An Actor on the Noh Stage
This is an actor performing in typical slow motion on a Noh theater stage, in Tokyo. Noh is an ancient dramatic form, with themes from folklore, ancient history and Buddhist religion. The architecture of the Noh stage provides another example of the elegant simple ancient building methods and materials.
(From fourteen portfolios were arranged for the 2002 publication of J.W.Bennett’s memoir Doing Photography and Social Research in the Allied Occupation of Japan, 1948-1951)
Noh theater robe (atsuita), 19th century, Japan, with an overall design of a tri-pronged tortoiseshell or sword tip motif (bishomon-kikkô) in red silk and gilt paper on the top half of the robe and red and yellow silk discontinuous supplementary patterning wefts on the bottom half. Along the upper front, upper back and sleeves are curved-top panels inside which are designs of dragon (ryû), Chinese lion (karashishi), crane (tsuru), phoenix (ho-o), tortoise (kame) and carp (tai), unicorn (kirin) and elephant/lion (baku) in purple, pink, blue, orange, green, and white silk and gilt paper discontinuous supplementary patterning wefts. There is a dark purple plain weave silk lining. Silk, gilt paper strips; twill-weave ground with discontinuous supplementary patterning wefts tied down with supplementary warps in twill-weave
MFA. (William Sturgis Bigelow Collection)
Nō is a grand old theater tradition in Japan, dating back to the 1300s (the beginning of the Muromachi Period). The theater of a given society is always interesting, because the language of the theater can vary so greatly, and seem quite incomprehensible to an outsider who doesn’t possess the cultural training to recognize that this fan is a sword, and that a spear.
An example from Nō is the katsuraobi worn by those playing female roles. The katsuraobi was a real garment, and in the context of Nō, carried specific meanings. Consider this quote from Japan: The Shaping of Daimyo Culture:
“The katsuraobi with cherry blossoms and the one with the water plantain and pickerel weed design are of the iroiri type, meaning that red is used, and they are worn for young female roles. The katsuraobi with the willow and snow disk design is ironashi, or without red, and is used in middle-aged or elderly female roles. The katsuraobi with the ‘fish scale’ design of triangles is worn by female characters driven mad by jealousy.”
If you want the opportunity to really dig into some world building, consider developing a theater tradition in your fictional universe. What do they colors and the patterns symbolize? Why do they symbolize that, and do the modern characters know, or is the origin lost in the mists of time? The Elcor production of Hamlet is a fantastic exercise in this.
If you decide to use something like a katsuraobi, here are some similar items:
Charmeuse Silk Van Gogh’s “Irises” Long Scarf Shawl via Amazon. Cotton. Ships to the US only. $37 USD
Image Credit: Zo’Onna Noh Mask, photograph of 17th-18th century Noh mask [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Great costume notes and great mask pictures!
Noh Masks #noh #masks #theatre #anthropology #moa #artifacts #ubc #japan #culture #blackandwhite
Hannya and Okina masks.
Nagoya Noh Theatre. It’s just outside Nagoya-jo, open to visits for free and with a really beautiful/magic stage.
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