Noh and Kyogen: Lessons For School Teachers

Teaching Noh and Kyogen at elementary, middle, and high schools is part of a larger plan to educate the Japanese youth in the Japanese classic performing arts introduced by the ministry of education in recent years. This sounds like a good idea, as one of the biggest problems the contemporary world of Noh is facing is its inability to attract young audiences. If kids received more exposure to Noh and Kyogen, they could grow an interest in it, or at least it would not feel as alien as it does to most young Japanese. Teaching Noh at school sounds good… but how? Critics of this educational plan pointed out how school teachers, many of whom are ignorant of the classic arts in general, are in fact the reason why kids don’t get to like Noh and Kyogen. Adding plays to textbooks is not sufficient: teachers need to know what they are talking about in order to make the topic meaningful and engaging.

Kongo School Noh workshop at Uji Shiritsu Nanbu Elementary School

In order to address this important issue the Nōgaku Kyōkai (Noh Professionals Association) has organised educational activities in which Noh professionals visit schools and give workshops both to students and teachers. Last year I attended one of these at the Uji Shiritsu Nanbu Elementary School. The workshop was led by Udaka Tatsushige, who is one of the performers in charge of such activities for the Kyoto area. It was an interesting experience, and he students responded very well to the various activities offered.

Kongo School Noh workshop at Uji Shiritsu Nanbu Elementary School

However, sporadic visits to schools will not yield outstanding results: some Noh groups such as the Katayama family in Kyoto and the Tessen-kai in Tokyo are providing more extensive and regular teaching sessions, specifically aimed at instructing the teachers, who will then be able to lecture on Noh and Kyogen even without the need of specialists. One of these sessions, commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affaires and organised by Tessen-kai, will take place at the Tessen-kai research office in Tokyo on August 22nd and 23rd from 13:00 to 18:00. This event targets school teachers and educators, who will be able attend the performance of the Kyogen Kaki Yamabushi (‘Persimmon Yamabushi’) and the Noh Hagoromo (‘The Robe of Feathers’), plays that feature current school textbooks. Participants will also join practical sessions on performance techniques, as well as lectures on the dramaturgy and history of Noh and Kyogen. The event is free of charge.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.