Noh – Hagoromo

I had a really good day in Stockholm yesterday. Neko and I went to the theater to watch a Japanese Noh play.

This is me and Neko outside the theater in Stockholm.
Noh is a form of classical Japanese musical drama and has been performed since the 14th century.

Some of the people who performed belonged to a family who had performed this kind of theater for several generations. The son in the family, Teruhisa Oshima (a very handsome man I must say), explained some essential things about Noh.

For example; how important it is to wear the mask in a correct way and what it means to lean it slightly up or down. It’s the main character (Shitekata) who wear the mask and there are 200 different masks to chose from. I think the mask that we were going to see was Onna, the woman.

There are some special instruments in Noh theater as well; Nokan (the flute), Kotzumi (small hand drum), Otsuzumi (large hand drum) and Taiko (large drum). The Kotzumi and Otsuzumi was made of horse skin and stretched differently. It was very important to hold and play the instruments in a certain way.

When the sister of Teruhisa (Kinue Oshima) started to act, I noticed how extremely precise her movements were. Her feet did never leave the floor and she were not allowed to move here body up and down while moving – she had to “float” like a ghost. She was very concentrated and it was beautiful.

They also opened the show with a certain performance about a spider and a samurai. It was so cool. I wish I would have known it from the beginning so I could have caught in on camera.

Then the main performance begun: “Hagoromo” (“The feather robe”). Easily explained, there was a fisherman who found an extremely beautiful robe among the pines and decided to keep it. Unfortunately, it belonged to a divine maiden who visited earth. Without her robe she couldn’t return to heaven, so of course – she became very sad when the fisherman didn’t want to give her the robe back. But the fisherman felt sorry for her and said that she would get her robe back if she danced the heavenly dance for him. She explained that she couldn’t dance without her robe and that he had to give it to her first. The fisherman said: “How do I know that you won’t disappear to heaven when I give you this robe without dancing for me first?” The maiden explained that lies and deceits belonged to the worlds of humans, not to gods – and that’s what people think is the primary message of this play (there exist truth and purity). So the fisherman gave her the robe, she danced and then she returned to heaven.

This kind of theater was new to me. I haven’t seen anything like it before. When the musicians started to play and sing (or rather make strange noises) I first had a hard time not to laugh. I was not the only one unfortunately and since the majority of the audience was Japaneses, I supposed that it didn’t sound funny only for western ears.

But after a while, I got used to the weird noises and went into som kind of trance. The performance was a little bit hypnotic, it was beautiful, relaxing. I didn’t understand what they sang, but I knew the story and could follow it.

It was a little bit funny that the 12 year old maiden was played by a 66 year old man (Masanobu Oshima – the father of Teruhisa and Kinue). I suppose he couldn’t see that much through the mask so it was a little bit scary when he sometime ran towards the edge of the scene. A man in the background stepped forward sometimes to correct the maidens position and clothes.

Well, afterwards – I fell warm and happy inside. It was exciting and inspiring. It was so different but it really touched me. I would like to see Noh again. It truly made me realize that there are so many different cultures in this world and there are so much to explore. There are still interesting people out there. The play was a little bit hard to get for a westerner I guess, but I’m willing to learn and I think a part of me got united with it and understood.

I did capture some of the theater on film. Please watch it below. 🙂 What do you think?

After the theater, me and Neko when to a bar to discuss the play. After that, I returned to the hostel. Not such fancy hotel as last time. It felt like I was going to sleep in a shoe box. But that was OK. ^_-



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May 2009

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