January 08, 2011

Heavy Drunk・・・ in Noh Play

I had never expected to see a heavy drunk in Noh.

 He is "Shojo(猩々)". "Shojo" is the title of the Noh play as well as the name of  a legendary creature who lives in the water and loves Sake, Japanese rice wine, very much. His red face tells us he is a heavy drinker.

 When I was a teenager, my mother took me to a Noh theater.  It was the first time for me to  enjoy Noh play. The theater was very comfortable and cozy, and Noh performance was very slow as if  sculptures were walking. Chanting the story and playing Japanese traditional musical instruments sounded like a soft lullaby. All of the art helped me feel drowsy.  I fell asleep and scarcely  remembered what I saw.

Since then I had had stereotype of Noh plays," Noh is highly stylized theatrical art, I know, but  not exiting. Movements are too slow and the language is too  hard to understand. Noh is for the people as old as my mother."

"Shojo" completely overturned my stereotype of Noh.  "How exciting Noh is!!"

He is a good drinker, but drinks like a fish. More sake he drinks, happier he becomes.
 Now he is dancing joyfully.

He shows a number of funny drunken behaviors. Does he remind you of anybody,
 your husband, father or brother when they are drunken?


He stumbles and loses his balance. 

At last, he collapses. 

 In olden days Noh was performed on an open-air, simple stage like this. The sun, the sky, clouds, trees, everything around the stage become the effective stage backdrops. Clouds cast mysterious shadows time to time. A gust of the wind brings murmurs of the trees. Crows fly over the stage cawing. 

A deer also comes to enjoy Noh play.

 To perform "Shojo" is  auspicious. Why is the Noh play of a heavy drinker auspicious? I suppose sake is involved in  almost all ceremonial and happy occasions. So, to have sake is associated with happiness and joy.  Also Sake is  a very important item to offer to Shinto deities every day. That's why "Shojo" is considered as an auspicious play.

After watching Noh,  I pondered for a while. When I was young, I lived fast and loved something exciting. Now,  I am older than my mother at that time and  I became to enjoy Noh. Is it  because of my age or the exciting play?

Nara is said to be the cradle of Noh as the original  four schools of Noh were born  here. In olden days, the prototype of Noh would be performed  in front of a shrine as  the offereing to Shinto deities.


  1. Great series of "documentary" photos of Noh! Very fascinating characters you have photographed, which reminds me of "Drunken master" of Jackie Chan's movie!
    I agree with you in terms of the comprehension of Noh script and the story. Although I'm getting matured, Noh performers look like big dolls that are almost out of order and cannot understand the story at all, sadly... Probably I should watch the performance that 猩々 appears!



  2. Nice shots, maybe despite possible many people’s heads and strict regulations! Your photos show Shite’s up-tempo movement nicely different from usual slow-moving play.

    The word Shojo reminds me of Shojo-ji no Tanuki Bayashi.

    Like you, Noh play would put me into sleep when I was younger. Perhaps our various experiences of long life(?) help the drama happen in our hearts more than before our eyes.

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  4. Yoshi,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Yes, me too! At first, "Drunken Master" popped up in my mind. I found many similar actions with Jackie Chan's ones.

    The texture of my photos are coarse. I should have taken a heavier camera.

    Your photo of 太太神楽 is excellent!! I want to see it very much.

  5. Stardust,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Luckily, there are many things and chances in Nara which help us live slow. But, always I had taken them for granted. This year, I will appreciate and enjoy them more.

  6. I aspire to see the graceful performance plays with gorgeous costume and Japan's indigenous melodies.

    赤でも橙色でもない特別な色、これは朱色と呼ぶのでしょうか? その色で染められた酔った表情が滑稽なお面と刺繍が豪華な衣装で優雅に舞う様子が屋外で見れてとても羨ましいです。鼓と太鼓も独特な拍子なのでしょうね。印象的な場面を紹介して頂きありがとうございます。

  7. Anzu,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Noh is said to have been born in Nara. And I appreciate Noh played outside more as it seems more dynamic and wilder.



  8. Elegant dancing.

    The eternal serenity.
    Japanese profound...

    Thank you.

  9. Hello Snow white.
    How briliant the red costume with detailed embroidery is!It is charming to see the dancer sitting down after collapsing. このようなシーンを実際にどこかで見たことありますね・・・・with smile.

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  11. ruma,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Before this, I watched "田村", the story of Sakanoue-no-Tamuramaro. I'm glad that Nara is the hometown of Noh.

    Thank you.

  12. Redrose,

    Thank you for your comment.

    We are familiar with these scenes like this, especially around year-end and New-Year season.

    While watching the Noh play, I felt "Shojo" closer to me.

    We are tolerant to drunks, aren't we?

  13. haricot,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Me,too. I love Kyogen. As you said, Sake is involved in many Kyogen plays. In one of them,
    the characters are ordered not to drink Sake while their master is out. This one was very funny.

    It seems to me that dacing and chanting both play important role in Noh while singing is the most focused in opera. But I suppose operetta is similar to Kyogen. What do you think?

  14. 再びお邪魔します。

  15. Yoshi,

    Thank you for your information.

    To me, it looked like a horn. But, I had second thought about his horn as the horn is put in the subtle position, so, maybe or maybe not.
    None of 四天王in 戒壇院 has a horn.

    I'm looking forward to hearing your report.

    Your discussion on 夜叉 sounds very intriguing!!

    Thank you.


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