Tag Archives: Udaka Michishige

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

Udaka Michishige awarded prestigious prize

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.

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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Udaka Michishige on Kyoto Journal 90

An extensive interview with Noh master-actor and mask carver Udaka Michishige features in the latest issue of Kyoto Journal, one of the most elegant and content-rich magazines produced in Kyoto. The article, written by noh enthusiast Mizuho Toyoshima, is enriched by gorgeous photographs by Pedro Medeiros and Fabio Massimo Fioravanti. Following the Kyoto Journal tradition, the issue is beautifully crafted, with elegant design and high-quality paper. Purchase this issue or subscribe to KJ here.

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.

La Via del Noh/The Way of Noh – evento + workshop

poster

*English follows Italian*

Segnaliamo due eventi sul Noh a Roma a cui prendera’ parte Monique Arnaud, rappresentante di INI per l’Italia.
Sabato 21 marzo

ore 17:00-19:00

Presentazione del libro La Via del Noh Udaka Michishige: attore e scultore di maschere di Fabio Massimo Fioravanti, CasadeiLibri Editore. Intervengono Fabio Massimo Fioravanti (l’autore) e Monique Arnaud  (shite e shihan della scuola Kongō) Ingresso libero fino a esaurimento posti.

Domenica 22 marzo
ore 10:00-17:00
Workshop di teatro Noh – danza e canto, con Monique Arnaud.
Doozo Art Book & Sushi, via Palermo 51/53 Roma.
Tel 06-4815655
info@doozo.it

We would like to draw your attention on two Noh-related events in Rome, featuring INI representative Monique Arnaud.
Saturday 21 March

17:00-19:00

Book launch of the photo book The Way of Noh: Udaka Michishige, actor and mask carver by Fabio Massimo Fioravanti, CasadeiLibri press. Featuring Fabio Massimo Fioravanti (photographer) and Monique Arnaud  (Kongō school instructor) Free entry – while seats last

Sunday 22 March
10:00-17:00
Noh workshop – dance and chant, with Monique Arnaud.
Doozo Art Book & Sushi, via Palermo 51/53 Roma.
Tel 06-4815655
info@doozo.it

15th Udaka Michishige Men-no-kai Noh mask exhibition

Udaka Michishige is unique in being both a shite actor of the Kongo School, and a Noh mask carver. This year’s Noh mask exhibition of the Men-no-kai, his group of students from Tokyo, Nagoya and Kyoto studying Noh mask carving will take place at the Kyoto Prefectural Center for Arts and Culture on Hirokoji-Kawaramachi dori, second floor, November 28th – 30th, from 10:00 to 18:00 (closes at 17:00 on the 30th). On November 29th (Sat.) from 13:30 there will be an explanation and a demonstration of the elaborate costuming of a Noh actor.

Noh: Uneme. Shite: Udaka Michishige. Mask: Magojiro, by Udaka Michishige. Photograph: Harada Shichikan.

Noh: Uneme. Shite: Udaka Michishige. Mask: Magojiro, by Udaka Michishige. Photograph: Harada Shichikan.

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Learn Noh mask carving from a professional Noh actor

Autumn is finally here! The leaves are turning to beautiful shades of red and gold in the crisp autumn air, and we are getting ready to admire the gorgeous foliage on the hills that surround Kyoto, the ancient capital. In this wonderful and refreshing atmosphere we renew our invitation to visit Udaka Michishige’s Noh mask carving atelier.

Udaka Michishige is unique in being both a Noh actor and a mask carver. Students in his mask carving classes in Kyoto, Nagoya and Tokyo learn to sculpt masks of a high quality that can be used on stage. Every two years a group mask exhibition is held in Kyoto to show the latest results of students efforts. These mask exhibitions include free-standing displays of some masks, performance pictures, costumes and lecture-demonstrations to promote a deeper understanding of the place of the Noh mask in the world of Noh.

Contact us to arrange a visit of Udaka Michishige’s atelier in Kyoto, Nagoya, or Tokyo.

(Poster design by Elaine Czech)

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Noh Photography #1 – Irwin Wong

This is the first of a series of posts on photographers who have worked with the INI and with Udaka Michishige.

Irwin Wong is a professional photographer based in Tokyo. A few months ago he contacted the INI as he was looking to arrange a photo shoot commissioned by camera maker Hasselblad for the advertising campaign of their new model. We arranged to meet at Iori, a machiya, or traditional house in downtown Kyoto: Michishige brought his costumes and the masks he carves, and his sons Tatsushige and Norishige helped him with the complex dressing process. Irwin brought his camera and lighting equipment, while his collaborator Kondō Keiichi filmed the behind-the-scenes that you can watch in the video below. It was very productive day and Irwin’s pictures are just stunning: make sure to check out his post on the photo session, which also includes technical information about the cameras and the lights.

We can see two characters in the pictures: the female character is the mae-shite for the Noh Uneme, which Michishige performed in February 2014. The costume is a karaori, or Chinese brocade, and the mask is Ko-omote, to portray the face of a young girl. In stark contrast with the delicate female character is the vengeful ghost of Taira no Tomomori, appearing in the second half of the Noh Funa BenkeiFeatures of this costume are the white hitoe-kariginu, symbolising the character is a ghost, and the halberd and sword. The mask is Shintai, also used for roles of powerful gods.

Udaka Michishige preparing his Noh masks. Photograph: Irwin Wong.

Udaka Michishige preparing his Noh masks. Photograph: Irwin Wong.

Udaka Michishige as the Ghost of Uneme. Photograph: Irwin Wong.

Udaka Tatsushige and Norishige dress their father Michishige as the Ghost of Uneme. Photograph: Irwin Wong.

Udaka Michishige as the Ghost of Uneme. Photograph: Irwin Wong.

Udaka Michishige as the Ghost of Uneme. Photograph: Irwin Wong.

Udaka Michishige as the Ghost of Uneme. Photograph: Irwin Wong.

The Ko-omote mask carved by Udaka Michishige. Photograph: Irwin Wong.

Udaka Michishige as Taira no Tomomori. Photograph: Irwin Wong.

Udaka Tatsushige and Norishige dress their father Michishige as Taira no Tomomori. Photograph: Irwin Wong.

Udaka Michishige as Taira no Tomomori. Photograph: Irwin Wong.

Udaka Michishige as Taira no Tomomori. Photograph: Irwin Wong.

Udaka Michishige as Taira no Tomomori. Photograph: Irwin Wong.

Udaka Michishige as Taira no Tomomori. Photograph: Irwin Wong.

Udaka Michishige as Taira no Tomomori. Photograph: Irwin Wong.

Udaka Michishige as Taira no Tomomori. Photograph: Irwin Wong.

Udaka Michishige, Tatsushige, Norishige. Photograph: Irwin Wong.

Udaka Michishige (center), Tatsushige (left), Norishige (right). Photograph: Irwin Wong.

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