A Noh play based on a plot devised by the late Minamata disease activist and author Michiko Ishimure will make its debut this autumn.
— Read on www.asahi.com/sp/ajw/articles/AJ201802120042.html
Wow… my last post dates back to August! I have been pretty busy keeping up with work and research duties and had little time to update my little blog here. I will make that a New Year proposition. Meanwhile, Mika Sato Eglinton, fellow PhD at Royal Holloway, theatre scholar and journalist, was kind enough to invite me to answer 20 questions on my life in Japan, which appeared on the Japan Times this Sunday. It was great fun to try come up with answers. Newspapers have limited space so my verbose answers had to be cut, and something got a bit lost in the process, but that is part of the game! Anyway, I will leave a link to the article here! https://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2017/12/09/people/diego-pellecchia-heavy-metal-noh-collide/
It’s Karuizawa whiskey, with a noh mask on the label. I saw this on Japanese auction sites selling for prices in the 5,000-10,000USD range. Perhaps more expensive than some noh masks!
This is something I’ve been involved in recently, translating Japanese into English for Hinoki Noh publishing house. I hope I will be able to translate texts in Italian too, some day! Multilingual subtitles at the Noh theatre would be amazing.
The picture above shows the introductory section spectators can read before the performance begins. After that the audience can follow the action on stage while reading brief descriptions automatically updating on the screen as the play progresses. Pages have black background and white characters, minimizing the annoying effect of bright screens in the semi-darkness of the playhouse.
See the Japan Times article on this service here.
A bit off topic for my blog, but a good, positive way to start the year with some good news.
No one likes sweeping statements and generalisations, and I’m not about to fall into that trap. Nonetheless there is a real case to be made that the most exciting centre for contemporary theatre and the performing arts in Japan today is not what was once called the “east capital”, Tokyo, but that older capital lying to the west, Kyoto.
This is not just about how many artists and directors are based in Kyoto, though it is certainly home to a significant number of solo artists and companies, including contemporary Kabuki troupe Kinoshita-Kabuki, Takuya Murakawa, and Kunio Sugihara.
No, Kyoto’s claim to be the new hub for Japanese contemporary performing arts is threefold.
Firstly, we now have ROHM Theatre Kyoto. Opening January 10th as part of a major renovation and redevelopment of the 50-year-old Kyoto Kaikan, ROHM Theatre Kyoto will be a major cultural hall and hub for a range…
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Nogaku Shorin, publisher of the Nogaku Times, the most popular monthly tabloid reporting on the world of Noh with interviews, essays and performance ‘reviews’ (or ‘reports’, as they should be called) has finally made the move toward digitalisation launching the Nogaku Times website. While I believe most of the contents will still be available only in the paper publication, it is encouraging to notice a sign of ‘modernisation’ (it’s 2015…) of the methods for diffusing news on Noh.
On May 12th I’m going to sing in the chorus for the maibayashi (dance and music excerpt) from the Noh Awaji at the Ninomaru Castle Takigi Noh in Matsuyama (Ehime pref.). This time the shite is going to be Higaki Takafumi, while Udaka Michishige is going to lead the chorus.
It is the first time for me to study Awaji, a first category (god Noh) celebratory piece which is not performed as often as other plays from the same groups such as Takasago. In fact the utaibon libretto is only available in the kyūhon ‘old book’ format, with kuzushi-ji cursive characters and hentaigana alternative phonetic writing, making it rather hard to read even for Japanese native speakers. I have recently purchased a lot of these old books, which reminds me that I should soon or later write a post comparing new and old utaibon writing and notation style.
As for Awaji, it follows the typical first category structure: imperial officers are on their way to visit Awaji, thought to be the first island to be created when the godly couple Izanami and Izanagi stirred the primordial sea with a spear. The brine dropping from the spear hardened into islands, thus creating the Japanese archipelago. The officers meet an old man cultivating a rice field attached to a shrine and discuss with him the name Ni-no-miya shrine, an appellation that suggests the two gods Izanami and Izanagi, representing the actions of sowing and reaping. Quoting from ancient poems, the old man chants the fertility of the Japanese soil. Soon the old and mysterious man disappears, only to re-enter in the second half of the play as the male god Izanagi, dancing and bestowing long life and happiness to the land.
Popular Japanese apparel company Uniqlo has teamed up with Kabuki management company Shochiku to produce a series of t-shirts, trousers and accessories using Kabuki costume pattern designs as well as well as kumadori make-up impression known as oshiguma. It makes a lot of sense to me: Kabuki costumes have great designs that look very ‘cool’ to the contemporary eye. So do Noh costumes, which served as models for Kabuki costumes in the early days. I hope that the Kabuki establishment will benefit from this mutual form of promotion, but I also ask myself why Noh is not doing this. It’s a rhetorical question: regardless of the more or less awkward attempts to popularise it, Noh remains an art for the elite. Its political system is elitarian, and so is the image it projects to the public. Uniqlo is a cheap fashion brand with a ‘pop’ international image. The two brands do not seem to go together. Most Noh people will agree with this, and rejoice in their elitarianism, leaving the cheap and pop stuff to Kabuki people. However some (a minority) Noh actors, especially the young generations, might disagree. This is the generation that will still be here in 30 years, and will experience the consequences of the current conservative policy enforced by the oligarchy of elders. What is more important? Maintain the elite as it is, or try to find new ways to get more people come to the half-empty Noh theatres?
I spotted this on a wall in a subway the other day.
The Osaka Yosei-kai (Performers Training Association) has issued its annual performers call for applications. If you wish become a Noh or Kyogen professional, but you were not born within a family of professionals, you can apply to one of the courses the Yosei associations active in different areas of Japan offer. In order to apply you have to be a healthy individual between 15 and 23. There are two type of courses: one is reserved to those who can solely concentrate on practice, another to those who must also attend school, or have a day job. The Yosei-kai is one of the few Noh activities sponsored by the Japanese government via the Agency for Cultural Affairs.