Kuraki Noh Theatre
This photograph was taken on the day of the annual performance of the amateur noh group to which I belong. Pascal Masse, an exchange student at Meiji Gakuin from Aix-en-Provence, France, came to watch (poor soul). I am wearing formal costume, mon-tsuki hakama. On this occasion I sang the lead shite in the play Tadanori, based on incidents related in the Heike monogatari. Another member of the group sang the part of the waki, a priest, while five others including a professional sang the musically difficult part of the chorus (jiutai). This kind of unaccompanied singing is called su-utai. It is fascinating to do, but there is not much for spectator to watch (otsukaresama, Pascal-kun). Except for picking up and putting down the fan, there are no gestures. It is, however, a hobby enjoyed by thousands in Japan.
(larger photo)
Kuraki Noh Theatre
Yokohama (96.11.04)

notes for students

photo of amateur performer mon-tsuki hakama. 紋付き袴
Formal kimono with family crest and divided "skirt". The mon or family crest I use is in the shape of three oak leaves. It is difficult to put on hakama correctly. All the men in the group needed help in from our teacher, a professional of the Kanze school.
shite シテ
Main actor in a noh play (the "performer" or the "doer", as it were). In this case the shite appears first as an old man before revealing his true form, as the ghost of the young Tadanori.
Tadanori 忠度
Leading member of the Taira family, younger brother of the de-facto ruler Kiyomori. Studied poetry under Fujiwara Shunzei (Toshinari). Killed at the battle of Ichinotani in 1184.2.7. See Heike monogatari 7.16 and 9.14. The incidents are largely historical.
Heike monogatari 平家物語
The Tale of the Heike, medieval narrative describing the rise and fall of the Taira family (Heike). Their last encounter with the Minamoto family (Genji) was a sea battle at Dannoura in southern Honshu (1185.3.24).
su-utai 素謡
Noh singing without the accompaniment of musicians (drums and flute). Performers kneel in formal style and do not wear costume. Professionals sing from memory but amateurs usually refer to the text (utaibon 謡本), which is placed on a stand called a kendai 見台, as shown in the photograph on the left. When not singing, as here, you place the fan on the floor in front of you, and put your hands in the pockets of the hakama.

photographs courtesy of Mrs. Kusuko Miyauchi
This page added 96/12/10. Revised 2004/05/30.
Michael Watson, Faculty of International Studies, Meiji Gakuin University
address of this site: http://www.meijigakuin.ac.jp/~watson
e-mail to: watsonk.meijigakuin.ac.jp