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See traditional performance art (Part 2)

Japanese culture preserves time-honored traditions and passes them down to future generations. In autumn, the stages that host these traditional performance arts are teeming with activity. Those who have not indulged their interest in these arts because they think they're too inaccessible should make the most of this opportunity! Before you know it, you might just forget your everyday cares and be swept up in another world.

Text & illustrations: Wakako Ishida
Editorial supervision for articles: Arts Communication Yokohama (Yokohama Arts Foundation)

Click here for Part 1! → See traditional performance art (Part 1)

 Recommended traditional performance arts in autumn 3

【9/24】 A fantastic display of lights onstage at the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse!
A completely new Noh stage "for the modern age": the Red Brick Takigi Noh

A world of elegant simplicity, backed by the night landscape of the Port of Yokohama and a wondrous display of illumination.

This autumn, the Yokohama Noh Theater is holding a Red Brick Takigi Noh (Noh by Firelight) performance as part of the Open-Air Noh Festival 2016. A special stage was constructed at the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse, a local Yokohama attraction, for the event, which will allow audiences to experience Noh like never before.

Noriaki Umewaka, the great actor of the Kanze school of Noh, will dance in the Noh play "Funa Benkei." Painter Akira Yamaguchi, also called "the great Yamato-e master of the Heisei era," created the stage's indispensable backdrop panels, and illumination by world-famous lighting designer Akari Lisa Ishii envelops the arena in an otherworldly atmosphere. Just picturing the stage makes the heart sing!

"Funa Benkei: Omoki Zengo no Kae," Noriaki Umewaka (of the Kanze school)

Rare seating—and a synopsis provided, so that even first-time viewers can enjoy the show

Kuogen interlude: "Kazumou," Norishige Yamamoto (of the Okura school)

The program is: The Noh play "Funa Benkei: Omoki Zengo no Kae," Noriaki Umewaka (of the Kanze school) Kyogen interlude: "Kazumou," Norishige Yamamoto (of the Okura school)

Both performances are accessible to newcomers, but this year, summaries have been prepared in both Japanese and English, available for viewing on tablets and smartphones. Even those who aren't well-acquainted with Noh can drop by with no previous knowledge and enjoy the show. It also features flexible pricing for an affordable experience for those who "just want to see a little!" (Plus, the unreserved seats include rare seating that allows you to view the action from angles not available in standard shows!)

I saw the production presentation!


Noriaki Umewaka, Akari Lisa Ishii, and Akira Yamaguchi appeared at the production presentation held the other day. Masayuki Nakamura, the coordinating producer and the head of the Yokohama Noh Theater, gave an overview of the show, enthusing that "we wanted to create a world unlike anything previously seen in a Takigi Noh production!".

While Noh, illumination, and the fine arts may be different art forms, they are all represented here by artists at the top of their fields. Their comments were also brimming with the artists' unique personal styles, and they raised great expectations for the show.


This year marks the Yokohama Noh Theater's 20th anniversary, but this is the first time, they said, that a Noh performance has been held at the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse. The play will be held on an autumn evening, in the moonlight, against the backdrop of faraway Port of Yokohama at night. When one envisions the pine trees on the Yamato-e backdrop panels enveloped in artistic illumination, it is impossible not to be impressed with the splendor and breadth of Japanese culture. I'll be hoping that the show will be blessed with a beautiful moonlit night and a refreshing night breeze!


I saw Akira Yamaguchi paint a Noh kagami-ita panel live in a public performance!


Before the Red Brick Takigi Noh performance was staged, Akira Yamaguchi made a public appearance on August 26 to paint a kagami-ita Noh backdrop. The event took place at the Queen's Square near Minatomirai Station, where many passersby shopping or commuting stopped to watch the pine tree on the backdrop rapidly take shape.

Clear panels were used for the kagami-ita so that the venue's characteristic sense of depth would be unimpaired and audiences would have a clear view of the Yokohama Bay Bridge and night skyline. Oil paints were used to capitalize on the panels' glossy finish, making for an experiment unprecedented in Noh history. Save for a short break, Mr. Yamaguchi painted almost nonstop. Yamaguchi made the following comments in coverage of the event:


"The kagami-ita panels on the Noh stage are at best backdrops; the actors are the main attraction. In attempting to be faithful to the model established by my forebears, I became aware of how the pine tree makes the stage seem to open up when someone stands in front of the panels and highlights the actor. I wanted to add my own innovation to this model, however slight."

"Since the material is transparent, The ppine tree is framed by the real-life space behind it. I tried to create the panel an artificial space that appears to straddle dreams and reality(うつつ).”

Yokohama Noh Theater Open-Air Noh Festival 2016 Red Brick Takigi Noh

■Date: September 24, 2016

■Venue: Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse event venue; special stage

■Admission: Special seating (reserved seats; in rain, will be Noh Theater S seating): 7,000 yen

  First-class seats (reserved seats; in event of rain, will be Noh Theater A & B seating): 6,000 yen

  Second-class seats (reserved seats; in event of rain, will be refunded): 4,000 yen

  Open seating (in event of rain, will be refunded): 2,000 yen

  *Only special and first-class seating can be processed at the Yokohama Noh Theater.

■Tickets: Special & first-class seating sold out.

  *Second-class and open seating available at Ticketpia:   →http://t.pia.jp/pia/event/event.do?eventCd=1630721


 Recommended traditional performance arts in autumn 4

【10/9】 A once-a-year performance in Yokohama!
A composite of three art forms and a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity: Ningyo Johruri puppet theatre

Delicate movements painstakingly depict emotion and enchant audiences

Chikagoro Kawara no Tatehiki (photo: Shinji Aoki)

Built on a small hill with a great view of the Yokohama Landmark Tower, the Kanagawa Youth Center hosts performances of Ningyo Johruri Bunraku puppet theater every October.

The bunraku puppet theater performances originate in Osaka, so opportunities to enjoy them in Kanagawa prefecture are rare, making the Youth Center's annual performances very popular.

Though many may have heard of Ningyo Johruri Bunraku, few may have actually experienced it. Its combines dramatic narration, the sound of the shamisen, and puppeteering. These three art forms combine on stage to create a composite art that weaves complex drama; it is a traditional performing art of Japan and is registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. A single doll is controlled by three puppeteers. Ningyo Johruri is noted for its intricate movements that depict an unprecedented degree of emotion; the art form has captured the hearts of many fans who swear that "the dolls look just like they're alive!”.

The subtitles that are reliable in beginners are with it! I can be concentrated in the world of the stage

Imose-yama Onna Teikin (photo: Shinji Aoki)

The direction that is plain for the beginner whom a performer comments on an outline by the performance of these young people center, and subtitles possess is great popularity.

From people who looked last time "subtitles were easy to look very much". Because was able to get the flow of the story by a commentary of the beginning, was good; because "tried it for the first time, worried whether could understand contents of the Japanese puppet theater, but was impressed of the small expression and doll of the talk to move";, for "a small hall, both the sound and the stage were near, and was good". I would like it next year by all means. Thank you.

Plural voices are sent. The person looking for the first time seems to become the scene that the Japanese puppet theater fan can enjoy together.

A different program is performed by a matinee and an evening performance on that day.


"Imose-yama Onna Teikin"(いもせやまおんなていきん) Sugi Suakaya no Dan, Michiyuki Koi Odamaki, Himeodori no Dan, Kinden no Dan
……Set in Japan's Tanka Reform period, this magnificent tale skillfully interweaves truth and fiction.

【Evening show】

"Chikogoro Kawara no Tatehiki"(ちかごろかわらのたてひき) Shijogawara no Dan, Horigawa Sarumawashi no Dan
...Set in the Kyoto household of a poor owner of a dancing monkey, this is a tale filled with the love of a mother, brother, and sister.

Matinee tickets are apparently very limited, but it's said there are still some tickets left for the evening show. The evening "Chikagoro Kawara no Tatehiki" show is tragic but somewhat humorous, a human tale mixing wit and pathos. Why not attend one autumn evening and experience the puppet theater?

2016 Kanagawa Traditional Performing Arts Festival Ningyo Johruri Performance

■Date: October 9, 2016 (Sun.)

  Matinee: Curtain at 13:00 (admission to theater at 12:30) 

  Evening show: Curtain at 17:00 (admission to theater at 16:30) 

■Venue: Kanagawa Youth Center Hall

■Admission: General: A seats 3,200 yen/B seats 2,500 yen/C seats 1,500 yen

  Wheelchairs: 2,500 yen  Additional seats: 2,500 yen

  Students: 1,000 yen

■Tickets: Ticket Kanagawa 0570-015-415 (desk open 10:00-18:00)

  Internet http://www.kanagawa-arts.or.jp/tc/
(Tickets also available at the windows at the Kanagawa Prefecture Music Hall, Kanagawa Kenmin Hall, KAAT Kanagawa Arts Theatre)


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