Noh is romanticism of the Samurai class.
The art of the stage, plays in each era, often fade away over time. The Greek plays had gone long before Christ. But Japanese Noh that had been created by Zeami（世阿弥）, is still alive now although it was made hundreds of years before the works of Shakespeare.
Now Japanese Noh is the oldest form of theatre in the world.
Why does Japanese Noh continue to stay alive now?
What is the fascinating and attraction of this method to foreigners?
Mr.Shōzō Masuda（増田正造）tells us the reasons that Noh is still interesting and popular with both Japanese people and foreigners is due to the four following elements.
First of all, Noh uses the method of expression as poetic drama.
It doesn't express on the stage as an exact reproduction real lives, it describes only the essence of human pathos.
Second of all, Noh employs the method of using masks. This, through training strongly for hundreds of years, creates deep symbolic expression.
Third of all,Noh has avant-garde conception and music.
Finally, Noh and the moreKyōgen（狂言）are plays that is in praise of the human spirit and love. .
Because of these four reasons, people have been really impressed with Noh throughout the world.
European plays have valued Noh highly, when they came up against a blank wall as they tried to express more realistic plays. Because Noh is able to managing time and space freely on the stage.
European plays didn't have methods like Noh, Noh uses time, it stops and goes back freely. And Gods, damons and a Japanese long-nosed goblin, Tengu（天狗）play an active part on the stage.
For example, the bridge, Hashi-gakari（橋掛り）has an important meaning. It is the bridge between this world and the Under world.
It has a different meaning between Noh and Kabuki. The bridge in Kabuki only means the characters are walking on a path, it is called Hanamichi（花道）.
It is said that Noh was completed by the father, Kanami（観阿弥）and
the son, Zeami（世阿弥）and the Shōgun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu(足利義満）in the Muromochi Period（室町時代）.
Even though the Samurai had the power of the state, they had an inferiority complex with the nobles.
They strongly desired to become like the nobles and they would have new performing arts that the nobles never had before.
Zeami, the son of Kanami, established the musical play, and Otoami（音阿弥）, the nephew of Zeami, gained an impregnable position as an official play master of the Tokugawa Shogunate in the Edo period.
This style, formed in this long ago age, can still be seen today.
Feelings through minimal movement.
When you visit the garden,Sekite（石庭）at the Ryōanji temple（竜安寺）, you can see only rocks without any plants or trees. In the garden you can see the rocks without thinking, only seeing them or talking with them in your mind.
Maybe it is the same feeling If you see Japanese Noh.
Without thinking; nothing, Mu（無）, it is related to Zen Buddhism（禅）.
Noh was influenced by this feeling, and expresses the theory of Zen Buddhism.
The method of performing Noh uses very limited human movement to create an unique style.
In the expression of Noh, the movement of the arms and legs are limited and describes minimal expression of the mind.
The realistic representations, for example, being moved to tears and looking up at the sky far away, are also limited and blended to move as a pattern and abstraction.
This method has been polished and perfected for hundreds of years.
The performance,"Sumidagawa（隅田川）", describes a mother who has became insane because her son was kidnaped. She has a long journey to seek her child, full of deep sorrow.
On the stage, the mother walks only five or six steps, but the feeling conveyed is of a long sad journey.
Noh manipulates time and space on the stage in all directions.
The facial expressions are often the most representative method on a stage, but Noh uses masks, and is limited in expression.
Also the movement of fingers and hands are limited, the shoulders, elbows and wrists are only able to move in small circles.
Within this limited situation, the small movement of white socks, Tabi（足袋）is remarkable and full of grace, and the sound of tapping on the stage is wonderful.
In these circumstances, Noh expresses the mind by only the movement of arms and legs.
The main character in "Sumidagawa".
The Noh stage is very simple, except for the background painting of the old pine tree, Oimatsu（老松）. But sometimes the Noh stage uses simple props, this always very plain equipment. It expresses the symbolic meaning and works freely in time and space.
For example, in the play,"Hunabenkei（船弁慶）", it uses the prop of a small boat. this is a handcrafted, as if a small child made it, but when it appears in the scene, it changes the stage to a sea, with the ghosts of Hieke（平家） bringing storms and appearing to hit Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune（源義経） and his followers.
In the play "Adachigahara:Kurozuka(安達原（黒塚））", an old woman is spinning a spinning wheel, the symbol of her useless long life and reincarnations of a human that has been living in this painful world. There is a simple handcrafted bed room, which shows the human sin which she accumulated.
Noh expresses human pathos, not realism, and describes the essence and condensation of it through regular patterns, and forms.
The samurai in Muromachi period, could take refuge from lots of suffering in the Noh stage and forget harsh realities, as well as the samurai sought peace of mind found in Zen Buddhism.
If we face the Noh stage without prejudice, as well as we see the rocks at Ryōanji temple, we are able to awake an impact and emotion that we never experienced before.
Everyone all over the world can understand Noh, through this communication of method and pattern.
The old woman with the spinning wheel in Adachigahara / Kurozuka（安達原 /
Zeami created this new style of Noh called, Mugen-Noh.
It describes a type of Noh, that shows the essence of pathos itself, observing the characters lives from the point of view of the underworld after the characters death.
The way that Noh controls time and space freely has had a strong influence on European plays that became to focussed on realism.
Mugen-Noh describes the pathos of humanity,beautifully and purely.
In the Noh world, these styles have been refined over hundreds of years.
Zeami produced a play called "Kinuta（砧）". It shows the sadness of a wife, who lost her husband and her subsequent death.
This theme is an universal woman's feeling, for any who have loved a husband forever, but he is so far away, never to return. It is the common universal drama, it is not set to a particular age, specific life, or personal drama.
Zeami also produced a play called "Izutsu（井筒）". This is a love story featuring the main character, Ariwara-no-Narihira（在原業平）in "Ise-Monogatari（伊勢物語）,
In general, plays in European theatre are often performed with three characters on stage, in this case: Ariwara-no-Narihira, his wife Izutsu-no-Onna（井筒の女） and his girlfriend. But in this Noh play, it is performed with only one or two characters on stage, the other characters are implied through actions and gestures.
A long time after the characters death, the Ariwara temple has decayed and the well which was a memorial place for them, but is now buried beneath Japanese pampas grasses. In this scene, the grassy scenery shimmers in the moonlight.
And in the scene a priest is passing by accident, when a ghost who used to be the wife of Ariwara-no-Narihira;Izutsu-no-Onna, appears.
She talks to him her love story about her husband and she then fades away. Noh play uses this method.
Izutsu-no-Onna wearing the clothes of her husband, only appears and dances, describing her emotion that she wants to see him. And she only thinks of him seeing her reflection in the well, yearning and recalling a remnant of him.
Japanese Noh describes the infinity love within. It uses a different style and method between European plays and Noh. European plays always use the method of the present tense in progress and reproduce realism on the stage. So it is impossible to use the same method in European style.
Please enjoy this Mugen-Noh someday.
It focuses on the essence of infinite love from the point of view of the underworld after the characters death.
Considering Noh artists.
Zeami says strictly about the trainings of Noh players:
"The beginning of the training should be started at the age of 7 years old."
"Noh requires training from a young age to an old age."
"Life has an end, but Noh training should be continued endlessly."
Zeami made the Noh curriculum which has the goal to be reached at an old age. The Noh entertainers attain their mature stage in their 60's or 70's.
The elder's performances have fresh and brilliant power and young players can't catch up with them. Because the entertainers skill has been refined and gaining the mind of the performance created over hundreds of years. In these days, we can be alive for a longer time, so we can accept such advice as an encouragement.
Each Noh players take their position by the division of labor.
Wakikata (ワキ方）, means to perform as a partner of Shitekata（シテ方）, he fulfills his duty as Wakikata throughout his life.
Kotsuzumikata（小鼓方）, he plays the Japanese drums. Kotuzumi is a kind of small shoulder drum which they tap with the finger tips.
Kotsuzumikata takes the same position as Wakikata.
Shitekata（シテ方）perform as a main character on the stage, and they play various types of characters, such as men, women, Gods, demons, fairies and ghosts.
Wakikata act only as real man and don't wear masks.
Kyōgenkata（狂言方）play as one character, Kyōgen（狂言） on the stage or play an independent character of the work about Kyōgen.
Hayashikata（囃子方）is a group of Noh musicians, and devided as Huekata（笛方）:Japanese flute, Kozutsumikata（小鼓方）:Japanese drums, Taikokata:Japanese percussion（太鼓方）.
They play equally with Shitekata. They manage important plays on the stage, and lead the Noh main stage with their rhythm.
For example, I'd like to explain how to train to be Shitekata.
Training begins in childhood at the age of 6. It is only standing on the stage for few minutes. And he is also trained in Shimai:dancing（仕舞）and Utai:singing（謡）and playing as Koyaku：performing a child actor（子役）. In his 20's, he plays on the stage as Tsure（ツレ）; a dependent character of Shite, he is getting use to using masks. Later he stands on his own feet as Shite. And he continues his training the performing mind. After 60 years old, he can challenge the most defficult task, Rojomono（老女物）, it means to perform an old woman's feelings.
This is the most eminent performance of the Noh world.
Noh uses the system of hierarchy in the school, but the actors who are chosen as living national treasures and members of the Geijutuin（芸術院）, are not the posterity of famous Noh family. It uses a different style for Kabuki actors.
The founder Zeami says the heir is the person who knows the essence of the mind of play.
Noh plays, require severe training and also personal free expression, both reasons make Noh persist to this day.
Wakikata (ワキ方）, means to perform as a partner of Shitekata（シテ方）,
he fulfills his duty as Wakikata throughout his life.
The rhythm of Utai（謡）.
When a Noh play was performed in Paris, young European musicians shouted out "It has been done before!"
They had been thinking to create a new musical style which uses new harmonies between unique sounds, without restriction by score and the control of a conductor.
Noh has been creating these rhythms for hundreds of years.
Utai（謡）:singing, is an absolutely different style between Noh music, European music and Kabuki music.
Utai and Hayasi（囃子） has rhythm of 8 beats basically.
The interval between each beat is not the same length. Each space between beats is original and a creative space, it has self-assertion, changes and it doesn't disturb the harmony. It doesn't have repetition and the players perform it as if it were their last.
It has a fascinating and artistic rhythm.
The utterance of voice in Noh is in a different style to other music. They use unique elocution, uttering powerful sounds from deep in the stomach, pushing down the tongue and Adam's apple.
When a Noh actor performs women, the voice is sound real and expresses that beauty.
Noh actors will sing and act at the same time. As if it were collaborated with Ballet and Opera. Shitekata and Wakikata are soloists or a chorus. Jiutai（地謡）has a chorus group with, from 6 singers to 12 singers.
The Kakegoe（掛け声）: The musicians make oral sounds during a Noh play for example,"Oh","Ha" "Yoh" .
The Kakegoe has important rhythm as well as the musical instruments.
It carries a lot of the responsibility on their shoulders, so Noh play don't need a conductor as the play describes mentally difficult situations through the music.
Noh music consists of four musical instruments.
Hue/Nōkan（笛・能管）:Japanese flute. The musician plays it an impromptu way and forms the main melody.
Kozutsumi（小鼓）：Japanese small shoulder drum. It has the most beautiful and delicate sounds in the world.
Ōzutsumi（大鼓）：Japanese percussion. The sound is a strong sound and harmonises with Kozutsumi.
Taiko（太鼓）: Japanese drum. It describes the superhuman strength of Gods, Daemons and fairies on the stage. This instrument performs the latter part of the play.
The sounds of these four instruments ring out in the cerebral cortex, and it is said that their music has a sort of a high frequency sound.
I'd like to introduce to you the inspiration of having seen A Noh play "Sumidagawa,隅田川" by a famous British composer, Benjamin Britten.
All of them had a strong impression on me.
The story was simple but i felt most impressed.
The simplicity of the Noh style.
The intensity of feeling, although the movement and the actin were slow.
The splendid performance and the leadership on the stage.
The beauty of the costume and chorus.
The harmony of the telling and singing.
It consists of marvellous music using three musical instruments.
I experienced an appreciation of a new operatic play that I have never seen.
Noh is consists of performers, singers, and music players who are called hayashikata.
The musical instruments consist of only four types; fue (flute), kotsuzumi drum (small drum), otuszumi drum (big drum), and taiko drum (very big drum). The Kotsuzumi is the only drum that is hit upside down and the player can not see the hitting points.
Omote（面）is the foundation of Noh.
The moment a Noh actor puts on a mask is；Omote（面）at the Kagami-no-Ma（鏡の間）: the waiting room for the Noh play, he separates his daily life, absorbs into himself an Omote, for that moment, he transforms himself to a deferent dimension.
Why do people feel homesick when seeing a mask?
There are many masks all over the world.
The mask of Tutankhamen in 14th century BC, is a golden mask.
The masks of Greek plays in 6th century BC, are a big type pulled over the head, which amplifies their voice.
The masks that came from China, which were used for dancing, have the grandeur of the performing arts from that continent.
Uncivilized people had believed that spirits would possess a mask, and they thought that masks themselves had the power to get rid of devils and disasters.
In these days, in Japan, children choose and buy many characteristic masks, from the Gekko Kammen（月光仮面）to the Kamen-Rider（仮面ライダー）in festivals.
Maybe modern people have the same blood flowing in their veins as ancient people, and have the same consciousness of ancient people.
But Noh masks take an unique position. They have features, precise, excellent expression for the performance of the plays and small and delicate workmanship.
Making a Noh mask is called "Omote-wo-utsu, 面を打つ" . An artist chooses the raw wood from the Japanese cypress to make a Noh mask. At that moment, the life has already dwelled in the wood, and then the soul is put into it.
Zeami says that Omote is not a Noh mask.
He describes the "Hitamen（直面）" as a character that doesn't wear a mask.
It means Omote is the real face, the face without a mask is not a real face.
The late Kongo Iwao（金剛巌）also said "It doesn't matter what a man sees, It matters what a mask sees. " , in his book "Noh and Noh mask『能と能面』".
Is Omote expressionless? We use the word, "like a Noh mask", as a synonym about an expressionless face.
Omote has two kinds of masks. One is represented as a feeling of anger. The other is represented as a variety of feelings. The latter is made as a neutral countenance, and is used for 2 hours in total on the stage, but the audiences are not tired of seeing this performance. Then, this mask is also described as having "Infinite expression" .
The technique of using Omote basically has Terasu（照らす）and
Terasu is to look up , then it takes on an expression of joy. Kumorasu is to look down, then takes on an expression of sorrow.
Moving to the left and right expresses the performance of looking at a subject or listening the sound of wind or insects.
And by moving a mask only from one point to another point rapidly, it sparks like a flash on the stage.
The performer chooses a Noh mask for the stage on that day. The chosen mask is the stage director and is the core of the performance.
The abstracted geometric acting, determines the centre of gravity, slow-moving, sliding foot steps, and the design of costumes with the cutting line. They are derived from the Noh mask.
Please experience the live stage play, it has the richness and depth of deep expression.
Appreciation of a Noh play.
Before Oda Nobunaga（織田信長,1534〜1582）attacked the army of Imagawa Yoshimoto（今川義元）desperately In Okehazama（桶狭間）, he performed in a play, Saruwaka-Mai "Atsumori（猿若舞・敦盛）".
This is a speech said to be from the play:
"Our life is only for fifty years, the human world is like an illusion or a dream of the flow of time when compared to the celestial, heavenly world.
There is a person who was born in this world once, will not this person also die?"
In the Warring States period（戦国時代）, as both life and death are side by side, the Samurai always sought for peace of mind. They could forget their agony and escape from reality, by being deeply absorbed in the world of Noh.
Professor Donald Keen of Colombia university, suggested how to appreciate a Noh play.
"There are many fascinations in a Noh play, we can be stired without deep knowledge of Noh. Noh gives us beauties, that we have never experienced before, from the moment, Shite（シテ）emerges from the Hashi-gakari（橋掛り）.
I think, the most amusing way to enjoy Noh the best is to escape from reality.
During the Muromachi period（室町時代）, Noh has been created, there was an innumerable sadness. But the audience at the time was able to become immersed in the stage, and to forget their worries.
People often cry watching a Noh play. I think it's the best way of appreciation. I myself, when I see Noh, do not make a point to look at the Noh scenario, to hear the wise words, to listen to Utai: the singing.
I'm only moved by the overall beauty and I can get that feeling of joy."
ーThis information is based on the book: Morgue by Masuda Syōzō （増田正造）.ー