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.
It has been a little bit more than three years now since I started to study with Udaka-sensei and it’s difficult to summarize what it has given me on a personal level and how it has influenced my work. However, I would like to try to describe some of my experiences, thoughts, and impressions.
I’m currently pursuing a PhD in Kyoto City University of Art. I have an interdisciplinary approach in which I use sound, video, sculpture, installation and performance. My research is focused on the plural and shifting nature of voice. I consider voice as a privileged medium to transform our delimitations, to go beyond the borders between the self and the otherness, the body and its environment.
I first encountered Nō through a sound recording that I found in a library in France. I was deeply moved and shaken by the voices of both the chorus and the musicians, and for a long time I was mainly interested in Nō for its unique chant and its music.
So, when I started to go to Udaka-sensei’s okeiko, I was thinking of just studying the chant for only few months for my research. And here I am 3 years later, learning how to perform dances accompanied by music. By following Udaka-sensei’s teaching, and being able to see his other students’ okeiko, I started to understand the beauty of Nō dance and how the chant, the dance, the music and all the scenic aspects are inextricably linked to each other.
After learning more about the staging and the narrative, I found very beautiful the unique relation between the voice and the self in Nō, where the same character can be embodied at the same time by the voice of the shite and the multiple voices of the chorus, by the body of the shite and by the mask.
Considering my art work and my research, Nō has taught me a lot, not only about the use of the voice, but about all the performative aspects: the ways of using your body, the use of space, the tension, the intention, the relation with the audience, the construction of all the layers that overlap to form this very sharp shape and powerful energy.
When I first discovered Nō and started to read about it, I learned that it was transmitted from father to son, so for a long time, I thought that this world was inaccessible to common people, and even less so to foreigners. Therefore, I had never thought that I could learn Nō one day. So when Diego introduced me to Udaka-sensei, I felt incredibly lucky. Udaka-sensei’s very warm welcome, the very relaxed discussions we had while drinking tea before each okeiko, helped me to feel at ease. And maybe above all, his dedication to Nō as both an actor and a teacher made me understand how deep and rich this performative art is.
Nō belongs to the kind of art that is limitless, the more you learn about it the more you realize you don’t know. I love this sensation, though it can be dizzying sometimes. Today I keep learning and discovering things that still amaze me and give me a richer understanding of Nō.
On a personal level, being able to learn from Udaka-sensei and his two sons and to witness their total commitment and dedication to their art is very inspiring and pushes me to give the best of myself in my art production as well. Their teaching keeps making me more focused, brings me self-awareness, self-confidence, and a very precious and particular sensitivity that profoundly influence my work and my daily life.
I am very happy to share these moments with all the INI members and I want to thank Udaka-sensei and his family for their great benevolence and the very special attention they give us. The practice of Nō opened new horizons to me and I am glad to know that I still have so much to learn and discover from it.
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.
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.
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 deadlineJune 1st 2020
Udaka Michishige has been awarded the Saika Prize 2019 by the Nōgaku Research Center of Hōsei University. The Prize was established in April 1988 to commemorate the donation of the Kanze Shinkurō Family Archive. It is awarded yearly to individual performers or institutions who have distinguished themselves for their efforts in the development and transmission of nō and kyōgen.
Udaka Michishige has been awarded the prize because of his outstanding career as actor and mask carver, but also as educator of both Japanese students, many of whom have become professional performers, and international students, with the International Noh Institute.
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.
Japanese historian and documentarist Jeffrey Dym (Sacramento State University) has recently released ‘Noh men – the spirit of noh’, a full-feature documentary on noh masks. The excellent documentary explores different aspects of noh mask making and use on stage and features numerous interviews with different mask specialists and professionals, among which Udaka Keiko, daughter of Udaka Michishige. The rich materials and clear delivery of the content make this documentary particularly suitable for educational purposes.
The 2018 Udaka Seiran Noh performance will take place on Sunday 9th September at the Kongō Noh Theatre, in Kyoto. This year’s event features two plays: Hanjo (starring Udaka Norishige) and Kuzu, performed in the hakutō variant (starring Udaka Michishige).
Hanjo（班女）tells the story of Hanago, a female entertainer working at an inn in Nogami, who falls in love with Fukakusa no Shōshō, a gentleman from Kyoto. The two exchange fans before he departs. Heartbroken, Hanago cannot but think of her lover, and is expelled from the inn. She then reaches Kyoto, where she entertains people at Tadasu-no-mori, near Shimogamo Shrine. She is famous for her songs and dances about Hanjo, a Chinese courtesan who wrote verses about her lost love. In the meantime, Fukakusa-no-shōshō has been looking for Hanago. Having heard that she performs at Tadasu-no-mori, he visits there. The two recognize the fans they once exchanged and are happily reunited.
Kuzu（国栖）offers an entirely different kind of atmosphere. Fearing for his life after being attacked by a rival, Emperor Tenmu (interpreted by a child actor) has escaped to the Yoshino mountains along with his retainers. There he meets an elderly couple that offers him shelter and food. The old man first serves a local fish to the Emperor, who only eats half of it. He then releases the other half in the river, and the fish miraculously comes back to life. This is interpreted as a sign that the Emperor will be able to return to the Capital safely. Soon after this, soldiers sent by Tenmu’s rival reach the elderly couple’s house, but the old man manages to hide the Emperor under a boat. Later the Buddhist guardian god Zao Gongen and a Celestial Maiden appear and dance in celebration of the Emperor.
The 19th Udaka Seiran Noh no Kai 2018
Place: Kongō Noh Theatre, Kyoto.
Date: 9 September 2018 (Sun)
Time: Doors open at 12:30 the performance starts at 13:00 and is expected to finish at around 17:00.
Greetings and introduction: Udaka Tatsushige
Noh: Hanjo (Shite: Udaka Norishige)
Kyōgen: Niku jūhachi
Noh: Kuzu – hakutō (Shite: Udaka Michishige)
Front seats・8,000円 Side seats・6,000円 Corner seats・5,000円 Students・3,000円
Singaporean cinematographer Edwin Lee (Fallout Media) just published a mini-documentary entitled ‘The Spirit of Noh’, starring Udaka Michishige. Edwin’s lens shows the beauty of noh masks (all of which were carved by Michishige himself) and costumes with extreme close-ups and slow-motion sequences, techniques rarely used in documentaries featuring noh. Check it out and let us know what you think!
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 Heikewhich 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.