Tag Archives: Kyoto

Photos from the 2016 Kei’un-kai INI Taikai Gala Recital

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!

INI trainees – Hana Lethen

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Hana Lethen

Hana Lethen lives in Texas and is a junior at Princeton University majoring in Comparative Literature, with a focus on Japanese and Russian language and culture. She spent her spring semester 2016 in Kyoto studying Japanese language, society, and traditional theater through Columbia University’s Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies.

Hana decided to take her exploration of Noh to a higher level, attending a number of performances along with fellow KCJS students, and also practicing Noh chant and dance with the INI. Here are a few insightful reflections on her experience.

Diego Pellecchia, INI Junior Director


Discovering Noh Through Dance

by Hana Lethen

When I asked Monica Bethe, the professor for a course on Noh that I took this past semester, for support regarding my final paper comparing ballet and dance in Noh theater, I was expecting book recommendations. So, I was a bit incredulous when she suggested that I take lessons— “the best way to learn is to dobut soon realized what a great opportunity had presented itself.

With an introduction and much help from Diego Pellecchia, who was co-teaching my Noh course, I went to okeiko every week during my last month in Kyoto. On the first day, I was very nervous. The only thing I knew to expect was that okeiko would be very different from practicing ballet, which I have done since I was five years old. I had an impression of Noh as a very traditional and elite art, so I expected okeiko to be somewhat rigid.

However, when I entered the okeikoba, I was surprised by the intimate and almost relaxed atmosphere. First, we spent about an hour having tea and chatting with Udaka-sensei, who, for all his talents and experience, was very kind and not at all intimidating. It was during this tea session that I began to realize that the constrained schedule of normal life does not apply to the okeikoba. Time here is fluid; okeiko starts and ends basically when Udaka-sensei deems appropriate. Noh is a combination of religious ritual and artneither of these can be rushed.

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Learning the hiraki kata

We began my first lesson with a bit of practice chanting the text which accompanied the dance from Tsurukame which I was to learn. I have always dreaded singing or speaking onstage, so my thoughts at this point were along the lines of “I came here to learn the dance, not the chanting…” But, I realized that a large part of the beauty of Noh comes from the unity of dance and poetic text, so I overcame my initial reservations.

Learning the dance, too, proved to be as much about “letting go” as it was about precisely learning the movements. Having extensive ballet experience was helpful in terms of coordination, but it also meant that I had some assumptions about dance lessons that were challenged in okeiko. At first, I somewhat expected Udaka-sensei to break down each movement for me, as a ballet teacher would do. More than this, however, my okeiko involved watching Udaka-sensei’s movements and imitating them as carefully as possible. Like much Japanese traditional fine art, dance in Noh is subtle, but expressive; restrained, but powerful. Although some movements felt unfamiliar, I tried to understand the general flow of the dance.

I was impressed by the atmosphere at the okeikoba of humility and of respect for the art of Noh. I was also touched by the attention Udaka-sensei devoted to each of his pupils—even to me, a complete novice. Reading and learning about Noh, and also seeing Noh performances, as part of my academic course was extremely valuable, but getting a small glimpse from the performer’s perspective in okeiko made Noh come alive for me in an entirely new, exciting way. Professor Bethe was right—I am not sure how I would have written my final paper for her and Diego’s course without firsthand experience of dance in Noh. And, ultimately, I gained much more from okeiko than a final paper. I developed very special appreciation for Noh through an experience that I would love to have again if I get the chance.

Thank you, INI!

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Chant lesson with Udaka Norishige

Only one position left – INI Summer Intensive Program 2016

If you are considering applying to the INI Summer Intensive Program, hurry up! There is only one position left before we close applications.

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. Read more: INI Summer Intensive Program 2016

INI Summer Intensive Program 2016

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)

Regular 60,000
Student 40,000
Recital at the Kongo Noh theatre (optional) 20,000
  • 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.

Read impressions of the INI summer training from participants Sadia Gordon and Dorothee Neff.

Images from past events

 

 

The Second Tatsushige no Kai: Shoki – 20 March 2016

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.

For more information about the program and to reserve a seat please visit Tatsushige’s site (in English).

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.

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‘Shoki, the demon queller’ by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

Udaka 2015 Independence Day, and INI Gala Recital 2016

In the early hours of September 13th 2015 Udaka Michishige continued with putting the finishing touches on the Deigan mask he would use later that day in his performance of Teika, the center piece of the 16th Seirannoh-no-kai at the Kongo Noh Theatre: adding more color, polishing, pausing to check the effect once again. This was the latest effort in the search for the essence of the expression of the Deigan mask, in this case for the essence that would most effectively portrayal his interpretation of the spirit of Princess Shokushi Naishinno. As always the process was continuing until the last possible moment.

His thoughts at this time as he kept on with this search included welcoming the 45th observance of his independence as a Noh actor and also his wishes for INI members. “Independence” can mean embarking on a lonely road and uncompromising battle of seeking the essence of your art. Michishige continues to be his own harshest critic and taskmaster, but he also treasures and finds strength in fellow travellers on the path. He hopes that you, too, as his fellow travellers are keeping to your path of seeking the highest essence in your endeavours.

Michishige also looks forward to sharing in training and performing Noh with as many of you as possible in the Gala Noh Recital at the Kongo Noh Theatre on August 21, 2016. More details will be coming soon, but please put the date down on your calendar and get in touch with us with any questions. As always at INI will do what we can to facilitate your participation.

In closing, the performance of Teika was very well received. Here are a few photos from the performance though they are hardly a substitute for the experience of the performance itself.

Rebecca Teele Ogamo

The 16th Udaka Seiran Noh – Teika and Aoinoue 13 September 2015

This year’s Udaka Seiran Noh will feature the Noh plays Teika and Aoi-no-ue.

In the Noh Teika, performed by INI founder Udaka Michishige, a Priest is led to a vine-covered grave by a Woman he meets when sheltering from a passing autumn shower. It is the grave of poet Shokushi Naishinno, third daughter of Emperor Go-Shirakawa and the vines are called “Teika-kazura” after the poet Fujiwara no Teika. The story of their romance and  lingering attachment unfolds as the Woman reveals that she is the ghost of Shokushi Naishinno. Teika belongs to a group of Noh plays that only very experienced plays are allowed to perform, hence this is going to be a very rare opportunity for those in the Kansai area to come see the play, which is going to be staged with the added special variations sode-kagura and shinto.

Aoinoue, performed by Michishige’s younger son, Norishige, is based on an episode from the Tale of Genji, the 11th century masterpiece by Murasaki Shikibu. The main character is not Lady Aoi, the wife of Prince Genji, but Lady Rokujo, the most intriguing female character in the novel. Once Genji’s lover but now abandoned by him and filled with resentment towards his wife after a humiliating incident at the Kamo Festival where her coach was forced out of its viewing spot by Lady Aoi’s retainers, Lady Rokujō’s living spirit torments her rival. A shamaness is sent to discover the source of the possession of Lady Aoi and then an exorcism is performed by the priest Kohijiri, finally bringing Rokujo to her senses by calling on the power of the Buddhist sutras.

The 16th Udaka Seiran Noh

Kongo Noh Theatre 1:00~5:00 p.m. (doors open at 12:30p.m.)

Noh: Teika Sodekagura rokudo  Shite: UDAKA Michsihige

Kyogen: “KAMABARA”   Shite: SHIGEYAMA Shime

Intermission

Noh: “AOINOUE”  Shite: UDAKA Norishige

Tickets:

Center Reserved Seats 8,000 yen
Side Reserved Seats 6,000 yen
General Admission Mid-center Seats 5,000 yen
Student, General Admission Mid-center Seats 3,000 yen

Synopses of the plays will be available at the theater in English, French, German, and Italian.
The Udaka Office
(For questions or reservations.)
TEL: +81 (075) 701-1055
FAX :+81 (075) 701-1058
In English:  Email: ogamo-tr@mbox.kyoto-inet.or.jp

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INI summer training 2015 – introducing Sadia Gordon

Dear INI members and supporters, greetings from an unusually fresh Kyoto! It’s Diego here. While the temperature might be lower than usual, we are looking forward to a hot summer full of events and training opportunities here at the INI headquarters. Many international students are going to join the INI summer training, and we would like to give them a chance to introduce themselves and explain why they chose to study Noh with the INI. I always enjoy learning how different paths and life experiences can lead to the study of Noh theatre. So here is our first guest, Sadia Gordon, sharing her first impression of the INI Noh training in Kyoto.


Konnichiwa!

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Sadia Gordon (New Zealand)

My name is Sadia Gordon. I am a 22 year old actor in training, studying Performing and Screen Arts at Unitec in Auckland, New Zealand. In our third and final year of study, we are given six weeks to go out and explore something that we are interested in, connected with the field of work we would like to go into. At Unitec, we are lucky enough to have John Davies as our Head of Department. John has been to Japan on several occasions to study Noh Theatre.

In my first year at drama school, John did a small performance of a Noh Theatre play in full costume with the wig and mask. I remember being amazed by his stillness and precision, and thinking that would be something I would find very hard to do. I had been thinking about what I wanted to explore for secondment, in terms of what my main challenges are as an actor and what would help me get to the place I want to be before graduating.

This idea of feeling completely grounded and connecting with the breath has been something that I have found hard throughout my acting training. However, I have found that when I do reach this calm, centred place, my thoughts are so much clearer on stage and I can really tune into the intentions of my character. During a meditation class, led by John, I suddenly felt completely connected to myself, without any outside noise distracting me. I realised this is the direction I need to go in. I knew that Noh Theatre would be a way for me to further develop my stage presence while also connecting with myself and my base. I thought that learning Noh in Japan would be the ultimate way to immerse myself in the culture and really get to understand the art form. I worked 12 hour shifts for 3 long months at a vegetable factory in Christchurch, New Zealand to save up and I am now seeing how worth it that was!

Udaka Michishige and Sadia Gordon

Udaka Michishige and Sadia Gordon

Japan is very different from New Zealand, but I also see some similarities which make me feel like I am at home. Kyoto is such a beautiful, fresh place. I feel very calm and safe here. I have found people to be so kind and generous and interested in what I have to say, which I think can be very rare these days. I can’t believe that I am surrounded by beautiful temples and I can go and sit in any one of them, for as long as I want to. I feel so lucky that I am able to be here, working under Udaka Michishige’s tuition, as John did years ago.

My first Okeiko was incredible. I was very nervous, but as soon as I stood up on the butai with my tabi on, I could feel my feet firmly on the ground and I felt very at ease, within the structure of my movements.  I hope that in 5 weeks, when it comes time for me to go back home, I can take with me some of the beauty and simplicity of traditional life here. I am realising how important and healthy it is for us to take time out of our busy lifestyles, full of noise and technology to sit and listen.

Domo Arigato Gozaimasu.

Sadia Gordon

Kongo Monthly Noh 26 April 2015 – ‘Oshio’

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

Oshio synopsis 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.

Noh theatre X Impact HUB Kyoto

The INI International Noh Institute is pleased to announce the first ‘Introduction to Noh theatre’ course at Impact HUB Kyoto. This 6-session course is aimed at Kyoto residents, exchange students, or any other English-speaker who would like to take a closer look at Noh theatre’s tradition. Participants will learn the basics of Noh chant and dance directly from certified INI instructors. Additional activities include observation of a Noh mask carving workshop and visits to the Noh theatre. Professional Noh actor Udaka Tatsushige will give a performance demonstration on the first session, May 7th. 

Practice sessions will take place at Impact HUB Kyoto, a platform promoting innovative thinking and collaborative work, located in a beautiful traditional building in the heart of Kyoto. See below for access information. The lessons will be held in English and no previous knowledge is required: anyone can join!

Dates and time: Twice a month on Thursdays, from 18:00 to 21:00 (participants are free to come and go at any time). Training calendar: May 7, 21; June 4, 18; July 2, 16. Min 6 Max 10 participants.

Participation Fee: Regular: 10,000; Students/Hub members: 8,000 White tabi (split-toe socks) 800yen.

Application: deadline April 30th Feel free to contact us to place your booking or for any other query ini.kyoto@gmail.com

INIXHUB 2015 web

Access: Impact HUB Kyoto Get off at Kuramaguchi station on Subway Karasuma line. Take Exit 1, then walk south (toward Doshisha university) for few minutes (located between Tabacco store and a parking lot).