Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Knowing Noh


I had never seen a Noh performance until I went to interview an actor from the ancient Japanese theatre genre. Watching him on stage changed my perceptions of the art completely.

Yoshimasa Kanze, 38, knows that many people, myself included, are put off by Noh’s image of actors in masks, moving ever-so-slowly on stage to long, monotonal chants and choruses in ancient prose.

But he is convinced that more people would appreciate Noh once they understood the subtleties and meaning behind its choruses, many of which depict an interplay of spirits with humans, set to the music of three drums and a flute.

JAPANTo make Noh more accessible, Kanze runs workshops with commentary on the ancient language, helping to design fliers and posters with colourful pictures of costumes and masks.