Popular Japanese apparel company Uniqlo has teamed up with Kabuki management company Shochiku to produce a series of t-shirts, trousers and accessories using Kabuki costume pattern designs as well as well as kumadori make-up impression known as oshiguma. It makes a lot of sense to me: Kabuki costumes have great designs that look very ‘cool’ to the contemporary eye. So do Noh costumes, which served as models for Kabuki costumes in the early days. I hope that the Kabuki establishment will benefit from this mutual form of promotion, but I also ask myself why Noh is not doing this. It’s a rhetorical question: regardless of the more or less awkward attempts to popularise it, Noh remains an art for the elite. Its political system is elitarian, and so is the image it projects to the public. Uniqlo is a cheap fashion brand with a ‘pop’ international image. The two brands do not seem to go together. Most Noh people will agree with this, and rejoice in their elitarianism, leaving the cheap and pop stuff to Kabuki people. However some (a minority) Noh actors, especially the young generations, might disagree. This is the generation that will still be here in 30 years, and will experience the consequences of the current conservative policy enforced by the oligarchy of elders. What is more important? Maintain the elite as it is, or try to find new ways to get more people come to the half-empty Noh theatres?
2 thoughts on “Shochiku Kabuki X Uniqlo = Iemoto Noh X Nothing?”
People involved in Noh who would like to move beyond its ‘elitism’ ought to speak with other Japanese artists who have broken the social patterns to keep their arts alive.
Yes, I agree with you. Unfortunately the younger generations who sometimes hold broader views of their art are not free to act as they will within the Noh establishment.