Noh is one of the most traditional Japanese Performances. Noh is a highly stylized masked song and dance drama. It is a drama because it requires at least two "actors." It is music because it requires actors to sing, and it also calls for an orchestra and a chorus. However, it is quite different from any western dramas or music. Noh themes and dramaturgy are quite simple. Rather than concentrating on plot development, its scripts present the build up and intensification of a single emotion or atmosphere through which the pursuit of beauty and truth is expressed.

Noh Performance “Shohjoh” at the Welcome Reception

Noh“Shohjoh” is one of the most popular and happiest plays of Noh Performance. The story is derived from Chinese folklore.
In Shenyang City, Kofu, who is very diligent and devoted to his parents, sells liquor close to the lakeshore. Everyday a child-faced customer comes and drinks over and over but never gets drunk. One day Kofu asks who he is. He answers that he is Shohjoh, an imaginary sprite of liquor with a monkey head and human body, and then disappears. At night the sprite floats up to the lake surface and rewards Kofu by dancing; he finally bewitches his large pot so that it will always be full.


History of the Noh theatre

What is called "Noh" today is a mixture of several preceding theatrical arts. It is said that the main root of Noh can be found in Sangaku, which was brought from China in the 8th century. By the 13th century it evolved to Sarugaku, in which comical mimicry or acrobatics were performed with music. In the transition from Sarugaku to Noh (or Nôgaku), comical elements were eliminated, and contemporary popular dances and music were added instead.

The biggest figures in the history of Noh are Kan'ami (1333-1384) and his son Zeami (1364?-1443), who were both performers and playwrights. They refined and polished the preceding Sarugaku and added new elements. Many agree that what we call the Noh theatre today was perfected by them. In particular, Zeami was a great theorist who wrote many books on the dramaturgy and logic of the Noh theatre, and these books are still considered to be the main texts for Noh actors and scholars.

Most of the plays were written between the 14th and 16th centuries. Since then, there have been few attempts to write new Noh plays. There used to be more than 1,000 Noh plays, but about 80% of them have been abandoned in the process of refinement. Nowadays, there are about 240 plays that are frequently performed, and almost all the plays that Noh actors frequently perform are those written by the 16th century.

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