For the latest news on Tokyo’s theatre scene please be sure to check out the page of Blog Camp in F/T. Yuko Nakamura, Kazuhide Shimamura and Chika Goto will be writing in Japanese, while Bertrand Lesca and me will be blogging in English. With a wide range of articles – from reviews and essays to interviews with the artists and group discussions about the performances seen at F/T, we are planning to share what is going this month at the festival.
It happened. A whole month has passed without me posting any reviews on this blog The good side of all this is that I did see some very good performances in October – it is only the lack of time that didn’t allow me to write about them. And the other good side (!) is that there will definitely come a time for me to post those reviews. I promise it will be worth your while reading them, so stay tuned
In the meantime let’s see what the Tokyo stages have in store for November.
Festival/Tokyo, which is THE theatre event of the second half of this year, will be starting on November 9th with a program that promises to keep audiences enraptured. The theme of this year’s edition is “Travels in narratives”, giving us the opportunity to think on stories, on what they mean to us, how they change in time and how they transform us, helping us grow. Any place in the world has stories connected to it and theatre is one medium by which those stories can come to the surface. How will the city look like after its stories will be released from the veil of forgetfulness and will take over the quotidian for some time? It’s just a guess, but we will probably witness a transfiguration of the city through the stories that sleep underneath it – this is what I would call the highlight of this year’s Festival/Tokyo.
For a selection of works that I recommend heartily, please refer to this article on F/T 2013 that I wrote previously. Personally, I’m looking forward not only to the performances themselves, but also to the open events, symposia and talk events, which give us the rare opportunity to hear the artists talk about their works. In other words, I’m seriously considering moving my headquarters to Ikebukuro this month. Too bad that the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre doesn’t allow sleeping in, ha ha ha…
From the last performances of BeSeTo Festival, which is still going on until November 10th, “Forge/Natsume Sōseki” 『偽造/夏目漱石』of theatre company Jūryoku/Note 重力/Note is worth checking out. Jūryoku/Note’s trademark is the original adaptation for the stage of texts written by established authors. In the past they dealt with Terayama Shūji’s texts in “My job – Terayama Shūji (1935-1983/1983-2012)” or with Elfriede Jelinek’s “Cloud.House.”, a work presented at Festival/Tokyo last year. This time they are turning to a classical figure of Japanese literature, Natsume Sōseki. It will be interesting to see how director Kashima Nobusuke’s special concern towards the text collaborates with the company’s latest experiments with theatrical space in order to project the figure of Natsume Sōseki into our times. “Forge/Natsume Sōseki” will be running from November 4th through 10th at Atelier Shunpusha.
As far as the noh stage is concerned, there will be a rare performance of Ikari kazuki 『碇潜』by the noh study association Tessenkai 銕仙会 at Hōshō nōgaku-dō on November 8th. Ikari kazuki is a play inspired by The Tale of the Heike, focusing on the battle at Dan no ura, where many warriors from both sides, the Taira and the Minamoto clans, have lost their lives. In order to reenact the battle, three boats will be brought on the stage – a rare sight in the case of noh, whose restrained use of props is well known. A performance of noh Makiginu 『巻絹』and kyōgen Kane no ne 『鐘の音』are also in the program.
Whatever your choice, it is my hope that you’ll enjoy the festive atmosphere of this month with some good theatre
Before we knew it, it is already autumn – although still a bit early for the beautiful red leaves. Here is a very small selection from what the Japanese theatre scene has to offer this month:
At the Kinokuniya Southern Theatre, Komatsu-za will be performing Ihatōbo no gekiressha『イーハトーボの劇列車』”The theatre train from Ihatov” from October 6th through November 17th. Written by Inoue HIsashi, one of the most influential and prolific contemporary Japanese playwrights, the play is based on Miyazawa Kenji’s biography. To be more precise, it is the story of Miyazawa’s move to Tokyo from his hometown in Iwate prefecture, focusing on the years 1918, 1921, 1926 and 1931 of the writer’s life. In his series of biographical plays Inoue is weaving elements of a writer’s literary works into his or her biography, turning the subject into a character of his or her own fictional world. In this case the title itself is an allusion to Miyazawa’s probably most famous work, Ginga tetsudō no yoru (“Night on the Galactic Railroad”). Music, warm humor and an amazing amount of vivid imagination are all traits of Inoue Hisashi’s style. Their combination with Miyazawa’s romantic fiction promises to be a very rewarding theatrical experience.
Speaking of Inoue Hisashi, another play of his, “Musashi” – which gained wide acclaim in London and New York back in 2009 – will be running until October 20th at the Sai-no-kuni Saitama Arts Theatre. The performance is directed by Ninagawa Yukio, the one who brought many of Inoue’s plays into the attention of the Western public, and boasts a gorgeous cast, in the most part the same as four years ago. It will be a joy for many theatre goers to see this particular work on stage again.
Another surprise brought by the theatre scene this month is the restaging of Terayama Shūji’s play “La Marie Vison” 『毛皮のマリー』。This performance is part of a series of events dedicated to the memory of Terayama, who passed away prematurely 30 years ago. Better known in his home country as a poet and writer, Terayama was a key figure in the small theatre movement of the sixties and seventies in Japan – a cultural movement that challenged established theatre practices in the search for new spaces and new meanings to theatre as an art. You can read more on Terayama Shūji and his unit Tenjō sajiki, whose works have been a turning point in Japanese theatre history, in this very insightful article on Tokyo Stages: The Occupation of Street Theatre . Through the story of a transvestite risen to celebrity through his excentric lifestyle, “La Marie Vison” explores the borders between reality and illusion in the spirit of that paradoxical approach to life which is so typical of Terayama’s style. It will be performed at Nakano Theatre Bonbon from October 2nd through the 6th.
The 20th edition of BeSeTo Theater Festival has already started, giving the unique opportunity to audiences to see theatre from China, South Korea and Japan performed in various locations in the country. After an auspicious start in Toga, Toyama prefecture – the holy land for experimental theatre in Japan, and a short stop in Tottori, the festival will reach the Tokyo stages in mid October. Chekhov’s “Three sisters” featuring an android actor, performed by Seinendan, a Chinese version of “King Oedipus” and a Korean version of “Peer Gynt” are just a few examples of what this festival has in store for the audiences.
From the amazing program of BeSeTo festival, the show I personally look forward to most is Komachi fūden 『小町風伝』”The Tale of Komachi Told by the Wind”, performed by theatre company Koripe from South Korea, under the direction of Lee Youn-Taek. Drawing heavily from Japan’s cultural memory about Ono no Komachi, a court lady and poet from early Heian period (794-1185), the play was written by Ōta Shōgo and first performed in 1977 on the Noh stage of Yarai nōgakudō. It was one of the first experiments of the silent theatre that later became the trademark of director and playwright Ōta Shōgo. Komachi fūden will be hosted by Komaba Agora Theater from October 17th through the 20th. [Update: it was a great performance! I wrote a review on it here (JP)]
At the National Noh Theatre there will be a special event on October 24th entitled “Zeami and the Flower”. After a demonstration of “tatehana”, one of the oldest forms of ikebana, by Kawase Toshirō, Kanze-ryū actor Asami Masakuni will be performing Tōru, a Noh that embodies Zeami’s ideal of that elegance of spirit which gives birth to poetry. In his treatises on Noh, Zeami compares the success of a performance to the charm of a flower, that is why this collaboration between Noh and ikebana is most welcome, for these two arts reflect each other in a very subtle way.
As I review this month’s selection, I cannot help but notice that it features no new productions, but only restagings. For sure, only autumn is to blame for this “classical” mood, which makes one wish to see again works that won acclaim in the past, in the hope that a fresh directorial approach will render them anew.
“Theatre is a dialogue with the audience”, states director Tada Junnosuke in the brochure of “Symposium”, the latest work by Tokyo Deathlock. Not by chance, the title of the performance was inspired by Plato’s dialogue on love. Performed at ST Spot in Yokohama (July 13th –21st) and Kirari Fujimi (July 27th – 28th), “Symposium” is a rare form of communitarian theatre, relying on the participation of the audience to such a degree that each performance is inevitably different from the other.
No matter the theatre genre involved, as I mentioned elsewhere, my own position regarding the role of the audience is that the spectator is no way a passive entity, even if all what he does is to watch the show from his seat. Theatre does not only require imagination from the side of the audience, but it also calls on to the spectator to be its witness. Looking, interpreting and figuring out become a hermeneutical process that infers meaning to the performance. It is a process without which theatre cannot come into being in the first place.
However, from the point of view of the performer, the spectator’s stance is privileged in its “passivity”, being too safe and uninvolved. Contemporary theatre, oversensitive to any kind of unequal relationships, has set out to developing methods of involving the audience in a more active way.
The reason why theatre creators themselves want to do away with the imaginary barrier between them and the audience is their conviction that the problem with the spectators’ passivity is a political one. Overwhelmed by historical events unfolding before eyes, we show the tendency to hide away, thinking that it doesn’t concern us. The idea of becoming an “active agent” is indeed terrifying, as it implies a certain degree of responsibility towards the community we live in. The attempt to turn the spectator into an actor, which we so often see in contemporary theatre, is backed by the belief that if people can get involved in a fictional setting, then they could probably take action also their real lives and in the public sphere, bringing a change into better to their environment.
However noble their intention may be, performances that involve the audience tend to be intrusive, relying too much on aggressiveness and on truths that bother. It’s enough to mention performances like those of Marina Abramović that changed theatre history once and for all, in which the performer hurts herself so bad in front of the audience, that the viewers are impelled to intervene and put a stop to the performance by calling the ambulance. Or a theatre containing such a display of violence that the spectators are instantly filled with terror – it is not their imagination that’s called for, but the memories that nobody wants to remember, memories of violence caused by the society they live in (see the works of Societas Rafaello Sanzio). Or a half naked Hamlet stepping down from the stage into the audience, making his way through the seats packed with spectators while shouting his lines (see Thomas Ostermeier’s “Hamlet”). Or a performance that involves the audience through popular songs and energetic choreography, ending with the stupefied, baffled spectators singing on stage, while the actors leave the hall through the doors behind the audience seats (see Banana Gakuen’s performance at Festival/Tokyo 2011). The list could continue on and on, with examples from both East and West.
Although radical and to some extent even traumatizing, all these methods have a point and a statement to make. With some variation, it all goes around the fact that man does a lame job in managing his own aggressive instincts. In criticizing social aggression and military acts of violence, or even more subtle acts of aggression going on in society, so common that people are not even aware of anymore, this is the theatrical version of fighting fire with fire.
In this theatre landscape where differences between actor and spectator tend to be blurred, a performance that involves the audience without resorting to some form of violence is a rare sight.
The keyword that seems to guide the latest work of director Tokyo Deathlock is “community”. Director Tada Junnosuke aims for a theatre that engages everyone present, performers and audience. This reminds me of Ranciere’s statement that theatre should be a “communitarian act” (see this essay on the “emancipated spectator”).
In “Symposium” the performers use their own names, acting with their own persona. Not only do they come from different places (Tokyo, Seoul, Kyōto, Aomori, Yokohama), but they also belong to different professional groups, more or less related to the theatre. It is only for this performance that they gathered here.
From the start, the spectators knew that this was not going to be a usual night in the theatre. We were asked at the entrance to take our shoes off. The room we entered was entirely white, with no objects in it apart from some chairs close to the walls. Projector screens showed images of the ones present and a joyful tune helped relieving the thrills of the wait, creating a cozy atmosphere. Nobody noticed when the actors came in – there was nothing differentiating them from the ones who had came to see the play. It was only when they took their seats that we knew the performance had started.
With the spectators in the middle, the actors started talking about what they had done in their free time. We soon realize that these were not lines written in some script, but that the performers were talking from their own experience. Their discussion flows naturally like a talk between people who don’t know each other very well yet, which helps the audience get acquainted with the actors. Moreover, it seems that especially the ones who came from outside the Tokyo region, whether they need a translator or not, have a lot to tell, so the discussion gets more and more vivid. Gradually, their thought exchange leaves the individual level, embracing topics that concern them all as a group and Japanese society as a whole – such as the coming elections (it was a few days before the government was elected) or the cultural exchange with other countries, the opportunities and the risks that a vivid international communication entails. Subtle gestures of the actors, like standing on their chairs, indicated differences of opinion among them. In spite of the tension, it was obvious nonetheless that they respected each other’s opinions.
When at some point the direction gave the signal that it was time for a break, the performers brought in cookies and soft drinks that they shared with the audience. The tension that we were all feeling until a moment ago was suddenly relieved. During break time the actors left their chairs and started talking to the members of the audience. By the time the screens showed a direction that we should all talk about SNS, we had already formed small groups. We all use Twitter or Facebook or both, so the group chat flowed naturally, while we were still nibbling our cookies.
For about twenty minutes a festive atmosphere filled the room, reminding of a real banquet. As the break ended, the subject of the performers’ talk turned to “love”. Each one of them was called to the moderator’s seat to tell their thoughts on love and the most puzzling was the five minute long discourse of the Korean actor, who spoke all the way in his native language without translation. Although no one in the room understood what he was saying, we all knew what he was talking about. In the end the translator came only to summarize his discourse in a sentence: “Wouldn’t it be possible for us to love each other in spite of our differences?”
Toward the end director Tada, who had been watching the performance all along, delivering directions through the projector screens, came himself to the moderator’s seat. His discourse was short, mentioning that there are things we can speak about and things that we shouldn’t try to put in words. This is when a five minute long silence was installed. We all knew that this silence was also about love, so there was nothing more that we needed to know.
In the interval of approximately one hour and a half, we had been guided from reality into fiction and back. The process of becoming familiar with the performers and the other members of the audience ran so smooth that, before we even realized it, we were already within the fictional setting of the “Symposium”, chatting friendly with people that we may never meet again.
Actually, the strength of this work lies in that each performance would be different from the other. First, the members of the audience would never be the same, and second, the talk that breaks the ice in the beginning would surely start each time with a different topic. For the spectator this means he has experienced a once in a lifetime event. This is only possible in an “open theatre”, where the script doesn’t contain lines, but only the broad contours of a framework within which actors and spectators are supposed to perform together.
In this process, not only the spectator’s status, but also the actor’s status is put into question. The freedom to choose the extent in which one should share personal experience in a performance, the freedom to choose one’s own words and to share one’s real thoughts (as long as they are relevant to the work), is something that an actor could only enjoy in an open theatre like the concept suggested by Tokyo Deathlock.
As long as the theatre world is still marked by the prejudice that there can be no drama without conflict, there is a real need for variation when it comes to performer – spectator interaction. The answer to what is theatre, what differentiates it from other art forms and what can it bring to enrich our lives is in direct relationship with that need.
Tokyo Deathlock’s “Symposium” responds to that very need for a variety of forms in which the audience helps shaping the theatre performance. As far as I’m concerned, the simple joy that I had the chance to take part in the “Symposium” is doubled by the revelation that I encountered a theatre work in which audience and performers are treated like equals.
In the video below you can see a previous performance by Tokyo Deathlock, “Love” (2010) – shown at the TPAM Performing Arts Meeting in Yokohama:
The program for this year’s edition of Festival/Tokyo was announced a few days ago! From November 9th through December 8th we’ll have the chance to see works of artists from Japan and abroad, all themed around “travels in narratives”.
The Main Program of this edition, gathering internationally acclaimed artists, promises to be a very intense one, with many works that challenge the borders between performing arts.
The Emerging Artists Program features the works of young theatre creators from Japan, India, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore and China. Moreover, there is the Open Program with symposia, free access events and the popular F/T Mob that will warm up the spirits in the area around the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre.
Allow me to mention here some of the performances that literally made my heart beat faster when I read the program (please pardon the exclamation points that mark my overflowing enthusiasm :)):
- Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan – Kinoshita-Kabuki’s contemporary take on the Edo period ghost story by Tsuruya Nanboku (November 21st – 24th);
- Yotsuya Zotanshu + Yotsuya Kaidan – tour performances based on the same kabuki play as above, created by Nakano Shigeki and Nagashima Kaku (November 9th -24th) [Oiwa’s story seems to be as inspirational as ever!]
- A version of Elfriede Jelinek’s “Prolog?” under the direction of Miyawaza Akio [apparently, performing techniques from Noh will be used in order to explore memories of the past ← this is a must-see!]
- Port B’s “Tokyo Heterotopia” (November 9th – December 8th) [Did I mention how much I like Port B’s concept of tour theatre? I described it in this Blogcamp in F/T article on last year’s “Kein Licht II”]
- “Current Location” by chelfitsch (November 28th- December 30th). [You can read my thoughts on this work here].
- A performance by Rimini Protokoll called 100% Tokyo (November 29th – December 1st ) [I’ve been dying to see their work for years now!]
- A series of works by Lebanese artist Rabih Mroué: “The Pixelated Revolution”, “Riding on a cloud” and “33rpm and a few seconds“.
These are just some of the highlights of this year’s F/T. I didn’t even get to mention the ones in the Emerging Artists Program, which is just as intriguing.
In the hope I turned on your curiosity, I invite you to check out the details of the program on F/T’s homepage: festival-tokyo.jp/en/
Daylight time getting shorter and rain falling almost every day are signs that we are enjoying the last days of summer. However temperatures are still high, good over 30°C, so there is probably no better place than the theatre for those seeking shelter from the heat
The event that everyone is talking about right now is the SIS Company production of Chekhov’s “The Seagull” 『かもめ』Kamome at the Bunkamura Theater Cocoon, running from September 4th through the 28th . Not only does it boast the direction of Keralino Sandorovich, one of the most original theatre creators of the moment, but it also comes with a remarkable cast, featuring names like Ikuta Tōma, Aoi Yū, Nomura Mansai and Ōtake Shinobu, who are best known as stars of the screen.
The performance that I’m personally looking forward to is “Dear Late Summer Sister” 『夏の終わりの妹』Natsu no owari no imōto, which is the latest work of U-ench saisei jigyōdan 遊園地再生事業団, the theatre company run by Miyazawa Akio. I had the chance to hear a reading of the play back in July, that’s why I can tell for sure it is worth it. It is the story of Jahana Motoko, a woman born in Okinawa, who moves to Tokyo. She tries to get a license as an interviewer, in order to be able to ask people questions – about the earthquake that hit the Tōhoku region in 2011, about the U.S. military bases in Okinawa, things that the people around here have the tendency to avoid talking about. The whole frame of the story is permeated by the healthy humor and the broad theatrical vision that are Miyazawa’s trademark. It will be running at the Owlspot in Ikebukuro from September 13th through the 22nd.
Talking about play readings, the Kyōto based theatre company Chiten 地点, whose unforgettable staging of Elfriede Jelinek’s “Kein Licht” last year at Festival/Tokyo is stiil vivid in the memory of Tokyo audiences, will be doing a reading of Büchner’s “Lenz” at the Goethe-Institut Tokyo (September 13th -14th). Given the affinity of Chiten’s director Miura Motoi with the theatre of German speaking countries, it promises to be a very original interpretation of the classic. This reading is part of a series of events marking the anniversary of 200 years since the birth of Georg Büchner. A performance of “Woyzeck” combining dance and theatre in an experimental attempt to project this 19th century work into our times, is also part of the program (Komaba Agora theatre, September 13th-23rd). For more information, please visit the webpage of the Goethe-Institut.
From the smaller scale performances going on this month I picked up “Kappore!” 『かっぽれ！夏』of theatre company green flowers, winner of last year’s edition of Ikebukuro Theatre festival, an event organized by the local authorities of the Toshima district in Tokyo. Their prize-winning work Fukigenna Maria no kigen (“The deadline of bad-tempered Maria”) featured the story of Mori Mari, daughter of writer Mori Ōgai, and her inner struggles concerning the publication of her own novels. “Kappore!” focuses on a fictional family of rakugoka, performers of the art of rakugo – a kind of stand-up comedy that thrives in Japan ever since the Edo period. Where there is rakugo, there is laughter, so the play promises to be interesting. It will run from September 6th through the 8th at the Owlspot Theater.
Two performances at the Ōji shogekijo, Hana to sakana (“Flowers and fish”) by theatre group Jūnana senchi 十七戦地 (September 12th-17th), which promises to be a good-taste SF, and Ma-n-da-ra, an adaptation of a three-century old horror story by Gekidan Rokkotsumikandōkōkai 劇団肋骨蜜柑同好会 (September 19th – 23rd), are also among my pick-ups for this month.
The most awaited event of the month in the world of Noh is a special performance marking the anniversary of 30 years since the opening of the National Noh Theater, which will be held on September 17th. After the opening act – Tsurukame, a short congratulatory Noh, played by Kondō Kannosuke (Hōshō school), the program will feature Hagoromo “The Celestial Feather Robe”, with actor Tomoeda Akio of the Kita school playing the main role, then a kyōgen piece, Iori no ume, starring Nomura Man, and another Noh play in the end – the very entertaining Shakkyō, performed by Kanze Tetsunojō.
Hagoromo 『羽衣』is the story of a celestial maiden, whose robe of feathers is about to be taken away by a fisherman. As she cannot fly back to heaven without her robe, the maiden promises to perform a celestial dance, so she receives her robe back. After her dance of joy she thanks the fisherman and disappears into the sky. This very simple plot is the subject of various legends that are close to the heart of the Japanese, that is why this Noh play is one of the most often performed ones. The words of the angel – “doubt is a thing of the earth, there is no deceiving in the realm of the sky” – have a special echo and are the highlight of this Noh, besides the dance itself.
Please take the time to have a look at the stage photos of Hagoromo on Noh.com, as they will reveal why this Noh is held dear by everyone who has heard the story of the celestial maiden and her feather robe.
This year marks the anniversary of 650 years since the birth of Zeami 世阿弥 (1363-1443) and 680 years since the birth of his father, Kan’ami 観阿弥 (1333-1384). They were the first in a long line of performers who contributed to shaping Noh theatre into the refined form that reached our time.
Apart from the anniversary itself, there is actually a commemorative seminar dedicated to Zeami, held every year on the 8th of August in the city of Nara. The event is organized by the Association for Noh and Kyōgen Studies and spans over two days, consisting of a short symposium, a display of old manuscripts related to Noh and a visit to Zeami’s bodaiji (family temple).
This year’s seminar debuted as usual with the exhibition of documents at Hōzanji 宝山寺, a temple located in the mountains near the city of Ikoma, Nara prefecture. Zeami’s famous treatises on the art of Noh and several Noh plays in his own handwriting, manuscripts by his son in law Komparu Zenchiku, registries and other very precious original documents related to the history of Noh are taken out from the archives of the temple on this day and displayed publicly. Besides responding to the curiosity of researchers interested in seeing the original manuscripts, there is very practical reason to this display. In order to be kept in good condition, old documents need to be taken out and aired at least once a year (a practice called mushiboshi). The story of how these documents came into safekeeping at Hōzanji is pretty interesting in itself. They all had been handed down in the Komparu family (Zeami left many of his writings to his appointed successor, Zenchiku), but during the second half of Meiji period (1868-1912), when the Noh theatre world was shaken by a severe crisis, the head of the Komparu line of performers of that time, Komparu Hachirō, feared for the safety of the archive, so he sent all the documents into the trusted custody of his brother, who was the chief priest of Hōzanji.
It is there that they have been discovered in the early days of the past century. A large part of the documents has been donated to the Nogami Memorial Noh Theatre Reaserch Institute, where they can be found today under the name of Hannyakutsu bunko 般若窟文庫 (the “Hannya Cavern archive”), which alludes to the huge cavern visible from the precincts of the temple, where it said that the ascetic En no Gyōja had read the Hannyashin-kyō (“The Heart Sutra”) as part of his religious austerities. However, the most valuable manuscripts – the ones written in the hand of Zeami and Zenchiku themselves – have been designated important cultural property of Nara prefecture and have remained in Hōzanji, being shown to the public only once a year on August 7th, the day before Zeami’s commemoration.
For the participants to the seminar dedicated to Zeami, the day of August 8th starts early in the morning with a visit to Fuganji 補厳寺, the temple where Zeami and his wife’s names are registered. Fuganji, located in the countryside of Nara prefecture, was a large and influential temple of the Sōtō Zen sect, but its main building burned to the ground at the end of Edo period (1603-1868). The old front gate serves as a reminder of the once flourishing temple. Apart from it, some documents remained and were handed down to the present owners of the property. Zeami’s name appears in the register of people for whom the temple performed ceremonies after their death. It is only on this day, August 8th, that the registers can be viewed by anyone interested. In front of a small altar with a memorial plate bearing Zeami’s name, we have the chance to remember the man whose creations have the power to enchant us to this day.
The seminar itself is being held during the afternoon, usually in the conference hall of the Nara National Museum. Each year researchers present their latest studies on Noh history, in an attempt to deepen the understanding of how Noh was performed in Zeami’s time. This year’s keynote speech was held by professor Takemoto Mikio (researcher in the field of Noh studies, Waseda University) and tackled the characteristics of a manuscript handed down by Zeami to Zenchiku, called Nōhon sanjūgoban mokuroku “An inventory of 35 Noh plays” (the document belongs to the Hōzanji archive). Most of the plays mentioned on that list are no longer extant, while others exist with a different title, making it difficult for researchers to grasp whether such inventories can be indeed relevant to the history of Noh. It is nonetheless fascinating to know that there is still much to search for and to discover, in order to understand how Noh developed in its early days.
All in all, it is a pretty exciting event for Noh enthusiasts, who gather from all the corners of Japan to Nara just to take part in this meeting. It just happens that the Zeami memorial seminar coincides every year with the famous Nara tōkae, the light festival at the beginning of August. Thousands of candles are lit all over the city, creating a sea of lights – both as a remembrance of those departed and as a prayer for peace. It is just another reason to conclude that Nara is the place to be every year around the 8th of August.