Noh Theatre History

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The word Noh means skill, craft, or the talent particularly in the field of performing arts in this context. The word Noh may be used alone or with gaku (fun, music) to form the word nōgaku. Noh is a classical tradition that is highly valued by many today. When used alone, Noh refers to the historical genre of theatre originated from sarugaku in the mid 14th century and continues to be performed today.[4]

Noh and kyōgen "originated in the 8th century when the sangaku was transmitted from China to Japan. At the time, the term sangaku referred to various types of performance featuring acrobats, song and dance as well as comic sketches. Its subsequent adaption to Japanese society led to its assimilation of other traditional art forms."[3] l
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Sociological research by Yukio Hattori reveals that the Komparu School, arguably the oldest school of Noh, is a descendant of Mimashi, the performer who introduced gigaku, now-extinct masked drama-dance performance, into Japan from Kudara Kingdom in …show more content…
Shortly after the Meiji restoration both the number of Noh performers and Noh stages greatly diminished. The support from the imperial government was eventually regained partly due to Noh's appeal to foreign diplomats. The companies that remained active throughout the Meiji era also significantly broadened Noh's reach by catering to the general public, performing at theatres in major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka.[6]

In 1957 the Japanese Government designated nōgaku as an Important Intangible Cultural Property, which affords a degree of legal protection to the tradition as well as its most accomplished practitioners. The National Noh Theatre founded by the government in 1983 stages regular performances and organizes courses to train actors in the leading roles of nōgaku. Noh was inscribed in 2008 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO as Nôgaku theatre.[3]

Although the terms nōgaku and Noh are sometimes used interchangeably, nōgaku encompasses both Noh and kyōgen.[7] Kyōgen is performed in between Noh plays in the same space. Compared to Noh, "kyōgen relies less on the use of masks and is derived from the humorous plays of the sangaku, as reflected in its comic dialogue."[3]

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