Seasonal cleaning – utaibon

Today was the first of two days of ōsōji, the seasonal cleaning taking place in Japan before the New Year, at Udaka-sensei’s okeikoba training space. This kind of cleaning is performed everywhere in Japan (homes, shops, workplaces, etc.) and is part of the rituals that welcome the Japanese ‘early spring’ (shoshun 初春), that corresponded with the month of January in the traditional calendar – so it is a kind of ‘spring cleaning’, except that you open all doors and windows to clean, and that it’s usually terribly cold. In fact it’s even snowing today.

Osoji utaibon

Anyway, today myself and other members of Udaka-sensei’s group met at the okeikoba to start cleaning up. The first thing we needed to do is reorder a section of the utaibon Noh libretti, that you see in the picture here. As you notice they all feature the same kamon family seal of the Kongō family printed in gold on the cover. Each of the five shite main actor schools produces their own utaibon, which are sold both to professionals and to amateurs. The content of the utaibon differs from school to school, but it normally consists of the text of the play with minimal instructions on how to sing. While some schools also include information on performance and small drawings, the Kongō utaibon only contain basic information about the characters, a resume of the play with some background information, and notes about important poetic passages in the book (whether they are quotes of classic texts, sutras, etc.). I should probably post more about utaibon in a dedicated post, as there is so much to say about them. The ones you see in the picture are shinpon or ‘new books’, while kyūhon or ‘old books’ have a white cover, and are way more difficult to read. Ok will write more about it later.