Return to the Main Menu
Nuihaku: Indigo ground with wave-crest-and-kirin motif
Nuihaku: Indigo ground with wave-crest-and-kirin motif

In the first half of the 14th century, when the Dengaku and Sarugaku troupes were vying for popularity, Kan'ami (1333|84) was born. He would later become the first head of the Yuzaki (Kanze) troupe, one of the four great Yamato Sarugaku troupes (later to become the Kanze, Hosho, Konparu, and Kongo schools) that were under the management of the Nara temple known as Kofukuji.

Kan'ami, who had won popular acclaim, due to his superb acting skills, added the strong points of Omi Sarugaku and the singing and dancing of the Dengaku that were thriving in his day and moved in the direction of creating an elegant, refined performance technique; at the same time, he also added the interesting rhythms of a popular art known as kusemai, and achieved great success in his efforts to create new musical dramas.

It was his son, Zeami (1363?|1443?) who inherited his great achievement and established the theatricality of Noh as it has come down to us today. When Zeami was about 12 years old, he performed a Noh in Kyoto with his father, Kan'ami, that was seen by the shogun, Ashikaga no Yoshimitsu. From that time on, Yoshimitsu showered great favor upon father and son, and Sarugaku could finally occupy a position equal to that of Dengaku.

Zeami was quick to respond to the tastes of audiences, took the best elements of famous actors of the past and his own day, and further refined the art of mimicry left by his father into a performing art of song and dance that is based upon the ideal of quiet elegance (yugen). Zeami was at the same time playwright, director, actor, and theoretician; he was a rare genius who left behind numerous works, among which is his aesthetic treatise known as The Transmission of the Flower and Style (Fushi Kaden), a work devoted to the methodology of what he called "flower" (hana), or true artistic accomplishment of the stage art. Later, Noh developed upon foundation of the style established by Zeami.

The original form of Sarugaku contained a side that consisted of humorous mimicry, to which satirical elements were added in response to the changing social conditions of the times, and this in turn gave birth to Kyogen during this time. From the writings of Zeami, we can see that Noh and Kyogen were performed alternately, that Kyogen had developed into an art of laughter, and that the restraints on actors in Kyogen troupes had relaxed, such that there was much exchange going on among the actors.

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.