Noh is traditional theater which represents Japan around the world.  It was originally called ‘’Sarugaku’’.  Though its origins are unclear, it is believed that its base was introduced from China in the 6th century.  Its current form took shape in the mid-14th century and was later loved by samurai.

To summarize the art form simply, Noh consists of ‘’Utai’’ singing and ‘’Hayashi’’ music.  Noh is performed on the Noh stage which is specific to Noh and Kyogen.

One main feature of Noh is the use of ‘’Nohmen’’ Noh masks.  The protagonist (called ‘’Shi-teh’’ in Noh) wears the traditional mask.  There are currently over 200 types of masks and they are worn to hide the actor’s age and facial features.  Depending on how the actor shows the mask, it may appear to be smiling or crying and one of the interesting points of Noh theater is seeing what expression the actor brings to the mask.

Value of the ‘’Unseen’’ in Noh

Noh is not very easy to understand.  There are no flashy movements by the actors and the story does not move rigorously either.  The point of Noh is not to seek dramatic expansion, but to enjoy the philosophy of the ‘’unseen’’ in the performance. 

It is extremely difficult to explain Noh’s ‘’unseen’’ in words but simply put, it is the ‘’Beauty existing where words cannot reach’’. 

It is impossible to point to one thing and say it represent the ‘’unseen’’.  In order to express the ‘’unseen’’, the costumes and stage are refined, the actor’s real personality hidden, and the traditional form is strictly protected.  There is a unique sense of tension in this performance and a feeling that is almost removed from reality.

Experience Noh

Noh is performed nationwide in Japan and it is relatively easy to see a performance.  Tickets can be purchased online.  Prices range by area, in some cases even free, but generally range from 3000 yen to 10,000 yen.  Noh performances can be experienced differently depending on where you sit, and prices will vary by seat location, but the most popular seating area is center stage.  Though the price is higher, it is a recommended seating area for first time audiences. 

It is important not to make noise while watching Noh.  Often, food and drinks are prohibited.  Generally, leaving your seat in the middle of the performance is also not allowed.