Noh theater   能

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The Kyogen, a kind of comic interlude das representation Noh.

The Kyogen, a kind of comic interlude das representation Noh.

Costume, mask, wig, Noh theater is a digest of control.

Costume, mask, wig, Noh theater is a digest of control.

Noh theater is a famous form of Japanese classical theater represents an allusive and poetic aesthetics.

Noh theater is a famous form of Japanese classical theater represents an allusive and poetic aesthetics.

A Noh theater actor in full representation.

A Noh theater actor in full representation.

Subtle and mysterious

A great example of classical Japanese theater, Noh is in an elliptical and allusive poetic aesthetic of time, a subtle drama involving singing and dancing with a lyrical text. Noh almost disappeared with the advent of the Meiji era in 1868 when Japan opened its doors to the West. Also, after the Second World War when the former island empire was occupied by the Americans, Noh was again almost lost forever.

The actors, exclusively male, play the shite, or  "the one who acts," which is the main character who always wears a mask, or they are the waki "aside" minor characters who have no mask. The extreme restraint of movement characterizes the stationary voltage of Noh.

Immutable rules

Noh comes from sarugaku ("monkey music") with distant Indian and Chinese inspirations and kagura (a sacred Shinto dance). The word Noh means "skill" or "talent" and is the abbreviation for sarugaku no noh. It flourished in the Shogun era (fourteenth to sixteenth centuries). Noh quickly became the spectacle of the warrior aristocracy. Today, it symbolizes an unchanging tradition, thanks to the theoretician and playwright Zeami (1363-1443) who codified the principles of this art. It still remains a reference.


Excerpt from a Noh play, video JapanSocietyNYC.


The artistic representation of this ritual remains faithful to the rules laid out over six centuries ago. The mask - the sacred and indivisible Noh element symbolizes a character or a trait. The scene - a square surrounded by four pillars host no decor. Musicians - three or four instrumentalists (playing flute and drums) perform at the back of the stage, preparing the entry of the actor, and also creating singing and dancing rhythm. The choir - to the right of the scene, they say the actions and supports the narrative of the shite. Surrounded by three pins is the bridge (hashigakari), symbolizing a passage to the world beyond allows the actor to reach a climax or helps with certain scenes.

Kyogen, the "crazy words"

A day of Noh includes five parts, each belonging to different kinds of repertoire. Votive pieces with a supernatural character or a deity help sweep the audience from their daily lives; the war room; parts with women characters revealing the subtle charm of attitudes and dance; parts of the real world inspired by epic dramas; and the final part of demons.

Such density requires comic interludes. It is in itself a theatrical genre, also exclusively male, called Kyogen, literally "crazy words".

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