Traditional Noh Performances in the Presence of a Bonfire
Takigi Noh is an annual event held at the Heian Jingu Shrine where the symbol of Kyoto, the red torii gate, is located. Takigi simply means “firewood” in Japanese, while Noh is the oldest form of musical theater that is well preserved in Japan.
The famous red torii gate at Heian Jingu Shrine’s entrance
Known as the event that you should not miss out during June in Kyoto, Takigi Noh is a paid outdoor event featuring Noh and Kyogen performances which is held in the evening among bonfires.
Takigi Noh held at Heian Jingu Shrine
The history of Takigi Noh can be traced back to 1,000 years ago. The origin of the event is said to be connected with the Shunigatsu-e religious ceremonies which were held in the early spring at Kofukuji Temple in Nara.
Theater performances during Takigi Noh
Performances called Takigi-sarugaku were held at this time and the tradition of takigi-noh developed along with that of Noh as a theatre art. Takigi-noh reached the height of its popularity in the Edo period. Discontinued after the Imperial Restoration in 1868, it was revived in its present form after the Second World War.
Takigi Noh in Kyoto
In accordance with the trends of post-war revitalization, Heian Shrine was chosen by Kyoto City and Noh Association representatives as the most appropriate setting to realize goals of city tourism and the popularization of Noh through Takigi-noh.
The first Kyoto Takigi-Noh was held on May 23–24, 1950. The first 4 performances were held at the end of May, but in 1955 June 1–2nd were chosen as the permanent dates for the event.
Noh is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama performed exclusively by men with recitative chants (called “Yokyoku”) and a small orchestra (a flute and 3 drums only) accompanying the play. It is unique in its slow grace and its use of elaborate masks. Originating in dramatic performances at religious festivals in the 14th century, the present form of Noh was developed in the Muromachi Period by Kan’ami and his son, Zeami under the patronage of the Ashikaga clan.
Ancient musical theater, Noh
Noh continued to flourish in the Edo Period (17th to 19th century) under the patronage of feudal lords throughout Japan and became the preferred entertainment of the samurai.
Following the Meiji restoration, Noh gradually lost its popularity as the samurai became less influential in society. Nowadays, Noh is again regaining its popularity and a growing number of people from home and abroad are showing interest.
Noh’s wooden stage
Being made of wood, the Noh stage is very different from other stages. It has an extension from a central main stage which is used by actors as a side stage. Very few stage settings are used although there is always a pine tree painted on the back wall of the stage.
Comedy play, Kyogen
Kyogen is a form of traditional theater. It was performed along with Noh as an intermission of sorts between Noh acts and retains close links to Noh in modern times. However, its content is not at all similar to the formal, symbolic, and solemn Noh theater. Kyogen is comical in form, and its primary aim is to make the audience laugh.
Nenbutsu Kyogen is a unique Buddhist play performed without dialog.
The following are places to view these traditional plays.