Damage to Cultural Property

This is certainly a time in which the loss of human lives and livelihoods far outweighs any cultural loss. However, for people such as myself who have never been to Tohoku and had really wanted to go see places like Chusonji in Hiraizumi, where young acolytes perform noh annually, there are also questions about damage to cultural property.

On March 24, the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs published a report that gives an overview of the damage. Although the number of properties damaged is high at 353, the details for the places that suffered the most damage is somewhat reassuring. Hiraizumi was spared, but places such as the pine covered islands of Matsushima in Ibaraki sustained “great damage.”

The End of Summer at Horin-ji


The priests’ prayers before the Noh performance.  Their robes were sumptuous purple and orange silks.  Only one of them wore black silk.

The temple Horin-ji annually holds a Noh performance on September 9th.  I wrote a little about it two posts ago.  Usually Udaka Michishige performs, but two years ago I was too busy with work to go watch, and last year September 9th landed on a weekend, so Udaka-Sensei was too busy to perform.  Finally, I had another opportunity this year and made sure I was able to take time off from work to go to the temple in Arashiyama.

I joined Sensei and a troop of young people who study with him and generally support his activities, including his two sons, Tatsushige and Norishige, who are actors in their own rights, his daughter, Keiko, who carves masks, his daughter-in-law, Haruna, who is also a semi-professional actor, and Natsuko, who also studies mask-carving, but has taken on a leading role in organizing events and working PR for Sensei.  We made an excursion out of the event, for the weather had grown sunny after a few rainy days that had brought an end to the summer heat.

Continue reading “The End of Summer at Horin-ji”

“Makura-Jido” at Horinji Temple

For those of you who have heard me talk about Noh and about Udaka-sensei, but have never quite understood what it was I was talking about – maybe you simply haven’t seen a Noh performance before – here is a You Tube recording that may show you some of the appeal. This video is of Udaka Michishige-sensei dancing “Makura-jido” at Horenji Temple in 2006 on September 9. I do not know who took it, and there are some shaky spots and a pillar that gets in the way of the view, but I am glad they did. I remember that morning getting a call from Sensei saying he was picking me up to go, but I was already at work and had been unable to get the day off. Seeing the video only makes me regret not having gone even more.

Watching the video, you can see the chorus sitting across from the camera. It was a pleasant surprise when I realized I knew all of them. On the left is Ono-sensei, a professor of environmental biology at Okayama University and student of Udaka-sensei, in the middle is Udaka Tatsushige-sensei, Udaka-sensei’s son, and on the right is Urushigaki-san also a student of Udaka-sensei. To the left are the musicians, and the performance is taking place facing a Buddhist altar inside a temple, which is a very rare setting. I haven’t had another opportunity to see a similar performance.