I Mercoledì al Caffè Read more [...]
Kurokawa Noh began with ritual performances at Kasuga Shrine, dedicated to the local god of the Kurokawa district, at the foot of sacred Mt. Gassan. Thanks to the efforts of the shrine’s devotees (primarily farmers), and supported by tourism revenue and public funding, this art has been preserved throughout 500 years of history to be passed down to the performers of today.
Kurokawa Noh was created in the wake of legendary actor Zeami’s performance, which lifted Sarugaku Noh out of obscurity to become the Noh theatre we know today. It has always been practiced as an independent tradition, without affiliation to other schools of Noh, so it retains its unique style, as well as many plays and acting techniques long forgotten to mainstream Noh.
Generally, “Kurokawa Noh” refers to the performances held at Kasuga Shrine in Tsuruoka City’s Kurokawa district during the Ougi Festival (Feb. 1-2); however, it is also performed at the Kinen Festival on March 23rd, the Reitai Festival on May 3rd, and the Niiname Festival on November 23rd. Today, Kasuga Shrine serves about 240 families of devotees. The Noh performers mostly come from these families and, including the musicians and Kyogen actors, number about 160. With 230 Noh masks, 400 costumes, 540 Noh plays and 50 Kyogen plays in use, it’s folk entertainment on a massive scale.
Japan’s leading woman poet, Akiko Baba, has said that “Kurokawa Noh’s charm is in prayer: it is performance offered to the gods. The greatest Noh is not presented for human eyes, but performed in one’s own heart.” In 1976, Kurokawa Noh was designated an important intangible folk cultural property, and gathered attention across Japan as a valuable cultural art rooted in daily life. Public performances overseas (in the United States of America in 1991, and France in 2008) have also met with great success, receiving acclaim internationally.
○Kasuga Shrine Festivals
Date Event Location Feb. 1 & 2 Ougi Festival ・The most important of the
4 yearly festivals
・Also called the Tofu Festival*
Local performance hall, or the Kasuga Shrine Stage Mar. 23 Kinen Festival ・A festival to pray for bountiful
crops of the 5 major grains
Kasuga Shrine Stage May 3 Reitai Festival ・Kasuga Shrine’s annual festival Nov. 23 Niiname Festival ・Celebrating the fresh harvest
*Kurokawa Specialty: Freeze-Dried Tofu
At the Ougi Festival, a freeze-dried tofu treat is one more famous aspect of nighttime Kurokawa Noh! Before the festival, the Kurokawa district’s people come together and, over the course of two days, roast and freeze over 10,000 skewers of tofu. These are then boiled in miso and doused in a special sauce called “Ni-ban” before eating.
Date Event Location Jul. 15 Mt. Haguro Flower Festival ・Dewa Sanzan shrine’s annual festival
・Also known as simply “the Flower Festival”
The Summit of Mt. Haguro: Dewa Sanzan Shrine Ritual Hall
Date Event Location The last Sat. in February Candlelight Noh ・An ethereal Noh performance set amidst the flickering light of candles atop the stage Kasuga Shrine Stage The last Sat. in July Fire-on-the-Water Noh ・A whimsical Noh performance on a specially prepared outdoor stage atop the water, lit by freestanding bonfires Kushibiki Comprehensive Athletics Park: Open-air Stage
○Performance on Request
About 5 or 6 requests for Kurokawa Noh performances inside and outside the prefecture are received per year; these are useful in the preservation of the art.
Getting to the “Ougi Kaikan” Performance Venue
◇Plane ＋ Car
Haneda Airport (Tokyo International Airport) ⇒ Shonai Airport [approx. 60 min]
⇒ Car or taxi to the venue [approx. 50 min]
◇Train ＋ Car
Tokyo Station ⇒ Niigata Station [approx. 2 hrs via bullet train] ⇒ Tsuruoka Station [approx. 2 hrs by limited-express train]
⇒ Car or taxi to the venue [approx. 30 min]