Close-up photographs of INI members’ Noh masks

The International Noh Institute

This year’s Men-no-kai Noh mask carving exhibition took place at the Kyoto Prefectural Center for Arts and Culture 28th-30th November. Among others three INI members, INI Senior Director Rebecca Teele Ogamo (USA), Kim Hea-Kyoung (South Korea), and Elaine Czech (USA) exhibited their latest works.

Czech carved a Ko-omote, one of the most popular Noh masks outside. It is also the first Noh masks that is carved by beginners. Despite its apparent simplicity, the Ko-omote is a very difficult mask to carve, and mask carvers often come back to it later in their mastery. Ko-omote (lit. ‘small face’) is used for main or secondary roles when the character is a young girl or, in some cases, a supernatural being. The face of Ko-omote is inspired by the aesthetic canons of the Heian period (794-1185), regarded as a golden-age of cultural sophistication and refinement. The face is painted in white, eyebrows…

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Present and Future of Noh seminar series

Today I am going to speak at the Fall Seminar series entitled Present and Future of Noh, organized by the Hosei University Noh Research Institute in Kyoto. I am honored to have been invited to talk about the International Noh Institute and Udaka Michishige. Today I will be presenting along with shite actor Kanze Yoshimasa and Kyogen actor Nomura Manzō. I am looking forward to the talk and I will be posting again after the event.


The New INI Website

INI header white

It’s finally LIVE! The INI – International Noh Institute has a website of its own, with a blog section, a gallery etc. We literally just got it started, and we look forward to upload lots of information about who we are, what we do, etc. If you are interested in keeping updated don’t forget to subscribe to the blog, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter. From now on I will use 外国人と能 The Noh Diaries only to post personal reflections on the various topics I usually treat here. All official announcements about performances, workshops, exhibitions from the International Noh Institute will be posted on the new INI websiteI encourage all my readers and subscribers who wish to to continue receiving updates about the INI activities to subscribe to the new website.



After Kiyotsune

Kongo Noh Theatre. Lights out.
Kongo Noh Theatre. Lights out.

I would like to thank all those who came to see my performance of Kiyotsune on June 29th 2013 at the Kongo Noh Theatre in Kyoto, as well as those who supported from a distance but who could not make it to Japan.

It is hard to describe my feelings now that this pivotal event in my personal life and in the history of the International Noh Institute is over. The night before the performance I was preparing my bag with all the necessary clothing and accessory, including dōgi padded undergarment and eri collars, and felt like packing the night before leaving for a long trip. Or maybe Kiyotsune himself was packing his bag, about to take his leave from my room, and from my teacher’s okeikoba, where we lived together during the year of preparation that preceded the performance. Although in Noh there isn’t the same kind of psychological research on the character that you would have in other performance methods, I have become accustomed to live with Kiyotsune… but now Kiyotsune has left, only to live again through someone else’s body. Anyhow, I should not think of it as something belonging to an isolated past, because past things shape our present, and future, too.

Today I was asked by a friend how I felt after the performance. I realised that a Noh performance is like a marriage ceremony. It is a very important event, to which family and friend partake, celebrating a vow of faithfulness and dedication. But the ceremony only lasts one day. What really counts is all the effort behind and before it, and the new path ahead.

Kei’un-kai, INI Gala Recital 2013 *full programme*

June 29~30 (Saturday and Sunday), 2013

Kongo Nohgakudo, Karasuma Ichijo-sagaru, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto 602-0912
Tel: 075 -441-7222

Please join us at the Kongo Nohgakudo for an opportunity to experience Noh in a variety of forms: shimai, dance excerpts; Maibayashi, dance excerpts with the accompaniment of the Noh ensemble of instruments as well as the chorus; Rengin, concert style performance of a Noh excerpt performed by students in formal kimono and hakama; and 3 fully costumed Noh performances each day.

• Descriptions of the content of each piece will be available in programs provided in English, French, German and Italian.
• The recital is free of charge and open to all. We look forward to seeing you at the Nohgakudo.

Day I Featuring International Noh Institute Students

June 29th (Saturday)

(from about 11.00am)

仕舞 Shimai dance excerpts in formal wear performed to the accompaniment of a small chorus.

舞囃子 Maibayashi excerpt to the accompaniment of the Noh ensemble and chorus:
「胡 蝶」KOCHO ‘The Butterfly’ shite: Cristina Picelli.

Bangai-Shimai Dances by professional Noh performers (UDAKA Tatsushige and UDAKA Norishige):
「加 茂」KAMO

(from about 12:00, noon)
Noh:『清経』KIYOTSUNE Shite: Diego Pellecchia Tsure: Monique Arnaud.

(about 1:20 p.m.)
Rengin concert-style recitation of an excerpt from a Noh.

Bangai-Shimai (performed by UDAKA Michishige):

(from about 2:00 p.m.)
Noh:『小鍛冶』 KOKAJI ‘The Swordsmith’ Shite: SOMYO Tadasuke

(from about 3:20 p.m.)
Shimai, dance excerpts

(from about 4:00 p.m.)
Noh: 『猩 々』SHOJO Shite: HIRASAWA Yumiko

Day II Featuring Keiun-kai Students

June 30th (Sunday)

Rengin concert-style recitation of an excerpt from a Noh

(from about 11:20 p.m.)

(about 11:40 p.m.)
Noh: 『羽 衣・盤渉』HAGOROMO Banshiki ‘The Robe of Feathers’ Shite: ITOH Yuki

Maibayashi excerpt with the accompaniment of the Noh ensemble:

(about 1:00 p.m.)

Rengin concert style recitation of an excerpt from a Noh.

Bangai Shimai(performed by UDAKA Michishige):

(from about 2:00 p.m.)
Noh: 『黒塚・白頭』KUROZUKA ‘The Black Mound’ Hakutoh Shite: KUROTAKE Sadato

(from about 3:10 p.m.)
Maibayashi excerpt with the accompaniment of the Noh ensemble:

(from about 4:00 p.m.)
Noh: 『猩 々』SHOJO Shite: NAGAO Atsushi

*Feel free to come and go quietly as you please during the recital.
*Be sure your cell phone is set on silent or manner mode.
*You may take pictures, but the use of flash is strictly prohibited.
*Please enjoy the tea and sweets provided.

Noh workshop at HUB Kyoto

On Sunday 21st April the INI International Noh Institute will hold a Noh workshop at the HUB Kyoto, Kyohakuin (see below for details & directions).

Noh Workshop info


INI Encounters with Noh Series

at HUB Kyoto

21 April, 14:00-17:15

Noh drama, Japanese traditional theatre of masks, music and abstract and mimetic movement, is the world’s oldest masked performance tradition. It has been performed uninterrupted for over six hundred years, and in 2001 was designated an Intangible World Heritage by UNESCO. Noh portrays a world where the boundaries of past, present, and future blur and our consciousness of memory, the moment, and anticipation of what is to come unite. In this singular environment, the spirits of elegant ladies and fierce warriors, gods and goddesses, flowering plants and demons appear and share nostalgic memories of their desires and attachments.

In the INI Encounters with Noh Workshop at HUB Kyoto, participants will learn the basic principles of Noh theatre in the tradition of the Kongō School. This includes basic meditation in preparation for training, physical/vocal warm up exercises, chant and dance movements through the study of a short dance excerpt.

No previous knowledge of Noh is required. The workshop will be conducted in English.

The workshop will be led by Dr. Diego Pellecchia, Noh scholar, student of Udaka Michishige, and active member of the International Noh Institute.

Students are kindly asked to bring comfortable clothes and socks (preferably white)

Participation fee: ¥5,000

Concessions (students): ¥2,500

Observation fee: ¥1000

This workshop is restricted to 10 places. Please book by e-mailing

About the INI – International Noh Institute

The International Noh Institute was founded in 1984 in response to the urging of foreigners studying with UDAKA Michishige as members of his student group and participants of intensive courses. Since then, UDAKA Michishige has taught students from various disciplines, including actors, dancers, psychologists and scholars, from thirteen countries through INI programs.


HUB Kyoto, Kyohakuin, 682 Shokokuji monzen-mae,

Kamigoryomae-agaru, Karasuma-dori, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto

TEL: 075-417-0115

Nearest station: Kuramaguchi on the Karasuma Subway Line.

Walk 3 minutes south (towards Doshisha University, Imadegawa-dori) on the east side of Karasuma-dori. Kyohakuin is between a tobacco shop and koban police box.

Kiyotsune 29 June 2013

I am pleased to announce that on 29 June 2013 I will take shite lead role in the Noh Kiyotsune「清経」on the Kongo Noh Theatre stage, in Kyoto, Japan. This will be my first performance as shite in a full Noh production. The event is part of the INI International Noh Institute 2013 Gala Recital, featuring other performances by Japanese and international students of Udaka Michishige, and is co-hosted by the Asahi Shibun Foundation, the Istituto Italiano di Cultura, and Gochang Conservation Institute of Cultural Properties, in collaboration with ISEAS Italian School of East Asian Studies. I will post more on Kiyotsune during the following weeks, so watch this space for updates on rehearsals, thoughts, and pictures!

I look forward to meeting you all on 29 June 2013 in Kyoto!



Udaka Michishige no Kai 宇髙通成の会                                                                                                                         INI – International Noh Institute 国際能楽研究会

The International Noh Institute Taikai Gala Recital 2013


29 June 2013 12:00-14:00

Kongo Noh Theatre, Kyoto

Shite: Diego PELLECCHIA, Tsure: Monique ARNAUD

FREE ADMISSION Explanatory materials available in English, Italian, French and German. Kongo Noh Theatre  Subway Karasuma-Imadegawa (K06), South Exit 6,  walk South 300m.

Kongo map english

The event is co-hosted by:

The Asahi Shinbun Foundation

公益財団法人 朝日新聞文化財団


Gochang logo2

in collaboration with

iseas logo

On the value of time in training

Following up my previous post on the ‘speed of time’, I have resurrected this reflection, which has been sitting in my draft folder for a while… This post originally developed into another reflection on time and objectives, which I have cut as I would like to expand it somewhere else.

What is the value of time in Noh training?

Learning a ‘unit’ of Noh, be it a line or a movement, requires time. Just as much as a grammar rule requires time and practice in order to be absorbed and successfully used. A grammar rule of a second language could be explained and analysed in detail, it could be compared with a similar rule in our native language, but would this be enough to say that we are in command of that rule? The typical mistake of the inexperienced learner is using a piece of grammar, an idiomatic expression, a certain word, in a context that is not suitable for its use. In most cases, there is no way to learn the correct usage of a given expression if not by paying much attention when native speakers use it, and by attempting to use it, and learning from our mistakes. All in all, learning a language requires the necessary time for embodiment, not mere memorisation. Memorising the grammar book will not allow us to speak correctly.

What, then, is the purpose of learning something ‘intensively’ (i. e. concentrating one’s efforts over a short period of time)? What is the ‘intensive’ quality of time? What do we gain by that ‘intensive’ quality? In the case of Noh theatre, I think that time plays a crucial role in the learning process. There is much to say about this.

Memorising utai: yowagin and tsuyogin

There are two main types of chant in Noh theatre: tsuyogin or ‘strong’, ‘dynamic’ chant and yowagin, or ‘weak’, ‘melodic’ style. As the name suggests, the first is powerful and energetic, while the second is melodic. Tsuyogin emphasises rhythm, while yowagin emphasises melody. In Yashima, the play I am memorising at the moment, tsuyogin is used to describe battle scenes, while yowagin is used to render more poetic descriptions. While yowagin consists of a melody, tsuyogin basically centres on a single tone, pitching up as the phrase progresses, which is then embellished by a number of glides. In my experience, tsuyogin is the hardest type of chant to master.

To the difficulty of chanting well, another problem adds up: that of memorisation. Yowagin melodic chant gives a lot of cues because it follows a recognisable melody. Since we are children we have been taught how to turn sentences or lists of names into little songs in order to memorise better. Same with yowagin. However tsugyogin relies almost entirely on rhythm, and its embellishments do not always follow a predictable pattern. Hence memorisation cannot be helped by melodic cues. In addition, tsuyogin is often chanted fast, as in the narration of a lively action scene.

I don’t know whether this applies to all Noh practitioners, but I find the difference in the effort I have to put in memorising astonishing.