Where to see Noh in Japan

Aug 17th, 2009 | By | Category: Events, History & Culture

It’s art in the park, Japanese style…one of Japan’s oldest traditional performing arts will be enacted in the shadows of historic Osaka Castle in the Kansai region of Japan this month but you can also witness it outdoors on Sado Island and in Tokyo or Okinawa in a more traditional setting at various times throughout the year.


Noh was developed in ancient Japan and has been refined and performed since the Muromachi period (1333-1573).  A Noh play features a main actor and a small supporting cast of actors and musicians telling a tale that cane be set in reality, genzai no, or based on fantasy, mugen no. The main character wears an elaborately carved mask appropriate for his character and utilizes stylized movements (kata) and chanting (utai) to tell a tale that is often based on stories found in classic Japanese literature and is accompanied by traditional music.

“Noh is a kind of symbolic drama colored with the graceful aesthetic effect of quiet elegance that is expressed through the word yugen (“elegant, refined, and elusive beauty”). Its subjects are taken from history or classical literature, and it is structured around song and dance”

imageToday, Noh along with Kyogen, is recognized as a  Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO and is performed at the National Theater of Japan in Tokyo, Osaka and Okinawa at various times during the year.

For a less formal, but equally impressive performance look for outdoor events like those performed on Sado Island in the Chubu Region of Japan or the annual performance in the garden adjacent to Osaka Castle.  This year features a Noh play telling the story of Minamoto no Yoshitsune, a military commander in the Heian period (794-1192), and his mistress Shizuka Gozen as well as a performance of Kyogen followed by the lighting of bonfires around the stage and a dramatic illumination of Osaka Castle.

Noh at Osaka Castle Event Details:

Date: Thursday, August 27, 2009

Time: 6PM (will be postponed to the following day in case of rain)

Venue: Nishi no Maru Garden on the grounds of Osaka Castle (Osaka Castle Access Map)

Tickets: Advance tickets, which are available at major ticket outlets, are 3,600 yen for adults and 2,000 yen for university and high school students. Tickets at the door are 4,500 yen and 2,500 yen, respectively.  (Event details from Daily Yomiuri)

Image Credit:  Wikimedia, File:春日神社ー篠山ー翁奉納P1011774 & Flickr, Kagura Source: National Theater of Japan, What is Noh & Kyogen?

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