Noh Experience for Foreigners! Reasons for the popularity and facilities where you can experience Noh are explained.

 

Motenas Representative
Motenas Representative

What would you do if a foreign VIP or business partner asks to see Noh?
Many of us Japanese may not know much about Noh.

This article explains why Noh is popular among foreigners and what to expect when experiencing it.

Noh is a classical performing art representing Japan with a history of 600 years, and is considered the oldest performing art in the world, having been registered as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Japan by UNESCO in 2008.

It would be good to understand Noh and be able to explain it to foreigners.
And please use it as a reference for foreigners to experience Noh.

Why is Noh so popular among foreigners?

Why is Noh such a popular traditional art form among foreigners? First, we will explain the reasons for Noh’s popularity. Specifically, we believe there are these three reasons.
Mystical Acting
A performance that draws you in.
. a comprehensive art form.

Mystical Acting

Noh is a traditional art form that fascinates viewers with its mysterious performances. Originally a performing art dedicated to the gods and Buddha, it has the underlying purpose of memorial services for the deceased.
In many Noh plays, the monk waki (supporting actor) listens to the thoughts of the Shite (protagonist) who has reached the end of his life, and performs a memorial service for him.
Noh is a reenactment of the most glorious moment of the protagonist’s life. Noh, with its meaning of memorial service, inevitably becomes a mystical performance that attracts not only foreigners but also people from other countries.

Mystical Acting

Noh is a traditional art form that fascinates viewers with its mysterious performances. Originally a performing art dedicated to the gods and Buddha, it has the underlying purpose of memorial services for the deceased.
In many Noh plays, the monk waki (supporting actor) listens to the thoughts of the Shite (protagonist) who has reached the end of his life, and performs a memorial service for him.
Noh is a reenactment of the most glorious moment of the protagonist’s life. Noh, with its meaning of memorial service, inevitably becomes a mystical performance that attracts not only foreigners but also people from other countries.

A performance that draws you in

Noh music is played live on stage to further enhance the appeal of the performance.
The four main instruments used are the flute, kotsuzumi (small drum), otsuzumi (large drum), and taiko (drum), although some performances may not have a taiko.
Since there is no conductor, the taiko takes the role of conductor and directs the entire music. The percussionists also call out to the audience, and the performers use these calls to keep in time with each other.
The live music, which even leads the performance, makes the performance on the stage more attractive.

It is a comprehensive art

Noh is said to be a comprehensive art form in which various elements such as poetry, drama, dance, music, and art are combined to evoke emotions.
There are various types of Noh, including those in which the audience enjoys the development of the story, those in which there are fierce battles, those in which powerful demons appear, and those in which women dance in a quiet manner.
What all of these have in common is that they deal with “universal human feelings. This is where we can feel the deep drama of human beings.
Noh also has the beauty of a musical or museum. Dancing to beautiful costumes and music, you will feel as if you are watching a work of art.

Even if you honestly don’t know much about the show, the pamphlet explains the flow and background of the story before the performance, so you can enjoy the show with peace of mind.

Places where foreigners can experience Noh

Many foreigners want to experience and appreciate Noh. Where can you actually experience Noh? Here we will explain where you can experience Noh.

noh theater

A Noh theater is a theater built for the performance of Noh and Kyogen, with a roofed Noh stage and audience seating called kensho. Most Noh stages have a roof, and the stage is square with a bridge over it, and the stage protrudes into the audience seating.
The main difference is that it is not a long horizontal picture frame format like a typical theater.
There are 90 Noh theaters throughout Japan, and they are used for events showcasing traditional culture and for Shinto rituals.

Participation in hands-on events

People tend to think that Noh is difficult to learn, but if you attend an event, this image will be overturned in a positive way. Many events are held to introduce Noh to a wide range of people, and there are many different types of events.
For example, events such as the “Noh Children’s Classroom” where children can experience Noh and “Performing Arts Experience Programs for Adults” are frequently held in various locations.

These events are a great way to experience Noh, as they include easy-to-understand explanations of Noh and hands-on experiences.
All of these events are held in urban areas, so if you are asked to experience Noh, you may want to search for them.

Cautions for Foreigners Experiencing Noh

Are there any points that foreigners should be aware of when experiencing Noh? Here we will explain what you should be aware of when actually experiencing Noh.

Movement is monotonous and boring.

Noh plays are often offerings to the deceased or expressions of their lives, and compared to Kabuki, they are static and often boring after long periods of time.
The monotony of this movement is one of the reasons it has captured popularity in foreign countries, but it can also inevitably feel boring.
At Motenas Japan, the performance itself is short, and we try to convey the fun of Noh by explaining the fascinating way in which the expression changes depending on the angle of the Noh mask, the background of how the performance was created, and how the performer and the musical accompaniment work in unison.

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Difficult to understand without explanations.

There are a variety of Noh plays, all of which are said to be difficult to understand without explanations. Therefore, it is important to check the main plot of the story and its background in a pamphlet before the performance.
In addition, when experiencing Noh through Motenas Japan, we provide easy-to-understand explanations and suggestions designed to help visitors understand Noh in more detail.

Also check the cultural background of the other country.

It is also a good idea to check in advance the cultural background of the country of the foreigner you will be experiencing the program with. Cultural awareness is a complex awareness that includes culture, consideration for others, and interest in history.
For example, “A-Un breathing” and “reading the air” are things that are naturally cultivated in the Japanese, and Noh contains many of these elements. It is also important to know how Noh plays are performed with minimal waste and how the performance and the acting are in sync with each other.
Since the culture that Japanese people perceive is not recognized in other countries, understanding traditional culture in combination with manner training and other programs will help people understand Japan more deeply.

Manners during a performance

When viewing Noh, please be aware of manners when entering and exiting the theater, eating and drinking, and taking pictures with your smartphone.
Basically, avoid entering and exiting after the performance has begun, as it is often a nuisance to other people. It is recommended that you prepare for the performance by, for example, using the restroom before the performance.
In addition, eating and drinking are prohibited in most Noh theaters in principle.
Smartphones should be turned off during the performance. Photography is basically prohibited, and even if you put your phone on silent mode, the vibrating sound will still resonate.
In static Noh, the pause is considered important. Do not enter or leave the theater, eat, drink, or take pictures under quiet conditions.

History of Noh

Noh has a long history and is said to be a performing art perfected by father and son Kan’ami and Zeami during the Muromachi period. The father and son are said to have perfected Noh with the support of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. However, the origin of Noh actually dates back to the Nara period.
Sangaku was introduced from China and mixed with various Japanese performing arts to create the art form known as sarugaku. Sarugaku includes a wide range of performing arts such as imitation, acrobatics, and skits, and is said to have been a form of art enjoyed while laughing.
Noh is a form of drama, song and dance that developed from sarugaku, incorporating waka poems and literature.
Noh spread during the Muromachi period (1336-1573), and by the Momoyama period (1573-1573), many feudal lords and military commanders, including Toyotomi Hideyoshi, learned and enjoyed dancing Noh.
Noh was on the verge of disappearing during the Meiji Restoration, but the politician Tomomi Iwakura, who visited foreign countries, realized the need to protect the culture of the performing arts and made efforts such as establishing the “Nohgakusha” to restore Noh to its former glory.
And it spread until it was registered as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2008. In this way, Noh has been passed down from person to person, and the world’s oldest form of theater, Noh, has been handed down to the present day.

Facilities where you can experience Noh

What kind of places and facilities are available where you can actually experience Noh? If you are asked by a foreigner about a Noh experience, it is a good idea to introduce the following three places.

National Noh Theatre (Sendagaya, Tokyo)

The National Noh Theatre is a national Noh theater located in Sendagaya, Tokyo. Established in 1983 as a subordinate facility of the National Theatre of Japan, it has a Noh stage as well as lecture rooms, exhibition rooms, a library, and other facilities.
Noh is performed regularly and is open to the public. Please note that there are few sales at the box office, and you cannot go to the theater on the day of the performance to see a performance.
It is a good idea to decide in advance which day you would like to experience Noh and to get a ticket.
Name: National Noh Theatre
Address: 4-18-1 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-0051
Official website: https://www.ntj.jac.go.jp/nou.html

Hosho Noh Theater (Suidobashi, Tokyo)

Hosho Noh Theater is located in Suidobashi, where Tokyo Dome and a theme park are located. The theater has undergone various changes up to the present, and was originally built in Kanda Sarugakucho in 1913, but was destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.
Later, the Hosho Kaikan Noh Theater was completed in Suidobashi, its current location, but was again destroyed in the Tokyo Air Raid.

The current Hosho Noh Theater rebuilt the stage in 1950, and it took its current form in 1978.
Today, it is the center of activities to promote and develop Noh widely. Please note that tickets are not sold at the box office on the day of the performance.
Name: Hosho Noh Theater
Address: 1-5-9 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033
Official website: http://www.hosho.or.jp/nohgakudo/

Kyoto Joyo Kaikan (Sakyo-ku, Kyoto)

The Kyoto Kanzei Kaikan is a Noh theater located in Sakyo-ku, Kyoto. The front of the main stage is decorated with a pine tree painting called Kagamizaka, which was painted by the Japanese painter Impression Domoto, who was born in Kyoto.
In addition to regular performances, the theater also hosts special performances and free lectures, making it the perfect place to experience Noh.
Tickets are generally not sold on the day of the event, so it is advisable to purchase tickets in advance to view the event.
Name: Kyoto Joyo Kaikan
Address: 44, Okazaki Enshoji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, 606-8344, Japan
Official website: http://www.kyoto-kanze.jp/

Summary

In this article, we have explained Noh, a traditional culture popular among foreigners.
There are many things about this art form that we, Japanese, do not know, but when you unravel its history, you will understand why it is so popular among foreigners as well.

Please refer to this page when experiencing Noh, which is said to be the world’s oldest and is registered by UNESCO.

Motenas Japan offers several plans to escort you to experience traditional culture such as Noh. Please feel free to contact us to create a plan tailored to your needs and make a proposal.

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