Noh: The Cultural Heritage

Japan’s traditional performing arts of Noh 能, which developed in the 14th century, has been highly acclaimed for their artistic value by the world audiences. In 2001, UNESCO added Noh to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

The early origins of Noh were mostly folk-type of rustic entertainment; Sarugaku 猿楽 that derived from Sangaku 散楽, the entertaining arts brought to Japan from China. Sarugaku included many types of performing arts, from acrobatics to song-and-dance, magic tricks, and humorous mimicry.

Sarugaku was very popular and often performed at shrine and temple festivals by the common people. In the mid-Kamakura Period (1185-1333) Sarugaku troupes formed under the patronage of shrines and temples.

Noh theater combines elements of dance, drama, music and poetry into highly aesthetic stage art. Kan-ami 観阿弥, and his son Zeami 世阿弥 developed Sarugaku into a form of theater recognizable to modern audiences as Noh in the 14th century under the patronage of Ashikaga Yoshimitu 足利義満.

Zeami is considered to be the father of Noh; he further refined the art of mimicry left by his father into a performing art of song and dance that is based upon the ideal of quiet elegance (yugen 幽玄).

NOH & KYOGEN -An Introduction to the World of Noh & Kyogen-