A recital performance at the Kongo Noh Theater in Kyoto. My teacher, Udaka Michishige, is the chorus leader just below my fan.
A long time ago on Mio cape, near present day Shizuoka, a man of low birth is cursed with the bad karma from taking the lives of animals for a living. He is a fisherman in this life, but his name indicates a more glorious past. White Dragon.
In the ancient Chinese collection of stories, “Garden of Tales” from the 1st century BC, is a story an adviser tells the king as a warning not to take on the guise of one of his own subjects. The adviser tells about a white dragon who turned himself into a fish and lived in a pond on earth until one day a fisherman shot him in the eye with an arrow. The dragon flew away to the king of heaven to complain, but the king of heaven replied that fishermen shoot fish for a living and there was nothing he could do.
And so, it is said by some that the dragon died and was reborn, this time as the object of his hatred, the fisherman. Of course, the fisherman has no knowledge of his past life as a dragon and lives in ignorance of a greater good, except for a strange affinity for natural beauty. This is the point in the story from which the play “Hagoromo” begins.
“Hagoromo” is the play young Noh performers often perform for their debut, and yet the simplicity of the play belies the depth and drama of the full story. In the three years of my Noh training to date, I have performed both shimai (short dances for recital taken from the play) and have chanted the part of the shite (main role) in a suutai performance (in concert). (For a previous post on one of these performances, see here.) Soon I will begin learning the dances for “Hagoromo,” and yet the possibility of actually performing the full Noh is a dream just beyond my reach.
My teacher, Udaka Michishige, has asked me to perform the full Noh of “Hagoromo” next year in Kyoto for a great recital by all his students from all over the world on June 12, but I have had to preliminarily decline his offer. For an amateur to perform a full Noh, musicians and supporting actors must be hired and honorariums paid to one’s teacher and to the head of one’s particular school of Noh. Further costs cover venue and costume rental. The total amount needed for such a performance is 1,000,000 yen (approx. 10,450 USD).
If I were not a student living frugally on a government scholarship, I might be able to save the necessary money. But at the moment, I can hardly give up my place at Tokyo University under perhaps the most prominent Noh scholar in Japan, Professor Matsuoka Shinpei, to find work.
I have always been fascinated by the magical and divine world represented on the Noh stage. My current studies concern the mythological and Buddhist epistemology represented in Noh. I want to see how a mythological view of the world, in which all things in nature are viewed as a unified whole, is integrated into a Buddhist view of the world, in which the individual and a stronger distinction between good and evil play larger roles. Noh plays and performance theory written by performers in the 14th and 15th centuries provide a window into that world view.
If I could actually perform a Noh play, I would be able to recreate the world in my research for a wider audience, and I would be able to experience the world view as it has been transmitted through generations of Noh performers to the masters who would be performing with me.
Therefore, for the sake of my studies, both academic and in performance, I am attempting to raise the money necessary for my performance. I am approaching various foundations and individuals to help me finance the project. If successful, I hope that many of my friends, relatives, and supporters can attend. I would be honored to welcome everyone to Kyoto next June to for Noh workshops, cultural tours of the city, and to see my performance of “Hagoromo.” Please contact me if you would like to contribute your support.
TEL: 080-5363-0303 (in Japan) +81-80-5363-0303 (from outside Japan)
Sanserite Hakuraku Apt. 202
Kohoku-ku, Nakatehara 2-4-32