Fabio Massimo Fioravanti, who has already collaborated with Udaka Michishige on various projects, including the book La Via del Noh – The way of Noh captured these beautiful moment from our last Taikai Gala Recital at the Kongo Noh Theatre on August 21st.
We would like to congratulate all participants – in particular Monica Alcantar, Lisa Swinbanks and Regina Toon, our INI Summer Program graduates! Well done! See you again soon!
The INI – International Noh Institute is now accepting applications for its 2016 Summer Intensive Program. Participants will join INI members for a 2-week intensive training period, during which they will study Noh chant and dance at the INI headquarters in Kyoto with master-actor of the Kongō school, Udaka Michishige. During their stay, participants will be able to learn various aspects of noh, including masks and costumes.
Lessons follow the traditional methods of the Kongō school, providing participants with the unique chance of frequenting the okeikoba, private training space of a noh master, for an immersive experience.
Participants are also welcome to join the August 21st Kei’unkai-INI Gala Recital, along with Udaka Michishige’s international and Japanese students, on the prestigious stage of the Kongō Noh Theatre, in Kyoto.
INI SUMMER INTENSIVE PROGRAM 2016
Requirements: Anyone is welcome to join – no previous knowledge of Noh is required. Lessons are delivered in English and/or Japanese.
Capacity: 5 participants
Place: INI Headquarters, Kyoto
Period: August 1 – 14 2016
Fees (in Japanese yen)
Recital at the Kongo Noh theatre (optional)
Participants are required to purchase separately the necessary personal items for noh practice: tabi white split-toe socks (around 700yen) and a Kongō-style Noh dance fan (5000yen).
Participants are required to arrange for their accommodation.
How to apply: send us an email at ini.kyoto[at]gmail.com Please attach your C.V. and a brief statement of interest.
Following last year’s successful performance of the virtuoso Noh Mochizuki,on March 20th 2016 Udaka Tatsushige is going to stage his second independent Noh event. This year he is going to perform the rare play Shōki. Shōki (in Chinese Zhong Kui), a character known in China and in Japan, is characterised by a massive beard, hence the theme of this event, ‘beards’.
The event is going to feature a very special guest: poet Tanikawa Shuntarō, who will read poems from his repertoire, including Hige (‘Beards’). Other performances in the program are the solo chant with drum accompaniment from the noh Sanemori (Udaka Michishige and Kawamura Sōichirō) and the Kyogen Akutaro (Shigeyama Yoshinobu), all of which are stories about bearded characters.
Shōki (also romanized as Syouki) is a legendary character who lived in China during the Tang dynasty (618-907). Having failed the legendarily difficult admission exam to become a civil servant, he committed suicide. When Emperor Genso was informed of these facts, he dressed Shōki’s dead body in green court garb, bestowing official rank, and provided for a generous burial service. Before long the spirit of Shōki, now in the underworld, regretted having killed himself, and swore to protect the country. He then became a household deity with a fierce aspect, driving away evil spirits and curing illness. In Japan Shōki can be still seen drawn on paper amulets against smallpox, as a doll given to children when they turn five, or as a guardian figure on the roofs of old houses.
On Sunday 26 April 2015 Udaka Michishige will perform the Noh Oshio, a piece not frequently put on stage by the Kongo School. The play is attributed to Konparu Zenchiku, and draws from the Tales of Ise and from the poetry collection Kokinshu. The main character is in fact the celebrated Heian period poet Ariwara no Narihira (825-880), a central character in other Noh plays, such as the third category (women Noh) plays Kakitsubata and Izutsu. However in Oshio Narihira appears as himself – first as an old man, and later in his original garb, as a Heian period courtier.
26 April 2015 (Sun) from 13:30. Noh: Oshio – Udaka Michishige. Kongo Noh Theatre. Kyoto.
Ariwara no Narihira in a painting by Kano Tanyu
Oshiosynopsis by Rebecca Teele
A Man goes with his Companions to Mt. Oshio having heard that the cherry blossoms are in full bloom there. Among the many flower viewers is an Old Man carrying a branch of blossoms. The Men speak with him and are impressed by his elegant expression of appreciation for the blossoms. He quotes poems by Ariwara no Narihira (825-880) nobleman and courtier, in particular one relating to the visit to the area by the Empress of the Second Ward, Fujiwara no Koshi, who was secretly his lover for a time. The poem reads: Ohara ya, Oshio no yama mo, kyo koso wa, kamiyo no koto mo, Omoiizurame and is translated by Helen McCullough in Tales of Ise as: “On this auspicious day, the divinity of Mt. Oshio at Ohara, will surely remember, what happened long ago, in the Age of the Gods.” The Old Man is, in fact, the spirit of the ‘Man of Old’, the poet Ariwara no Narihira in a transformed state. Later he appears in his true form in a blossom decorated ox cart and dances, remembering incidents of the past and praising the beauty of the cherry blossoms.
For more information on the performance, or to reserve a ticket contact the INI.
On 14 March 2015 Udaka Tatsushige (first son of the INI founder Udaka Michishige) will hold the first Tatsushige no Kai, an annual Noh performance event he is producing, featuring high-caliber actors and musicians. Each year Tatsushige is going to take the main role in a particularly challenging play from the Kongo school repertoire. On the occasion of this first Tatsushige no Kai, Kongo Hisanori, grand-master of the Kongo School, has chosen for him the virtuoso Noh playMochizuki. Family tickets and ‘next generation’ tickets for students and Noh theatre beginners are available! Check out the full program in English here!
Mochizuki: March 14th 2015, 14:00-17:00 – Kongo Noh Theatre, Kyoto
Mochizuki: the story
Mochizuki tells a story of revenge, celebrated in classical Japanese literature as an example of loyalty and selflessness in the face of injustice. Lord Tomoharu was assassinated by his cousin Mochizuki, who took over his land and property. In fear for their lives, Tomoharu’s retainers scattered and his wife and son fled their home. When the play begins thirteen years have passed, and now one of the retainers, Tomofusa, is the innkeeper of the Helmet Lodge in the post town of Moriyama. One day two guests, a mother and son, appear without any servants. Tomofusa recognises them as the wife of his master and their son, Hanawaka. At the same time, Mochizuki, the killer, is on his way back from the capital, stops at the Helmet Lodge. Tomofusa recognises him and, together with the wife and son, plots to avenge their master. Mother and son pretend to be entertainers and, together with Tomofusa, they dance for Mochizuki as they pour him copious amounts of wine. Mochizuki is lulled by the wine and the wonderful dances so that he doesn’t realize what is happening when Hanawaka and Tomofusa approach him. They declare their identities and strike him down, finally avenging Tomoharu’s murder and restoring his properties to his family. (Story Outline by Rebecca Teele Ogamo).
What is so special about Mochizuki?
A Meiji-period colour photograph of the shite ready to perform the ‘lion dance’. Note the two golden fans on the head, simbolizing the lion’s jaws (From Albert Kahn’s ‘Archives of the Planet’).
Mochizuki follows the conventions of the ‘genzai-mono’ or ‘real world’ category, meaning that the all the action unfolds on the stage before our eyes chronologically, and all characters are human beings, as opposed to other Noh plays where characters are often spirits or ghosts travelling in space and time. It is a less ‘abstract’ and much more ‘theatrical’ in a western sense, Noh play.
While supernatural beings are represented by masks, the Noh conventions require that human beings who are alive at the moment of the dramatic actions are performed without a mask. Although a mask is not used, the shite is required to maintain a completely expressionless face: actors rely on their movement and ‘presence’ to convey the emotions of the character they represent.
The role of Tomoharu’s son is performed by a child actor. Pre-pubescent children can be seen on the Noh stage portraying top-ranking nobles (such as emperors, or the general Minamoto no Yoshitsune). However in other cases they take the role of normal children, as in the case of Mochizuki, where the son of performs a dance in which he mimes the striking of a little drum at his waist.
After the child has entertained Mochizuki with his dance, it is Tomofusa’s turn. He performs a special version of the shishi-mai, the famous lion dance that can be seen in the Noh Shakkyo.Shishi-mai, or lion dances, were brought to Japan from China and gradually incorporated into the performance rituals of shrines and temples, finally finding their way into Noh drama as well. However, while in Shakkyo the character of the shite actually is the mythical lion that is the attendant of Monju, bodhisattva of wisdom, appearing on the stone bridge leading to his Western Paradise and found frolicking among the ponies there, in Mochizuki the shite is a human being who, within the frame of the ‘real world category’ play, performs a lion dance. He wears a beautiful brocade robe, a red wig, a red cloth that partly conceals his face, and a headpiece with two golden fans spread open, symbolising the lion’s jaws. This type of ‘performance within the performance’ creates an interesting game of mirrors, which is even more meaningful if one thinks that the shishi-mai is a celebratory dance.
In the trailer below you can have a taste of how the dramatic entrance of the shite on the notes of the lion dance.
Mochizuki: March 14th 2015
Make sure to check out the Tatsushige no Kai website (in English) for more information on the performance and for ticket reservation. The Tatsushige no Kai has made special arrangements such as family seats, ‘next-generation seats’, and a child nursing service. An English translation and synopsis of the play will be available. There will be a reception with light refreshments served in the lobby after the performance. If your time permits, please join us for a chat.
Iccho (Shoulder drum and Chant) Eguchi
Shimai (Dance excerpt) Kasa no Dan
Kyogen (Short Comic play) Kagyu (‘The Snail’)
Saturday, 14th March. 2015 14:00-17:00 p.m. (doors open at 13:30)
The Kongo Noh Theatre
Nakadachiuri-agaru, Karasuma-dori, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto. 602-0912.
Subway Karasuma-Imadegawa (K06), South Exit (n.6). Walk South 300m. MAP >>
Happy New Year from the International Noh Institute!
Two events free of charge will be held in Kyoto as part of the new year celebrations tomorrow January 3rd 2015.
The day will start off with the ritual performance Okina at Yasaka-Jinja from 09:00, featuring will the Iemoto Kongō Hisanori and other members of the Kongō school. Later from 12:00 the ritual recitation of Okina, followed by shimai and maibayashi dance excerpts will be performed at the Kongō Noh Theatre.
This year the annual Udaka Seiran Noh performance will feature the Noh Ataka with the very special kogaki (performance variations) ennen takinagashi, kai-tsuke kai-date. Udaka Michishige will take the leading shite role, while his sons Tatsushige and Norishige will take the tsure supporting roles as disguised yamabushi priests. Michishige’s eldest son Tatsushige will also perform his first Noh with a kogaki: Hagoromo (banshiki variation).
Minamoto no Yoshitsune, one of Japan’s tragic heros, is known as a talented and charismatic general, and as the lover of shirabyoshi dancer Shizuka Gozen. The relatiohship between Yoshitsune and his retainer, the warrior-monk Musashibo Benkei, is particularly celebrated in the Noh plays Hashi-Benkei, Funa-Benkei, and Ataka. In all of these Noh the role of Yoshitsune is played by a ko-kata, or child actor. In Ataka the role of Musashibo Benkei is taken by the shite, or main player.
In Ataka, Yoshitsune is trying to escape the unjustified wrath of his elder brother Yoritomo by fleeing to the south with a group of his men who are in the guise of yamabushi, mountain aescetics, led by Benkei. Officials at barrier checkpoints along the way have been warned to be on the lookout for the fugitives. Through the wit and audacity of Benkei they are able to pass at the Ataka Barrier. The high drama of intrigue as the group makes its escape, the loyalty of Benkei which gives him the strength to protect his master at a moment of extreme danger, the sympathy shown by the warden, Togashi, join to make this one of the most dramatic plays of the Noh repertory. The extemporaneous ‘reading’ of the scroll calling for donations, or Kanjincho, is a highlight of the play and the title of the Kabuki variation of this story.
On August 17th 2014 The Kei’un-kai Memorial Performance, including INI members, took place at the Kongo Noh Theatre in Kyoto. It was a long day, with shimai, rengin, maibayashi and full Noh plays performed from dawn to dusk. This year’s performance took place at the end of the o-bon period in Japan, during which people remember and honour the dead. It was an occasion for us performers and for the audience to express gratitude to those who are not with us anymore.
For this purpose, Udaka Michishige has chosen a poem by Henjo (816-890), quoted in the Noh Sumizome-zakura, ‘The Ink-dyed Cherry Tree’. “Everyone is wearing colourful robes, while my mossy sleeves (a monk’s robes) are yet to dry.” Henjo became a priest after the death of Emperor Nimmyo, and the poem expresses the poet’s grief and his reluctance to return to colourful robes after the official time of mourning, though others around him have done so. Udaka Michishige created a calligraphy with the first line of the poem, which you see on the hanging scroll in the picture below.
Rebecca Teele Ogamo. Calligraphy: Udaka Michishige. Kakejiku hanging scroll: Kim Heakyoung.
The INI Senior Director, Rebecca Teele Ogamo, would like to share the following thought about the performance: ‘It was very special to remember both those we once performed with us as Keiun-kai or INI members and those who have supported us in the past and I think we all felt their warm presence cheering us on. And perhaps they were in “flowery robes” as they watched with nostalgia our struggle with the nerves and doubts that sometimes clouded our vision’.
The INI would like to thank all those who have participated to this performance, and whose help and support motivates us to continue our study and research of Noh.
Noh: Atsumori. Shite: Nagao Atsushi
Noh: Funa Benkei – Shiranami no den. Shite: Higaki Toshifumi
Johanna Gernbacher has been living in a Zen temple in Nagaoka while studying utai, shimai and mask carving with Udaka Michishige in Kyoto since April 2012. She performed the kuse and kiri sections of Yuki in the student recital on the Yamatoya Noh stage before Udaka-sensei’s performance of Sesshoseki in November 2012. Johanna has been developing quickly as a shite and as a mask carver, and Udaka- sensei hopes she will continue her training and come back to Kyoto soon. She has now returned to Berlin where she will continue to study Noh, joining forces with other INI members in Germany.
This January Johanna visited Kyoto and it was nice to catch up! We went to the utaizome performance celebrating the new year at the Kongo Noh theatre, which was showing the seasonal decorations. We hope to see Johanna again soon!