Return to the Main Menu
Okina fan, with "Island of Eternal Youth" motif
Okina fan, with "Island of Eternal Youth" motif

Until the Edo Period (early 17th century), the art of Noh was known as Sarugaku no No, or simply, Sarugaku. The name Sarugaku itself comes from the word Sangaku, the collective name of a series of entertaining arts brought to Japan from China. Sangaku included many types of performing arts, from acrobatics to song-and-dance and magic tricks. Gradually, its humorous mimicry became its central attraction, and the pronunciation of the word shifted from Sangaku to Sarugaku, which was written either "monkey entertainment" or "spoken entertainment." From surviving documents of the time, we can see that Sarugaku was very popular and often performed at shrine and temple festivals, and eventually folk Sarugaku performed by the common people became the most popular form.

At the same time, the arts of Dengaku, which had arisen from the folk-customs and prayers of agricultural communities, and Shushi, who were masters of incantation who arose through the rituals of the esoteric Buddhism of great temples, were both very popular, and they had a great influence. At this time, Dengaku performers had the support of high-ranking nobles, and thus were ahead of the Sarugaku players, and were also developing their art mainly into a dramatic form. In the mid-Kamakura Period (1185|1333), however, Sarugaku troupes formed under the patronage of shrines and temples, and these troupes took part in various activities, using the Kinki district as a base, and also came to perform the Okina Sarugaku (the original form of the present-day Okina), which had arisen from religious folk rituals.

The History of Noh & Kyogen.1
The History of Noh & Kyogen.2
The History of Noh & Kyogen.3
The History of Noh & Kyogen.4
The History of Noh & Kyogen.5
The History of Noh & Kyogen.6
Return to The History of Noh & Kyogen Menu
Return to the Main Menu
Copyright 2004, by the Japan Arts Council. All rights reserved.