Documentary: ‘Noh men – the spirit of noh’

Japanese historian and documentarist Jeffrey Dym (Sacramento State University) has recently released ‘Noh men – the spirit of noh’, a full-feature documentary on noh masks. The excellent documentary explores different aspects of noh mask making and use on stage and features numerous interviews with different mask specialists and professionals, among which Udaka Keiko, daughter of Udaka Michishige. The rich materials and clear delivery of the content make this documentary particularly suitable for educational purposes.

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Documentary featuring Udaka Michishige on National Geographic

Great news! The Spirit of Noh, Edwin Lee’s documentary on noh theatre featuring Udaka Michishige was selected for the Short Film Showcase by National Geographic editors. Congratulations Edwin!

‘The Spirit of Noh (能)’ – Oldest surviving form of theater in the world from Edwin Lee (Fallout Media) on Vimeo.

Udaka Seiran Noh 2018 – Hanjo and Kuzu

The 2018 Udaka Seiran Noh performance will take place on Sunday 9th September at the Kongō Noh Theatre, in Kyoto. This year’s event features two plays: Hanjo (starring Udaka Norishige) and Kuzu, performed in the hakutō variant (starring Udaka Michishige).
Hanjo(班女)tells the story of Hanago, a female entertainer working at an inn in Nogami, who falls in love with Fukakusa no Shōshō, a gentleman from Kyoto. The two exchange fans before he departs. Heartbroken, Hanago cannot but think of her lover, and is expelled from the inn. She then reaches Kyoto, where she entertains people at Tadasu-no-mori, near Shimogamo Shrine. She is famous for her songs and dances about Hanjo, a Chinese courtesan who wrote verses about her lost love. In the meantime, Fukakusa-no-shōshō has been looking for Hanago. Having heard that she performs at Tadasu-no-mori, he visits there. The two recognize the fans they once exchanged and are happily reunited.
Kuzu(国栖)offers an entirely different kind of atmosphere. Fearing for his life after being attacked by a rival, Emperor Tenmu (interpreted by a child actor) has escaped to the Yoshino mountains along with his retainers. There he meets an elderly couple that offers him shelter and food. The old man first serves a local fish to the Emperor, who only eats half of it. He then releases the other half in the river, and the fish miraculously comes back to life. This is interpreted as a sign that the Emperor will be able to return to the Capital safely. Soon after this, soldiers sent by Tenmu’s rival reach the elderly couple’s house, but the old man manages to hide the Emperor under a boat. Later the Buddhist guardian god Zao Gongen and a Celestial Maiden appear and dance in celebration of the Emperor.

The 19th Udaka Seiran Noh no Kai 2018

Place: Kongō Noh Theatre, Kyoto.
Date: 9 September 2018 (Sun)
Time: Doors open at 12:30 the performance starts at 13:00 and is expected to finish at around 17:00.
Program:
  • Greetings and introduction: Udaka Tatsushige
  • Noh: Hanjo (Shite: Udaka Norishige)
  • Kyōgen: Niku jūhachi
  • Noh: Kuzu – hakutō (Shite: Udaka Michishige)
Tickets:
Front seats・8,000円 Side seats・6,000円 Corner seats・5,000円 Students・3,000円
For tickets or other inquiries contact us.

Video: ‘The Spirit of Noh’

Singaporean cinematographer Edwin Lee (Fallout Media) just published a mini-documentary entitled ‘The Spirit of Noh’, starring Udaka Michishige. Edwin’s lens shows the beauty of noh masks (all of which were carved by Michishige himself) and costumes with extreme close-ups and slow-motion sequences, techniques rarely used in documentaries featuring noh. Check it out and let us know what you think!

‘The Spirit of Noh (能)’ – oldest drama in the world from Edwin Lee (Fallout Media) on Vimeo.

Udaka Michishige to perform noh ‘Kagekiyo’ in Tokyo 24-08-2018

Kagekiyo

performed by

Udaka Michishige

The story:

A young woman called Hitomaru leaves her home in Kamegae near Kamakura to go with an Attendant in search of her father, the Heike warrior Taira-no-Kagekiyo, also known as Akushichibyoe, the ‘Hot-tempered’. It is rumored that he lives in exile in Hyuga, destitute and blind after putting out his own eyes rather than see his clan in defeat. Though she has not seen him since childhood, she hopes to meet him and hear of his life. Hitomaru and her Attendant find a blind man in a poor thatched hut who is, in fact, Kagekiyo, but he pretends not to know who they seek, both out of shame for his present condition and fearing that his daughter will be disgraced. In response to their inquiries, a Villager leads them again to Kagekiyo who at last recognizes his daughter. At the urging of the Villager, Kagekiyo tells his daughter of his role in the Battle of Yashima where he hoped to find and kill the Genji general Minamoto no Yoshitsune, but unable to do so, he attacked Minoya Juro a valiant warrior from Musashi Province, instead. They grappled, but Minoya was able to get away when the neck-piece of his armor broke. His tale finished, Kagekiyo begs Hitomaru to remember him in her prayers and sends her on her way home.

The Tale of the Heike which describes the rise and fall of the Heike clan and its rival, the Minamoto clan (or Taira and Genji clans, depending on the reading of the kanji characters) at the end of the Heian period during the late 12 century, provides material for many Noh plays.

Kagekiyo is unusual in that a child searches for a parent, while in most 4th-category Noh it is a mother who searches for a missing child. The passion and fiery temper of Kagekiyo are undimmed even now that he has fallen in the world, and are clear in his continuing struggle with his feelings as he first rejects, then accepts, his daughter and tells her of his days of glory long ago. There is no historical basis for his blindness or exile, as he was kept a prisoner in Kamakura after surrendering following the failure of an attempt to assassinate the Genji leader Yoritomo.

The shōmon-no-ashirai vartation adds further color to the story of Kagekiyo. The flute accompaniment, or ashirai, before the sashi chant section considered to be of special difficulty, expresses the loneliness and pathos of Kagekiyo’s life.

(Rebecca Ogamo Teele)

Place: Yarai Noh Theatre (Tokyo)

Time: 24 August 2018 (Friday) 18:30-20:00

Tickets: 7,000¥ (advanced sale) 8,000¥ (at the door) 3,000¥ (students)

For tickets or other enquiries: udakakai@yg7.so-net.ne.jp

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INI Summer Intensive Program 2018

The INI – International Noh Institute is now accepting applications for its 2018 Summer Intensive Program. Participants will take part in an intensive training period, during which they will study Noh chant and dance at the INI training space in Kyoto with Kongō school Noh actors of the Udaka family: Michishige, Tatsushige, Norishige, and Haruna. During the program, participants will learn about various aspects of noh performance, including chant, dance, masks, and costumes. The training period will culminate with a short performance as part of the the Udaka-kai recital on a noh stage in Kyoto, featuring professional actors. The program is coordinated by Dr. Diego Pellecchia (Kyoto Sangyo University).

Application deadline: June, 1st 2018. Early applications are strongly encouraged.

Program highlights:

  • Train intensively in noh chant and dance, following the traditional methods of the Kongō school.
  • Practice in a small group at the okeikoba, private training space of a noh master, for an immersive experience.
  • Perform on a noh stage together with professional actors.
  • Watch noh performances in the Kansai area.
  • Experience living in Kyoto, the heart of Japanese traditional culture.

INI SUMMER INTENSIVE PROGRAM 2018

Requirements: Anyone is welcome to join – no previous knowledge of Noh is required. Lessons are given in English and/or Japanese. Past year program attendees are entitled to the repeater discount of 10,000¥, as shown below.

Capacity: 10 participants

Place: INI Training Space, Kyoto

Training dates and times: August 1-12* from 10:00 to 15:00

*Lessons will not take place on August 4,5 and 11

Participation fees:

Regular 60,000¥
Repeater 50,000¥

Fees include:

  • Chant/dance lessons, basic materials (according to the participant’s level), participation to the August 12th recital, certificate of completion.

Fees do not include:

  • Tabi white split-toe socks (around 700¥)
  • Kongō-style Noh dance fan (5,000¥)
  • Rental of Kimono and Hakama for the recital (10,000¥)
  • Participation in the post-recital party (5,000¥)
  • Transportation, accommodation, and any other personal expenses.

How to apply: send us an email at ini.kyoto[at]gmail.com Please attach your C.V. and a brief statement of interest.

Application deadline: June, 1st 2018

*Late applications will be considered only if places are still available.

 

 

Udaka Michishige on Kyoto Journal 90

An extensive interview with Noh master-actor and mask carver Udaka Michishige features in the latest issue of Kyoto Journal, one of the most elegant and content-rich magazines produced in Kyoto. The article, written by noh enthusiast Mizuho Toyoshima, is enriched by gorgeous photographs by Pedro Medeiros and Fabio Massimo Fioravanti. Following the Kyoto Journal tradition, the issue is beautifully crafted, with elegant design and high-quality paper. Purchase this issue or subscribe to KJ here.

Capturing the hidden emotions of Japanese Noh masks – article on CNN

Udaka Michishige was recently featured, along with noh photographer Morita Toshiro, in an article on the CNN website, part of a series called Artisans: Japan. See the full article here.

 

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Udaka Michishige in the play Nonomiya. The Magojiro mask he is wearing is carved by Michishige himself. Photo by Fabio Massimo Fioravanti

 

Noh photography exhibition in Osaka

locandina.jpgItalian photographer Fabio Massimo Fioravanti is exhibiting his works at the Italian Culture Institute – Osaka (see map below). The exhibition, entitled like his 2014 book, La Via del Noh (The Way of Noh) displays a variety of photographs, providing rare insights into the onstage and off-stage life of noh actors. On this occasion, Fioravanti, who has been photographing noh since the 1980s,  and has a close connection with the Kongo school and with actor Udaka Michishige, has printed his works on Japanese awagami paper, produced exclusively with natural fibers, hence providing a more ‘natural’ look to the photographs.

 


Fabio Massimo Fioravanti – La via del Noh 能への道

October 27th – November 9th 2017

Italian Culture Institute – Nakanoshima Festival Tower. 〒530-0005 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, Kita Ward, Nakanoshima, 2 Chome−3−18

INI Trainees: Tina Dermois

The INI Summer Intensive Program 2017 is now over. Here in Kyoto, a cool breeze is blowing and the hills that surround the city are getting ready to turn into their gorgeous autumn color. As always after one of our intensive workshop, we publish comments from the participants on our blog. Here we introduce trainee Tina Dermois. Tina is a masters student from Leiden University, currently enrolled in the Study in Kyoto Program at Ritsumeikan University. She is interested in Japanese arts and crafts and is currently working on a thesis on Noh prints. This summer she took the INI Summer Intensive Program in order to deepen her knowledge of Noh through practice.

Diego Pellecchia, course coordinator.


My experience with the INI

by Tina Dermois

Before one of my fellow students at Leiden University told me about this program, I had never heard about it before. I knew that there are lessons provided for amateurs, but it had never occurred to me that it would be possible to participate in this kind of intensive program. However, when I found out about this opportunity, I was immediately hyped up. Of course, I was still not sure if I would be able to attend this summer, but it would be a good chance to come in contact with Noh other than books and videos and a valuable addition to my practical knowledge for my final MA Thesis on Noh in woodblock prints. There is no better way to understand an art form than by practicing itself.

To be honest, when I was invited to participate I was not sure what I was supposed to expect of the okeiko and the teacher(s). I read through the schedule, but I was still not sure if the lessons were going to be strict or the opposite, or if I would be able to remember a whole piece. So, I was quite nervous the first day at practice. We started the day with some general explanation about noh, their masks and costumes by Toshishige Udaka, the oldest son of Michishige Udaka, and Diego Pellecchia. After that, we had to walk or rather glide across the floor. It was really complicated because you were supposed to keep your posture straight and relaxed while moving to the other side of the stage and keep your body at height. Throughout the lessons, it was quite hard thinking about all the tips that the teachers gave us, but in the end, everyone was able to remember the whole routine. Moreover, these past ten days of practice were also interesting because we were able to follow classes from three different teachers and observe how they all performed the same piece in a slightly different way up close which was a rare opportunity. This made it also a little more confusing to remember the movements sometimes when we were to imitate them.

 

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What was also really nice about the program was that it was quite diverse. We did not only practice dancing but also chanting and meditating. Throughout the ten days, there was a comfortable atmosphere where we could ask many questions to the actors while having tea and a snack.

However, what I liked the most was the opportunity to visit Noh performances not only indoors, but also outdoors. The first performance that we were lucky to see the final rehearsals for one of the pieces we visited. The other one was performed at Fushimi Inari, a famous shrine in Kyoto which became one of the most memorable Noh performances I have ever seen thanks to the setting. The performance began just when the sun was setting and enveloped the stage, shining on the mask and the hair decorations of the main actor mystifying the whole scene while the wind was blowing causing the leaves to softly rustle. Lastly, we were able to attend a performance inside the temple Hōrinji, where we were sitting on the same “stage” as the rite was acted out. The actor was so close to us that it was almost impossible not to feel the power and spirituality of the role and the performer.

Thanks to the classes and the performances provided by INI, I will never be able to look at Noh in the same way. It was an unforgettable experience and if I have the chance I would definitely want to participate once more.