Next challenge: an important tsure role

img_4850My teacher’s son Udaka Norishige is preparing to perform as shite in the play Kayoi Komachi, at the bimonthly training session his father organises. When my schedule permits (they usually do this in the morning) I join in a chorus member, but this time I will take the tsure companion of the shite role. In Kayoi Komachi this is a rather demanding role as the tsure (the ghost of the Heian period poetess Ono no Komachi) acts alone during the first half of the play, de-facto acting as a shite.

It will be challenging also because it is the first time I take on a female role in a full play. I will need to practice hard to train my voice to sing in a ‘feminine mode’, (though this kind of mode still sounds quite manly to the untrained ear).


14th ‘Seiran Noh’ – MIDARE, FUTARI SHIZUKA


The Seiran-Noh (青蘭能) is a yearly performance at the Kongo Noh theatre in Kyoto featuring Udaka Michishige and his sons, Udaka Tatsushige and Udaka Norishige. Until now known as ‘Seigan Noh’, the event has recently changed its name into ‘Seiran’ honouring Udaka Michishige’s great-grandfather, painter Kawada Shoryo (1824-1898), who was closely related to Sakamoto Ryoma, one of the central characters in the Meiji restoration. Kawada’s favourite flower was the orchid (‘ran’ 蘭).

See below for ticket reservation

This year’s Seiran Noh (8 September 2013) features the Noh Midare, a special variation (kogaki) of the Noh Shōjō in which the midare-ashi a particularly unusual and challenging dance, is performed instead of the usual chu-no-mai medium tempo dance. Midare is a hiraki-mono, one of the plays marking a performer’s passage into a new phase of their career. This year Udaka Norishige will perform Midare, follow ing his father and elder brother’s steps.

The second play is Futari Shizuka, (‘Two Shizukas’), a third category play based on happenings and characters from the Genpei War tales. The special feature of this play is the instrumental dance performed by identically dressed shite and shite-tsure: the spirit of Minamoto no Yoshitsune’s lover Shizuka Gozen and a woman possessed by her. Futari Shizuka will be performed by Udaka Michishige and his eldest son, Udaka Tatsushige.

8 September 2013・The 14th  Annual Udaka Seiran Noh Performance

Kongo Noh Theatre 1:30~5:00 p.m. (doors open at 1:00p.m.)


Shite: UDAKA Michishige, Tsure: UDAKA Tatsushige


Shite: SHIGEYAMA Shime, Ado: SHIGEYAMA Motohiko


Shite: UDAKA Norishige

Tickets: Center Reserved Seats 7,000 yen, Side Reserved Seats 6,000 yen, General Admission Mid-center Seats 5,000 yen, Student, General Admission Mid-center Seats 2,000 yen

Synopses of the plays will be available at the theater in English, French, German, and Italian.

Contact me for information and ticket reservation


War dances in translation

Today I helped Udaka Norishige one of my teacher’s sons, with a Noh workshop at Iori Machiya in Kyoto. I don’t know much about the background of the workshop itself, as I only came upon request of Norishige-sensei, and my only duty was that of interpreting. The group of 18 people who participated to the workshop was mostly composed of Israeli and British citizens. Some of the Israeli participants were actually members of the Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv, where director Ninagawa Yukio is currently working on an adaptation of the Trojan Women with a mixed Israeli-Palestinian-Japanese cast. 

At the end of the workshop, which was very well received by the enthusiastic participants (we were flooded with questions!) Udaka Michishige danced a shimai, while Norishige-sensei and I sang as a small chorus. The piece was Yashima, which I also recently performed in Matsuyama.

Yashima ô-kassen (八島大合戦, The Battle of Yashima) by Hayashi-ya Shôgorô

The Noh Yashima (second category, warrior plays) tells the story of the homonymous battle that took place in the late 12th century at Yashima Island, (present Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture). Yashima is one of the most important battles of the Genpei War between the rival Minamoto and Heike clans. In Yashima the ghost of General Minamoto no Yoshitsune appears in front of a travelling monk and re-enacts various phases of the battle. Although the play Yashima is one of the three kachi-shura or ‘winning Noh’ (the other two being Tamura and Ebira), the tone of the play is far from being celebratory of the Minamoto victory. Death and killing is on both sides and as the chorus describes how, end of the battle, warriors scatter away like seagulls, while the ghost of Yoshitsune disappears in white foam, as the wind sweeps the desolate battlefield.

I wanted to write more in this post but I think I have actually said enough. Today I did my best.

Yashima island (image from the Samurai Archives)