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Noh and Kyogen

Noh stage of Itaukushima ShrineNoh and Kyogen is one of the traditional theater forms of Japan.
It is accomplished earlier than Kabuki.
In a simple term, Noh is a musical drama and Kyogen is a comical or satirical drama.

History of Noh and Kyogen

The origin of Noh and Kyogen is less-obvious, but it is thought to be some stage performances from China around the 7th century.
They developed into comical performance among the general public.
Additionally, shrines and temples made the performances for each festival.

In the 14th century, Kan'ami, who is a leader of a theater, made a new performance made a complete survey of various ones with his son Zeami.
Shogun (General) Yoshimitsu Ashikaga was very impressed with it, so he took Kan'ami and Zeami under his wing.
Since this, they created many excellent performace, then Noh and Kyogen were completed.

In Meiji period (1868-1912), these were polished up as a world-class art. So some Noh-theaters were built in this period.

Elements of Noh and Kyogen

Performance and plays

Noh One performance contains 3 to 5 plays, and both Noh and Kyogen are played.
It takes about 1 to 1.5 hours to play each drama.


Stage of Noh and Kyogen is a square, about 6 meters on a side.
It has 4 pillars on each corner, and a roof coveres the stage. And a corridor run from the left wing to the stage.
Players appear through the corridor.
This stage has no curtain.

Play of Noh

 Noh is the musical theater, but we look like Japanese traditional dance.
The characters are only a leading role called "shite" and a few supporting roles called "waki".

Shite plays with wearing a Noh mask which is carved in wood and is expressionless.
The movement is very slow, and the players shuffle along.

At the back of stage, there are some music players.
They play "fue" like a flute and "taiko" and "tsuzumi" like drum.
And there are also some singers on a side of the stage.

Play of Kyogen

Kyogen Kyogen is the comical or satirical drama.
The leading role is called "shite" like Noh, but shite of Kyogen usually wears no mask.
And supporting roles are called "ado".
They play more actively than Noh.

Website about Noh and Kyogen

The Noh.com

Seeing Noh and Kyogen

There are several Noh theaters in main cities in Japan.

National Theater of Japan

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