Vr Noh: Ghost in the Shell

Performances of the “Vr noh” Ghost in the Shell (攻殻機動隊) will be held at Tokyo’s Setagaya Public Theatre on August 22 and 23, featuring young shite actors from the Kanze School, Sakaguchi Takanobu and Kawaguchi Kōhei. More info and tickets here (Japanese only – all performances seem to be already sold out, perhaps due to with-coronavirus restricted seating)

After various animation films, the 2017 Hollywood feature film (sparking controversy because of the almost-all Western casting), and a recent all-digital sequel on Netflix, Shirow’s manga is recast in nō form.

As I kid I used to collect Masamune Shirow’s manga. Appleseed, my favorite, has been one of the first available in Italy back in the early 90s, followed by Black Magic, Dominion, and Orion. His works, mixing cyberpunk with fantasy and Japanese spirituality, were extremely popular outside Japan (I think he was published by Dark Horse in the US).

Ghost in the Shell blew us readers away because of the amazing color rendition of some of its pages. How is it going to look like in “vr nō” style? I imagine the plot will play with the idea of the “ghost” or “soul” transmigrating from body to body, or from body to another material vessel, something familiar to the nō repertory, rooted in buddhist thought. From the poster we can see the female protagonist, apparently dancing wearing a purple chōken, typically used the the depiction of female spirits.

As I pointed out at the beginning of the article, all tickets are already sold out, so we can only hope for future re-runs, or for a video!

Zoom Event: “Born into a Noh Family”

The Japan Foundation London has organized Born Into A Noh Family: How the New Generation is Keeping the Tradition, an event featuring Takeda Takafumi (Kanze school shite actor), hosted by Dr. Ashley Thorpe (Royal Holloway University of London). The event is free of charge and will be hold on Zoom 2 July 2020 from 12.00pm (BST).

In the event, “Takeda will reveal the daily practices he has followed since childhood, his views on the pursuit of keeping the tradition alive, as well as how he and his family adapt to the changes and challenges of the present day.”

Recently, many nō performers have been using Zoom and other similar softwares to show bits of performances, to teach their amateur students, but also to “meet” online and share their experiences during this difficult time. I look forward to hearing how the discussion will unfold between Japan and the UK, countries that are experiencing very different levels of crisis related to the novel coronavirus.

Event information here.

Praying for the end of the Novel Coronavirus outbreak

[6/8 UPDATE] Ticket information and schedule has been updated.


The “Nogaku Festival”, planned in celebration of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, has been re-branded as “Noh Performances 2020 – A Prayer for the Eradication of the Novel Coronavirus”(能楽公演 2020 新型コロナウイルス終息祈願).

According to the official website, the performances will be held with various limitations, including allowing only a restricted number of spectators. Ticket information will be published later, but I suspect it will be necessary to book well in advance, especially because the content of the program has not changed. All events feature superstar actors performing very popular plays such as Ataka, Aoinoue, or Dōjōji.

Noh performances during 2020 Tokyo Olympics announced

The program for the Nogaku festival, a series of performances organized by the Nohgaku Performers’ Association to be held during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, has been announced (Japanese only – for now). The performances are part of the larger Tokyo 2020 Nippon Festival, starting in April and ending in September.

The program features full nō and kyōgen performances but also recital versions of plays, allowing the audience to enjoy a wide variety of characters but also of performers. Looking at the list of performances, I am glad to notice that, in addition to the “usual suspects” – leading performers from the various nō and kyōgen schools which were announced back in August 2019 – female performers will also join the roster of superstar actors. They are Uzawa Hisa, Saeki Kikuko (Kanze school), and Kashiwayama Satoko (Hōshō school).

Three performances in a program of about forty plays (including kyōgen) may seem like a relatively small number, but considering the very little exposure female actors get I would accept it as an effort of the Nohgaku Performers’ Association to represent the spirit of inclusivity on which the Olympic and Paralympic Games are based. Let’s hope to see some female performers among the musicians, too!

Discover Noh in Kyoto 6 – Elegant Ghosts of Japan

The Discover Noh in Kyoto series has come to its 6th and last episode. This time we have organized an exciting event which combines the visit to shrines and temples to noh performance. For those of you who participated in the previous episodes of our series this will appear like a novelty. Instead of having actors explain various aspects of noh (costumes, masks, etc.) we have decided to focus this forthcoming event on performance. Don’t miss it!

Discover Noh in Kyoto 6  Elegant Ghosts of Japan

​2020/2/28 (Fri) 17:00-18:00 Myōrenji Temple (Kyoto)

3,000 yen – performance 4,000 yen – performance + walking tour

Udaka Seiran Noh 2019 – Takasago

On October 6 2019 at the Kongō Nō Theatre, Udaka Norishige is going to perform Takasago as part of the Udaka Seiran Noh series, produced by Udaka Michishige. This year Norishige is going to take on the challenge of performing in one of the most iconic noh plays from the first group, in which the main character is a deity. His elder brother Tatsushige will perform the shimai from the warrior play Tomonaga. As for myself, I will take on a different challenge: that of doing the honors and introduce the performance – my second time after Tatsushige’s Dōjōji back in July.

I will post more about Takasago as the day approaches. In the meantime, for those of you who speak Japanese, Tatsushige is also posting videos about the play on his YouTube channel.

Udaka Seiran Noh 2019 – Takasago (Udaka Norishige)

Kongō Nō Theatre 13:00 (doors open at 13:00)

Tickets: 8,000 / 6,000 / 5,000 / 3,000 (students)

Contact me for tickets

Noh and Kyogen performances at the 25th ICOM General Conference, Kyoto 2019

On September 3 and 4 I had the pleasure and honor to introduce the Noh and Kyogen Performances organized as part of the social events program for the 25th ICOM General Conference in Kyoto. Hundreds of Japanese and international guests came to watch Bōshibari and Hagoromo on September 3 at the Kongō Nōgakudō, and Busu and Funa Benkei on September 4 at Kanze Kaikan. In my speech, I tried to explain how noh has the power of bringing together both intangible and tangible heritage, but also how it is in need of a new generation of patrons who appreciate and are willing to support its various arts. I was not planning to do so, but since many of the guests who attended the events asked me to put my little speech up online, here it is. I hope to see you all soon!

3D Nō in Venice

An interesting format. One nō actor dancing and singing on stage. Behind him, projections that come to life when seen with special 3D glasses. Of course, music and chorus are not live, but a recorded track.

While kyōgen shows features a minimum of two actors, mounting a full nō performance requires some twenty people. The minimum for dance with music and chorus would be 6-7 people, up to 10 if the actor is in costume and mask. A format that works well in Japan, but is difficult to take abroad. Could 3D nō be a kind of ‘pocketable nō’, providing the audience with an authentic experience?

3D Nō Aoinoue, Funa Benkei in Venice. 7 May 2019 LINK (Italian)

Of bells and snakes: Udaka Tatsushige to perform “Dōjōji” on 14 July 2019

This is a big one. On July 14th 2019 Udaka Tatsushige is going to perform the nō Dōjōji for the first time, making this one of his most important hiraki performances. Dōjōji is probably one of the most well-known plays in the repertory, telling the story of how a young woman who had been tricked into believing that a monk will marry her pursues him until she finds him hiding under a temple bell. Transfigured into a monstrous snake, the woman coiled around the bell and, spitting fire from her mouth, burnt him to death.


Dōjōji (NNT)

One of the most spectacular features of the play is the section in which the actor enacting the spirit of the woman reappearing at Dōjōji jumps into the bell (a 100kg heavy property) as it falls on the floor. Once inside the bell, the actor changes costume, wig and mask by himself, reappearing in the form of a demon as the bell is lifted.

Dōjōji is the first nō performance I have ever seen live. It was 2007, and the actor was Udaka Michishige, Tatsushige’s father, who on that occasion was celebrating his 60th birthday. For Tatsushige’s Dōjōji I will have the honor to introduce the event. I look forward to the day with trepidation.

Information, play summaries, and tickets