Noh on Video?
Looking for Okina Text

Question raised by: Barbara Nostrand

Discussants: Monica Bethe, Michael Watson, Thomas Hare, Hugh de Ferranti, Noel John Pinnington, Karen Brazell, William Bodiford

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From: Barbara Nostrand
Date: Tue, 29 May 2001 23:47:14 -0400
Subject: Noh on Video?

I recall some discussion of a series of Noh-Kyogen videos a while back. Someone wrote me and said that they might be able to obtain a synopsis video for me. Regardless, I was wondering where it would be possible to obtain a copy.

Also, a group of people wish to experience a Noh play. I am thinking of having them read through Atsumori as there is a rather nice analysis of the play in Dance in the Noh Theatre and also a complete translation. It is a rather fine warrior-ghost play and I hope that is a fairly good choice. Does anyone have a suggestion for a possibly better Noh play for absolute beginers?

Thank you very much.

From: Monica Bethe
Date: Wed, 30 May 2001 07:15:22 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Noh on Video?

You can order the noh videos (one an introduction to the life of a young noh actor and the five categories of noh plays, the other a shortened version of the play Izutsu with subtitles--Karen Brazell's translation from her recent book Traditional Japanese Theater) from Jonah Saltz <>.

Atsumori is a good play, so is Izutsu, translations available in Royall Tylers Noh Dramas as well as Karen's book and Tom Hare's Zeami's style. I don't know of any good videos of Atsumori, but you can look it up on Karen's theater site <> and get a taste of the Heike Monogatari version of the story as well as the annotated noh text and a discussion of warrior costumes that I did.
Monica Bethe

From: Barbara Nostrand
Date: Thu, 31 May 2001 21:23:21 -0400
Subject: Looking for Okina Text

Pardon me again.

I was reminded today that I am looking for a text for Okina. Does anyone know of a good version in English ideally with choreography? Thank you very much.

rom: Michael Watson
Date: Fri, 01 Jun 2001 11:31:51 +0900
Subject: Re: Okina

My bibliography of noh translations
needs some work--it lists "Sadler 1934" but Okina is not one of the 12 noh plays in Arthur Sadler's _Japanese Plays: Noh-Kyogen-Kabuki_. I should also add a reference to an old Italian translation:

Okina. Trans. into Italian by Mario Marega, in "Okina Il vegliardo. La ballata piu` antica tra il No^-gaku, la piu` sacra." Monumenta Nipponica 3:2 (1940), 611-18

Articles about Okina include papers by a former and current pmjs member:

de Poorter, Erika G.
No^ which is no No^: The Ritual Play 'Okina'" in: Maske und Kothurn 35,2/3 (1989), 21-30

Rath, Eric C.
"From Representation to Apotheosis: No's Modern Myth of Okina"
Asian Theatre Journal (Fall 2000), 253-268
Two paragraph abstract at
This can be read online if your institution is subscribed

Michael Watson

From: Barbara Nostrand
Date: Fri, 1 Jun 2001 00:32:52 -0400
Subject: Re: Okina

Dear Prof. Watson.

Unfortunately, my institution does not subscribe to Project Muse,
so I can not download the article from Asian Theatre Journal.

From: Thomas Hare
Date: Thu, 31 May 2001 23:01:45 -0700
Subject: Re: Okina

For choreography of Okina, you might do best to look at a videotaped performance. They're not easy to come by, in my experience, but Umewaka Rokuro- has recently released one which I thought was very well danced and dramatic. I got my copy from Kinokuniya in San Francisco. (I believe they have a website.) The ISBN is 4-87766-132-8. The price is a whopping \15,000. (There's also a nice tape of Rokuro- dancing Do-jo-ji and a three tape intro to no, which I haven't seen.)

Happy viewing,
Tom Hare
(do- do- tararitararira)

From: Hugh de Ferranti
Date: Fri, 01 Jun 2001 11:56:42 -0400
Subject: noh videos for teaching

The problem of audio-visual resources for noh (but also for the other major music-theatre genres) keeps coming up here. To confine the discussion to noh, I'd be interested to hear opinion as to why it is that, since the work of Monica Bethe and Karen Brazell in the '70s, not a single high-quality video of a play with English sub-titles (and Japanese in romanisation, or whatever else might seem appropriate for pedagogical purposes) has been made commercially available. Noh texts are read in both translation and Japanese at every major university in the world where there is a substantial Japanese program. Most who teach them these days are well aware of the fact that their performative dimension ought not to be ignored. If some practitioners and scholars teamed up to land a major production grant and create a set of quality videos which could be sold at anything like a reasonable price, it would surely sell out overnight and become an indispensable tool for teaching about noh. Are the intellectual property rights of the various performers on the stage a major hurdle here? Or the profit ratio for production companies? Surely these are not insurmountable problems. Perhaps I'm being naive about various aspects, but I have to wonder why a few of us can't get this crucial work done.

Hugh de Ferranti

From: Noel John Pinnington
Date: Fri, 1 Jun 2001 11:21:35 -0700
Subject: Re: Looking for Okina Text

Elements of Okina libretti are preserved separately; the Noh lineages have slightly different versions of those related to the roles of Okina and Senzai, and Kyogen lineages keep a number of alternative versions of Sanbaso and partner (either Menbakomochi or Senzai). There are, moreover, the additional elements related to Enmei Kaja and Chichi no Jo. The abridged form most commonly played nowadays is found on pages 1 - 13 of Sanari Kentaro: 1930, Yokyoku Taikan 1, Meiji Shoin. It is very well annotated, with a full description of the action, but not choreography. Versions of the Sanbaso alternates are found in Nonomura Kaizo, and Ando Joji: 1931, Kyogen Shusei, Shunyodo.

May I advertise my own article on Okina, which I believe takes the closest look at the changes in its performance history, as well as at its interpretations, available in English. Naturally I believe that it is essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in Okina. US scholars seem generally unaware of it, perhaps because the Bulletin of SOAS, a journal widely read by scholars in other Asian and African fields, is not easily available to American scholars of Japanese.

The article is Pinnington, N. J. 1998: "Invented Origins: Muromachi Interpretations of Okina," in the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (London University) 61/3 492-518 I would be happy to send offprints to seriously interested scholars.

Noel Pinnington

From: Noel John Pinnington
Date: Fri, 1 Jun 2001 11:59:41 -0700
Subject: Re: noh videos for teaching

The odd thing about videos on Noh (and Bunraku for that matter), is that the makers try to make them interesting by showing only the "exciting bits." I have found that the greatest impact is actually achieved by showing a full performance. Recently I showed a class Matsukaze, which is pretty slow moving, but students were entranced. The version I used was a copy from NHK TV. Why is it that we cannot buy these TV versions (of which there seem to be a large number), but are constantly having shoved down our throats so called introductions, showing a performer on an empty western stage doing highlights with a tape in the background, generally accompanied by some scholar's vague imaginings about Zen. If we had the raw performance, we as teachers could choose how to present it to our classes.
Noel Pinnington

From: Karen Brazell
Date: Sat, 02 Jun 2001 10:08:11 -0400
Subject: Re: [pmjs] Looking for Okina Text

There is an English version of Okina called "The Song of Sambaso"
translated by Jane Marie Law in my Traditional Japanese Theater (Columbia Press, 1998) p. 398. This is basically the Okina text; the stage directions though are for Awaji puppets.

Karen Brazell

At 09:23 PM 5/31/01 -0400, [Barbara Nostrand] wrote:
>I was reminded today that I am looking for a text for Okina.
>Does anyone know of a good version in English ideally with
>choreography? Thank you very much.

Karen W. Brazell
Goldwin Smith Professor of Japanese Literature and Theatre
Asian Studies, Rockefeller Hall
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14850

From: William Bodiford
Date: Sat, 02 Jun 2001 10:55:51 -0700
Subject: Re: noh videos for teaching

At 2001-06-01 , Noel Pinnington wrote:
>The version I used was a copy from NHK TV. Why is it that we cannot buy these TV versions (of which there seem to be a large number),

There is a NHK retail store in Shibuya. They have an enormous number of NHK specials for sell. They do not take orders by mail, but anyone who visits Tokyo can go there and purchase them. This is how I acquired several of their specials on religious practices and events that I show my classes. I did not save a copy of their list of titles, so I do not know if the Noh plays are still available or not.

Good luck,

William Bodiford
Dept. of East Asian Languages and Cultures
290 Royce Hall; Box 951540
Los Angeles CA 90095-1540

From: Michael Watson
Date: Sun, 03 Jun 2001 08:17:52 +0900
Subject: noh videos for teaching

The NKH retail store between Yoyogi and Shibuya is here:

The videos available can be seen at
but sales are only authorized within Japan. Some items will interest
teachers in a number of areas--as well as fans of taiga drama--but
traditional theatrical arts, alas, are represented more by kyogen than noh.
Only one introductory video.

From: Monica Bethe
Date: Sat, 2 Jun 2001 21:05:31 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: noh videos for teaching

I repeat my message of several days ago. There is a recent video of Izutsu put out by Kyoto actors and selling for about 7.000 yen commercially. It has English subtitles for Izutsu. Actually there is also a video by the same people on noh in general and the kyogen busu with subtitles and an old THIS IS KYOGEN video for sale. Jonah Saltz is behind the English part of all of these. Of course we need more. Major problem is actor's rights, which is getting more and more sticky as the years go by and as people misuse visual sources with increasing abandon.