Noh Theatre at Shitaya Shrine Kagura
I took these photos of the traditional Noh performance at the Shitaya shrine in downtown Ueno/Shitaya. When I first came to Japan the slow and rather formal Noh theatre didn’t hold much interest for me, I was much more interested in the livelier and folksier plebeian festivals, the omikoshi, the Awaodori dancer for example. It wasn’t until I started looking closely at the acting in the tiny kagura stages on local shrine festivals that I fell in love with Noh. The acting, the movements and the music is absolutely sublime. This is storytelling of the highest order, nothing is explained, nothing is expected of the viewer and the audience is allowed to fill in the details for themselves as there is no dialogue nor any subtitles like you’ll find in some western Opera. There are many dozens of stories and roles but the most common ones are performed hundreds of times in Tokyo festivals alone. Although you are fully aware that the actors are wearing masks and that it is all make believe, the way that the tiniest movements interact with the music and the costumes makes it all look fantastically real. It doesn’t take any effort at all to just let your mind relax, just a tiny suspension of disbelief, and the story comes alive like nothing else.
I liken it to interactive 3D images, you know the images where if you stare long enough eventually you’ll see something different. Not everyone gets it at first. It took me years. But now I get Noh. And I love it.