On Sunday 8th March 2015 at the Kongo Nogakudo, on the occasion of the fourth Ryumon no kai event, Kongo Tatsunori, son of the Iemoto Kongo Hisanori is going to perform the Noh Toru in the special variation Jusandan-no-mai.
The Minister Minamoto-no-Toru, son of Emperor Saga, who built a magnificent villa in Kyoto called Kawara-no-in where he created a replica of the salt kilns of Shiogama in present day Miyagi prefecture. Toru is a highly evocative and dramatic Noh with a noble dance in the Jusandan-no-mai, Dance in Thirteen Movements variation, at the end of the Noh, in which the standard five movement dance is repeated in the Banshiki mode related to the element water, closing with three movements of the Kyu-no-mai, Rapid Dance.
The 4th Ryumon-no-kai
Time: Sunday 8th March 2015 from 13:00 (doors open at 12:30)
Place: The Kongo Noh Theatre Nakadachiuri-agaru, Karasuma-dori, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto. 602-0912. Subway Karasuma-Imadegawa (K06), South Exit (n.6). Walk South 300m. MAP >>
Tickets: regular admission 5,500yen, students 3,000yen
On Saturday 6th December 2014 from 13:00 to 17:00 the 17th Memorial Performance commemorating the late Iemoto (Head Master) Kongo Iwao II will take place at the Kongō Noh Theatre in Kyoto. This exceptional event will feature two special plays: Obasute, starring the current Iemoto, Kongō Hisanori, and Dōjō-ji (koshiki version) starring his son, Kongō Tatsunori. (See full program below. If you are interested in purchasing a ticket, contact me here).
Obasute, by Zeami Motokiyois one of the highest ranking plays in the Noh repertoire, and is based on the ancient Japanese legend of obasute-yama, a mountain where the elderly were abandoned by their own relatives, and left there to die. The legend of obasute-yama has been popularised by the famous film The Ballad of Narayama by Kinoshita Keisuke (1958 remade by Imamura Shōhei in 1983). In the Noh play Obasute, the spirit of a woman who was abandoned on Obasute-yama appears to a traveller who is visiting the area, and describes how her loneliness prevent her to break away from her attachments to this world and reach enlightenment. The play is pervaded by the imagery of the full moon, a buddhist symbol of enlightenment, also associated to the Seishi-bosatsu, Bodhisattva of Wisdom and companion of Buddha Amida.
The story of Dōjō-ji is well known in Japan, also because of its Kabuki rendition. The play tells the story of a young woman whose impossible love for a monk transforms her into a deadly monster. After having learned about the girl’s feelings, the man finds refuge in a temple, where monks hide him under the bell. Realising his hiding spot, the woman, now transfigured into a monstrous snake, wraps herself around the bell. As her own snake-body burns with deadly passion, the bell melts along with the man hiding underneath. Years after this accident, a ceremony is held to celebrate a the rising of a new bell. The Abbot has prohibited women to enter the temple precincts, but a young and attractive girl comes knocking at the gates… This
17th Kongo Iwao II Memorial Performance
Time: Saturday 6th December 2014 – 13:00 to 17:00. Doors open at 12:30.
On 17 August 2014 from 9:30am the Kei’un-kai (the group Udaka Michishige’s students, incuding the International Noh Institute) will hold a Memorial Performance at the Kongō Noh Theatre in Kyoto. The performance will begin with two bangai shimai or special feature dance excerpts by masters Taneda Michikazu (Eguchi) and Udaka Michishige (Fujitō), followed by a recitation of an excerpt from the Noh Seigan-ji by Udaka Michishige’s sons, Tatsushige and Norishige. Student performances will begin at 9:50 and will feature a number of shimai, maibayashi and two full Noh plays (from 13:00 Atsumori, Shite: Nagao Atsushi; from 17:00 Funa Benkei, Shite: Higaki Takafumi).
ADMISSION FREE: feel free to come and go quietly. An English synopsis of the program will be available. Download here the full program (Japanese only).
Members of the International Noh Institute will perform the following dances:
Interesting performance today at the Kongō Nōgakudō: the young Iemoto of the Hōshō school, Hōshō Kazufusa (27) and the future Iemoto of the Kongō school, Kongō Tatsunori (25) performed in the same event that brings together the current/future leaders of their respective stylistic schools. Hōshō Kazufusa performed Makiginu (sōkagura version), and it was very interesting for me to observe the Hōshō-style staging of a play I am rather familiar with, since I took part in it as tsure in 2010, and compare it with the Kongō rendition. Kongō Tatsunori performed Kokaji (hakutō version), a variation for which the Kongō is renown, featuring the stunning white and gold costume, white wig, and ō-tobide golden mask.
The event celebrates a long lasting relationship between the Hōshō and the Kongō school, but also acknowledges the efforts and achievements of two young protagonists of the contemporary Noh scene. The event will take place again in Tokyo at the Hōshō Nōgakudō on November 8th.
On Sunday 24th of November a special celebratory event marked the 10th anniversary of the construction of the new Kongō Nō theatre, in Kyoto. The old theatre in Muromachi-street was a landmark in the history of Kyoto Noh, as it was the only stage rebuilt after all three main stages in Kyoto were burnt during the the Meiji upheavals. In 2004 the new state-of-the-art Kongō theatre opened on Karasuma street, in front of the imperial palace. I never had the pleasure of visiting the old theatre, but I heard many stories about it from actors in the school. It still had tatami mats instead of chairs, and large windows that let warm daylight illuminate the stage, across clouds of tobacco smoke lifting from the back seats. There, important guests would be able to sit in privacy, hidden behind lowered bamboo curtains, which they would lift only to watch the performance. Unfortunately the building did not conform to the modern health & safety (and fire protection) standards, and had to be demolished.
The Shin-Kongō Nōgakudō (New Kongō Nōgakudō) is one of the best Noh theatres I have ever visited. The design style of the building mixes traditional and modern, wood and concrete, in a unique blend that creates an atmosphere that is not too relaxed, nor too intimidating. It has comfortable armchairs (but not too dangerously comfortable), and the temperature usually is just right, unlike other places where you either freeze or steam.
Sunday’s performance opened with a special variation of Okina a ritual performance celebrating long and prosperous life. In this variation, called jūnitsukiōrai, the Iemoto Kongō Hisanori and his son Kongō Tatsunori took the roles of two Okina exchanging verses describing the characteristics of each lunar month. The choice of the variation was excellent because it emphasises the cycle of time and seasons with both the Kongō father and son on stage, symbolising the generational transmission of the Kongō heritage. It closed with a final left-right salutation from Kongō Tatsunori, who will be the future Iemoto.
The maibayashi extracted from the Noh Ema featured three of the senior Noh actors in the Kongō school, Teshima Michiharu, Imai Kiyotaka and my teacher, Udaka Michishige, who took the strong role of the god Tajikarao, pulling the Sun-Goddess Amaterasu out of the cave where she was hiding.
Hagoromo (shōgi no monogi variation) featured the beautiful ‘phoenix robe’, a costume only worn by the Kongō Iemoto. In this variation the tennyō (celestial maid) dons the costume while sitting on a stool in the middle of the stage.
Shakkyō (The Stone Bridge) concluded the long day of performances, with Kongō Tatsunori taking the role of the lion (an avatar of the Bodhisattva Manjusri) frolicking among white and red peonies.
On Sunday 27th October 2013 Kongō-ryu shite actor UDAKA Michishige will perform the rare Noh Hōso, exclusive to the Kongō school of Noh, as part of the Kongo Noh Theatre monthly programme. The Noh Yōkihi and the Kyogen Hagi Daimyō will also be performed on the day.
Noh: Hōso 彭祖
Celebrations are being held at the court of Gi no Buntei in China and among the many immortals who come from their mountain hermitages to pay their respects is one who appears to be a young boy but calls himself ‘Hōso’, the ‘Prosperous Ancestor’. Asked about his identity, he tells how he was once in service at court but was exiled long ago for the crime of stepping over the Emperor’s pillow. In his compassion the Emperor gave the youth the pillow as a keepsake along with a quotation from the Kannon Sutra. Hōso explains that he was acquired eternal youth by drinking the water from the stream running by his hut. Hōso faithfully copied the quotation on the leaves of chrysanthemums which grew by his hut and dew that fell from them transformed the stream into an elixir. The emperor vows to visit Hōso’s hermitage on Mt. Tekken and later Hōso dances for him there.
Hōso is the sequel to Makura Jidō (titled Kiku Jidō in the Kanze school version) in which the young boy is discovered in his place of exile and he first realises that he has become an immortal, thanks to the power of the quotation he has copied on the chrysanthemum leaves. Hōso is performed only by the Kongō school.
(Text: Rebecca Teele Ogamo)
Kongo Noh Theatre, Kyoto. Monthly performance series (October).
Noh Yōkihi: Matsuno Yasunori
Kyogen Hagi Daimyō: Shigeyama Akira
Noh Hōso: Udaka Michshige
Doors open at 13:00, performances start at 13:30.
Tickets: Advance booking: 5,500yen At the door: 6,000yen Students: 3,000yen
For more information on the performance, or to reserve tickets, please contact me here.