Drawing much influence from art and literature, Nohgaku developed as a culture sharing the same period as that of Zen and tea ceremony, and influenced performing arts that later came about such as Ningyo joruri and Kabuki.
Connection to Muromachi culture
During the Muromachi period, cultures that would lead to the contemporary world blossomed one after another.
Zen, a sect of Buddhism, developed greatly under the patronage of the shogunate. Zeami was a devout believer of Zen and sought to incorporate its beliefs into Noh.
Tea ceremony, centered around the enjoyment of drinking tea, became very popular, and is included in Kyogen plays. Under the influence of Zen, there came to be a style of tea ceremony called “wabicha” that appreciates spiritual interactions.
The custom of offering flowers became a systematic technique at temples known as “rikka” or “tatebana,” meaning standing flowers. In Noh, there is a play instructing that a vase containing wildflowers be placed on the stage as part of the production. In this way, rikka uses a handful of wildflowers to represent a magnificent scenery, and appears to share commonalities with Nohgaku which attempt to depict an array of scenes and mentalities through the vehicle of a condensed human body.
Connection to other performing arts
Formed during the Edo period (17th to 19th centuries), Ningyo joruri and Kabuki incorporated the themes of the preceding performing art of Nohgaku. In writing the plays Ningyo joruri and Kabuki drew ideas from the themes, while at the same time having the liberty to develop freely. As for Kabuki in particular, its dance and instrumental music were also influenced by Nohgaku, and in the late 19th century, there was even a movement to transition Nohgaku plays to Kabuki plays as faithfully as possible.
From the mid-20th century, Nohgaku-inspired works were created for contemporary theatre and music as well, and we have seen active interactions take place between Nohgaku and these genres.
Works inspired by Nohgaku
Yukio Mishima, “Kindai Nohgaku Shu (Five Modern Noh Plays)”
Toru Takemitsu, “Mizu no Kyoku (Water Music)”
Benjamin Britten, “Curlew River”
Connection to words
There are many words used in the modern Japanese language that trace back to Nohgaku such as the following.
This Nohgaku term for finding a rhythm is also utilized in other performing arts and music in phrases such as “Nori ga yoi” (a good rhythm) or “Nori ga warui” (a poor rhythm).
This term, meaning cypress stage, refers to the grand stage where one shows off their abilities or appearance. The term originates from the admiration people had towards standing on a Noh stage made of cypress.
“Shoshin wasuru bekarazu”:
This is a phrase stated by Zeami in his book, meaning, do not forget how inexperienced you were when you first started. In the present day, this phrase is often used to mean do not forget your initial intention.