A Noh Journey


Nō wo tabi suru is a collection of pictures and articles previously published in the magazine Fujin gahō. The pictures portray Noh actor Umewaka Rokurō Genshō wearing costumes and masks of various characters from various Noh plays against the background of the places where the stories of the plays actually take place, for example the Goddess Benzaiten on the shore of Chikubushima Island on the Biwa lake for the play Chikubushima, or Rokujō no Miyasudokoro walking the characteristic paths among bamboo thickets in Arashiyama, Kyoto, for the play Nonomiya.

This is an interesting book as it tries to visualise Noh character in real places, which is one of the beauties of Noh. I think it was Komparu Kunio who in his book Noh Theatre: Principles and Perspectives listed among the points of interest of Noh the possibility to learn about Japanese geography and to travel without moving, qualities that in Japan are characteristic of classic poetry. The pictures are truly beautiful and do an excellent service to the wonderful mask and costumes which I believe belong to the Umewaka Rokurō family.


In my view the most striking shot is that of the character of the mother in the play Sumidagawa. I think the picture conveys the sense of estrangement the mother who travelled from Kyoto to Tokyo seeking for her lost child, must have felt. At the same time it reminds me that so many of the beautiful sceneries described in Noh are not that beautiful anymore..

The book closes with a chapter on the local food that Genshō and his companions had the chance to taste on their journey… a typically Japanese note that reminds me of the upper-class elderly woman which represent the target of this kind of publication. Sob.