inquiries, a Villager leads them again to Kagekiyo who at last recognizes his daughter. At the urging of the Villager, Kagekiyo tells his daughter of his role in the Battle of Yashima where he hoped to find and kill the Genji general Minamoto no Yoshitsune, but unable to do so, he attacked Minoya Juro a valiant warrior from Musashi Province, instead. They grappled, but Minoya was able to get away when the neck-piece of his armor broke. His tale finished, Kagekiyo begs Hitomaru to remember him in her prayers and sends her on her way home.

The Tale of the Heike which describes the rise and fall of the Heike clan and its rival, the Minamoto clan (or Taira and Genji clans, depending on the reading of the kanji characters) at the end of the Heian period during the late 12 century, provides material for many Noh plays.

Kagekiyo is unusual in that a child searches for a parent, while in most 4th-category Noh it is a mother who searches for a missing child. The passion and fiery temper of Kagekiyo are undimmed even now that he has fallen in the world, and are clear in his continuing struggle with his feelings as he first rejects, then accepts, his daughter and tells her of his days of glory long ago. There is no historical basis for his blindness or exile, as he was kept a prisoner in Kamakura after surrendering following the failure of an attempt to assassinate the Genji leader Yoritomo.

The shōmon-no-ashirai vartation adds further color to the story of Kagekiyo. The flute accompaniment, or ashirai, before the sashi chant section considered to be of special difficulty, expresses the loneliness and pathos of Kagekiyo’s life.

(Rebecca Ogamo Teele)

Place: Yarai Noh Theatre (Tokyo)

Time: 24 August 2018 (Friday) 18:30-20:00

Tickets: 7,000¥ (advanced sale) 8,000¥ (at the door) 3,000¥ (students)

For tickets or other enquiries: udakakai@yg7.so-net.ne.jp

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INI Summer Intensive Program 2018

The INI – International Noh Institute is now accepting applications for its 2018 Summer Intensive Program. Participants will take part in an intensive training period, during which they will study Noh chant and dance at the INI training space in Kyoto with Kongō school Noh actors of the Udaka family: Michishige, Tatsushige, Norishige, and Haruna. During the program, participants will learn about various aspects of noh performance, including chant, dance, masks, and costumes. The training period will culminate with a short performance as part of the the Udaka-kai recital on a noh stage in Kyoto, featuring professional actors. The program is coordinated by Dr. Diego Pellecchia (Kyoto Sangyo University).

Application deadline: June, 1st 2018. Early applications are strongly encouraged.

Program highlights:

  • Train intensively in noh chant and dance, following the traditional methods of the Kongō school.
  • Practice in a small group at the okeikoba, private training space of a noh master, for an immersive experience.
  • Perform on a noh stage together with professional actors.
  • Watch noh performances in the Kansai area.
  • Experience living in Kyoto, the heart of Japanese traditional culture.

INI SUMMER INTENSIVE PROGRAM 2018

Requirements: Anyone is welcome to join – no previous knowledge of Noh is required. Lessons are given in English and/or Japanese. Past year program attendees are entitled to the repeater discount of 10,000¥, as shown below.

Capacity: 10 participants

Place: INI Training Space, Kyoto

Training dates and times: August 1-12* from 10:00 to 15:00

*Lessons will not take place on August 4,5 and 11

Participation fees:

Regular 60,000¥
Repeater 50,000¥

Fees include:

  • Chant/dance lessons, basic materials (according to the participant’s level), participation to the August 12th recital, certificate of completion.

Fees do not include:

  • Tabi white split-toe socks (around 700¥)
  • Kongō-style Noh dance fan (5,000¥)
  • Rental of Kimono and Hakama for the recital (10,000¥)
  • Participation in the post-recital party (5,000¥)
  • Transportation, accommodation, and any other personal expenses.

How to apply: send us an email at ini.kyoto[at]gmail.com Please attach your C.V. and a brief statement of interest.

Application deadline: June, 1st 2018

*Late applications will be considered only if places are still available.

 

 

Capturing the hidden emotions of Japanese Noh masks – article on CNN

Udaka Michishige was recently featured, along with noh photographer Morita Toshiro, in an article on the CNN website, part of a series called Artisans: Japan. See the full article here.

 

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Udaka Michishige in the play Nonomiya. The Magojiro mask he is wearing is carved by Michishige himself. Photo by Fabio Massimo Fioravanti

 

Noh photography exhibition in Osaka

locandina.jpgItalian photographer Fabio Massimo Fioravanti is exhibiting his works at the Italian Culture Institute – Osaka (see map below). The exhibition, entitled like his 2014 book, La Via del Noh (The Way of Noh) displays a variety of photographs, providing rare insights into the onstage and off-stage life of noh actors. On this occasion, Fioravanti, who has been photographing noh since the 1980s,  and has a close connection with the Kongo school and with actor Udaka Michishige, has printed his works on Japanese awagami paper, produced exclusively with natural fibers, hence providing a more ‘natural’ look to the photographs.

 


Fabio Massimo Fioravanti – La via del Noh 能への道

October 27th – November 9th 2017

Italian Culture Institute – Nakanoshima Festival Tower. 〒530-0005 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, Kita Ward, Nakanoshima, 2 Chome−3−18

On the performance of Sagi at the Seiran Noh 2016

We publish here some thoughts on Udaka Michishige’s performance of Sagi (The Heron), by Rebecca Teele Ogamo.

The Seiran Noh performance of Sagi on September 11th, 2016 celebrating Udaka Michishige’s 70th birthday was one of the plays featured in the Kansai area Noh reviews in the Nohgaku Times. As the critic points out, the story is a demonstration of how a bird, without spirit or mind, shows its gratitude towards the emperor and has no real emotional expression. This being the case, the success or failure of a performance rests on the actor’s skills, refined over time, to portray the sense of purity and innocence of the heron through making the face a vehicle of abstract expression, as a mask is not used, but is performed hitamen, or with the face as a mask, or instead of a mask. The critic was especially impressed by the way that Michishige was able to do this, keeping his face completely devoid of expression. His portrayal of the utter stillness of the bird when it stopped, as though perching without moving had a majestic grace, and the seemingly effortless performance of the unique and extremely difficult dance of the heron, meticulously and without any wasted movement, seemed to reveal to the audience the actual heron on the shore of the pond.

 

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Udaka Michishige as ‘the heron’ in Sagi. Udaka Seiran Noh. Kongō Nōgakudō, 11 September 2016. (Photo: Oka Tetsuya)

 

I have seen Udaka-sensei in other hitamen roles, but always as in the role of a living person, as in Hachinoki or Mochizuki, or of a ghost manifesting as a living person as in the first half of Atsumori. This was the first time to see him in the role of a non-human creature, relying on completely on focused movement, rather than a mask, to portray the essence of the heron. I was startled when I realized that I was no longer aware of an actor or his face, but felt I was watching a heron as it danced. The critic seemed to confirm this experience. “I wonder what kind of Sagi I will be?” Michishige mused one day after a mask carving class. I think it was the natural result of years of dedicated uncompromising practice.

Whatever our path, challenges are limitless, and the base and foundation on which we pursue them must always be a constant refining of basic skills.

For INI, too, this means a continuing renewal of our commitment to sharing and exploring the traditions of Noh. We grow and gain energy through shared experiences of how we test our limits. Please let us know about your path and progress, and know we support you in your challenges.”

Rebecca Teele Ogamo

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Shinonome Noh 2016: Tamura

INI founder Udaka Michishige is a descendant of the Udaka Clan, serving the Matusdaira feudal lords in Matsuyama, Shikoku as Noh actors from 1712 until the beginning of the Meiji period.

In Matsuyama, Michishige has an okeikoba training space, where INI members also train intensively. Regular performance events in Matsuyama include Shinonome Noh and the Matsuyama Shimin Noh. The Shinonome Noh is an annual Noh and Kyogen event taking place at Shinonome Jinja, a shinto shrine located on the hill dominated by Matsuyama Castle. Michishige has collaborated with Shinonome shrine cataloguing and restoring the vast Noh masks and costumes collection.

This year’s Shinonome Noh performance will take place on April 4th (Monday) from 14:00 (gates open at 13:30), and will feature the Kyogen Fujimatsu and the Noh Tamura. INI member Diego Pellecchia will sing in the chorus (in the program he is listed under his Japanese name, 高谷大悟 Takaya Daigo). Tickets: 2000yen.

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Tamura tells the founding myth of Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto in the early 9th century. Having defeated a rebellion in the East lands thanks to the divine intervention of the Bodhisattva Kannon, General Sakanoue Tamuramaro became a benefactor of the temple. The first half of the play, set at Kiyomizu temple in spring, is characterised by the images of cherry flowers in full bloom. By contrast, the second half describes the battle between Tamura’s army and the rebels, ending with words of praise for Kannon.

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