Impressions from this year’s Zeami memorial seminar

Every year on the 8th of August there is a meeting of Noh researchers and enthusiasts, organized in memory of Zeami (1363-1443) in the Nara prefecture by the Association for Noh and Kyōgen Studies. Please read this past entry – Remembering Zeami, where I explained in detail what the seminar consists in.

Luckily, I had the chance to go there this year too, so I would like to share some more images and thoughts on this event.

On August 7th we went as usual to the temple of Hōzanji in Ikoma, for the yearly exhibition of manuscripts. Some of them are written in Zeami’s or Zenchiku’s hand, while others are later documents related to the Komparu school of Noh.

Hōzanji - a smaller prayer hall (beyond it, the Hannya cave)

A prayer hall of the Hōzanji complex (beyond it, the Hannya cave)

View over the town of Ikoma from Hōzanji

View over the town of Ikoma from Hōzanji

As you might guess, taking photographs of the manuscripts is forbidden. So I’ll use for illustration an image that was already on the web – a fragment of the “Eguchi” manuscript by Zeami.

Noh "Eguchi"

Noh “Eguchi”

Like the other Noh manuscripts by Zeami (“Tomoakira”, “Unrin’in”, “Morihisa”, “Kashiwazaki” a.o.), it’s written mostly in katakana – for very practical reasons in fact. Besides it being the simplest way to ensure the correct pronounciation of the words, this kind of script helps synchronizing the syllables to the chant (fushi 節) . Not to mention that it makes easier the use of kakekotoba – projecting two meanings on one word, the stylistic device that accounts for much of the typical flavour of Noh texts.

Leaving back Hōzanji, for the ones in the area August 8th begins with a visit to Fuganji 補厳寺, the place where Zeami deepend his studies of Zen in his late years. There is not much left of the temple itself, as it burnt to the ground about two centuries ago. However, the family which owns the place now has inherited the old temple records, which mention Zeami (his Buddhist name Shiō 至翁), as one of the donors of the temple.

The gate of Fuganji

The gate of Fuganji

Pine tree guarding the entrance to Fuganji

Pine tree guarding the entrance to Fuganji

The seminar, usually held in Nara, took place this time in Tawaramoto, the town where Fuganji is located. The reason behind this change was the celebration of 30 years since the creation of the monument marking Fuganji as a place related to Zeami.

Zeami sangaku no chi - "The place where Zeami came for his Buddhist studies "

Zeami sangaku no chi – “The place where Zeami came for his Buddhist studies “

The monument was created at the initiative of Noh researchers Omote Akira and Itō Masayoshi, the ones who discovered the names of Zeami and his wife’s in the old temple records. The donations of many Noh enthusiasts from all over Japan made the completion of this monument possible.

One more image from the surroundings of Fuganji, located in the Ajima district of Tawaramoto.

tanbo

If you ignore the utility poles in the background, do you think that this landscape has changed much since Zeami’s time? Facing the broadness of this view, I found myself trying to imagine what Zeami’s eyes saw, in the hope of catching a glimpse of the environment that shaped his thought and of what inspired him to write his plays. Not much of a clue for research, but I somehow have the feeling that just by seeing this landscape we get a little closer to Zeami.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s