NOH Theatre

Noh is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 13th century. Many characters are masked, with men playing male and female roles. it includes drummers, chorus singers and masked actors.  It is usually held in Tokyo and major cities. It can also be quite difficult to understand . 

So we were lucky enough to get a travelling company come to Nasu to play a Noh theatre and one of my friends got tickets and I went with her and her husband.  It was meant to be held outdoors, or partly outdoors , however as  you could guess it rained and so they had to move it indoors.

Two things really made this a great night, one I knew the story already because it was the tale of Sessho Seki, which is a local story based here in Nasu (I’ve copied the story from Wikipedia below) – and because they moved it inside they had to change the schedule a little and so they decided to show us how they prepare for the play. They explained all of the different music, drums and also dressed one of the principal actors on stage, explaining all the process – and it is a process!! 

I wasn’t allowed to take pictures during the performance, but I took a couple in the pre-show part with the drums – which were also amazing:-)


Tamamo-no-Mae’s legend forms the basis of both the noh drama Sessho-seki (“The Killing Stone“)  (Wikipedia)
Tamamo-no-Mae was a courtesan under the Japanese Emperor Konoe (who reigned from 1142 through 1155). She was said to be the most beautiful and intelligent woman in Japan. Tamamo-no-Mae’s body mysteriously always smelled wonderful, and her clothes never became wrinkled or dirty. Tamamo-no-Mae was not only beautiful, but she was infinitely knowledgeable in all subjects. Although she appeared to be only twenty years old, there was no question that she could not answer. She answered every question posed to her, whether about music, religion or astronomy. Because of her beauty and intelligence, everyone in the Imperial Court adored her, and Emperor Konoe fell deeply in love with her.

After some time had passed, with Konoe all the while lavishing all his affection on the beautiful Tamamo-no-Mae, the Emperor suddenly and mysteriously fell ill. He went to many priests and fortune-tellers for answers, but they had none to offer. Finally, an astrologer, Abe no Yasuchika, told the Emperor that Tamamo-no-Mae was the cause of his illness. The astrologer explained that the beautiful young woman was in fact a kind or evil (depending on the story variant being told) nine-tailed fox (kitsune Good fox spirit. nogitsune malicious fox spirit) working for an evil daimyo, who was making the Emperor ill in a devious plot to take the throne. Following this, Tamamo-no-Mae disappeared from the court.
The Emperor ordered Kazusa-no-suke and Miura-no-suke, the most powerful warriors of the day, to hunt and kill the fox. After eluding the hunters for some time, the fox appeared to Miura-no-suke in a dream. Once again in the form of the beautiful Tamamo-no-Mae, the fox prophesied that Miura-no-suke would kill it the next day, and begged for its life. Miura-no-suke refused.
Early the next day, the hunters found the fox on the Plain of Nasu, and Miura-no-suke shot and killed the magical creature with an arrow. The body of the fox became the Sessho-seki, or Killing Stone, which kills anyone that comes in contact with it. Tamamo-no-Mae’s spirit became Hoji and haunted the stone.

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