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"Illustration of Townspeople Watching Noh"
From: A woodblock print by Yoshu Chikanobu (1838-1912), "Illustration of Townspeople Watching Noh"

The Tokugawa shogunate continued Hideyoshi's system\the four Yamato Sarugaku troupes came under the direct control of the shogunal government, and a structure for preserving Noh was established. At the beginning of the Edo (Tokugawa) period (1603|1868), the establishment of the Kita school was allowed, and "the four troupes and one school" were in charge of all performing arts for shogunal ceremonies. The various feudal lords followed the shogun's lead and employed actors in the lineage of "the four troupes and one school," and Noh became the exclusive performing art of the samurai class.

While the shogunate and feudal lords were protectors of the art, they were also severe controllers, sometimes issuing decrees demanding that actors train them in their art and accurately pass on to them their traditions. As a result, Noh gradually became increasingly more solemn, and the time required to perform a play increased, and Noh was transformed into a serious art that demands great spiritual and physical energy.

Like Noh, Kyogen, too, was codified into an established form. At the beginning of the Edo period, the Sagi, Okura, and Izumi schools flourished greatly, absorbing all the other, smaller schools, and the age of the "three schools of Kyogen" began. The "three schools" constantly influenced one another, and the Kyogen that had been passed down from earlier times was refined, and scripts were prepared.

The general public had only a very limited opportunity to see Noh. The words of the songs chanted within Noh plays had been popularized at the end of the Muromachi period, but in the Edo period a number of chant-books were published, and these began to gain in popularity all over the country. Moreover, Kyogen scripts were also published near the end of the Edo period as texts to be read. In this way, the latent interest in Noh and Kyogen was awakened, and it became so great that special performances for the public (machiiri no) and subscription performances (kanjin no) were even held within the precincts of Edo Castle.

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
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Copyright 2004, by the Japan Arts Council. All rights reserved.