The places depicted in Nohgaku works can be found all across Japan, and sometimes even in distant overseas lands. This page introduces some of the places that were featured in the plays explained on this website.

  • Places associated with plays
  • Places associated with Nohgaku

Click on the place names listed on the left or in the boxes on the map to see pictures and explanations of that area.

A guardian angel for waka poems who prays for a tranquil and peaceful world

Sumiyoshi Taisha
Takasago; Go to Plays

Sumiyoshi Taisha

A god comes out from the waves and appears in front of the party crossing the ocean on a boat with the chief priest. Sumiyoshi in present-day Osaka city, a famous spot with beautiful pine trees, is thought to be where the god of the Sumiyoshi Shrine danced and blessed the world under the moonlight. Sumiyoshi Taisha is regarded not only as a guardian angel for sea voyage, but also as a guardian angel for waka poems.

A scenic sandy beach spot where an aged couple is represented metaphorically by pine trees

Takasago Seaside Park
Takasago; Go to Plays

In the seaside park area in Takasago city, Hyogo Prefecture, it is considered that a spirit of Aioi no matsu, pine trees that grew from a single root and split into male and female trunks, took on the form of an old couple and explained about the joy of getting along and living a long life. Located near the park is Takasago Shrine where the fifth-generation Aioi no matsu pine trees are planted.

A beautiful shore setting for stories about love affairs and battles

Suma no Ura
Tadanori; Go to Plays

Suma no Ura

With its continuous stretch of beautiful sandy beach, Suma no Ura is a famous scenic spot sung about in numerous waka poems and depicted in love stories such as “The Tales of Ise” and “The Tale of Genji.” It is also the place where the Battle of Ichinotani was fought, resulting in the Genji clan defeating the Heike clan, and associated with a number of Noh plays that deal with the Heike clan warriors who were attacked in this battle, including Taira no Tadanori and Taira no Atsumori.

A wooden-rimmed well where boys and girls measured their heights

Ariwara Shrine
Izutsu; Go to Plays

The poet Ariwara no Narihira is the protagonist in a number of love stories including “The Tales of Ise.” Narihira Temple stood on the land in Nara where he is said to have lived, but was demolished in the late 19th century. The land now has Ariwara Shrine. There is a well surrounded by a wooden rim where boys and girls are said to have measured their heights.

Matsubara, the setting of the feather robe legend, with a view of Mt. Fuji behind the ocean

Miho Pine Grove
Hagoromo; Go to Plays

Miho Pine Grove

Mt. Fuji has been admired for its beauty since ancient times. Notably, the view that stretches across the Suruga Bay along the coastline from Matsubara, where a narrative about a feather robe has been told, is still well known even now as a representative view of Mt. Fuji. It is home to a pine tree which is considered the third-generation “Hagoromo no Matsu” on one of the branches of which an angel hung her feather robe.

A beautiful riverbank where seagulls fly and willows sway

Sumida River
Sumidagawa; Go to Plays

Before the course of the river changed significantly due to flood control construction and other work, it was customary until the Edo period to travel between both banks of the river not by a bridge but by a ferry. This beautiful scenery is sung in “The Tales of Ise” and other works, and was also known in Kyoto. A legend about a kidnapped child named Umewakamaru survived in the basin, and there is a mound for his memorial service at Mokuboji Temple associated with this legend.

Historic sites enshrining indigenous people who were overthrown

Kumozuka (spider mounds), Minamoto no Raiko zuka
Tsuchigumo; Go to Plays

Kumozuka (spider mounds), Minamoto no Raiko zuka

According to a legend, in “Tsuchigumo (The Ground Spider),” the indigenous people who were overthrown for not obeying the Yamato Court were likened to apparitions of a spider. The mounds that are said to have been made to contain their grudge are found in Katsuragi Hitokotonushi-jinja Shrine in Nara Prefecture. There are also two historic sites in Kyoto associated with Minamoto no Raiko (Yorimitsu) who was attacked by a ground spider.

The still surviving Takigi O-Noh is the model of Takigi Noh

Kohfukuji Temple

Nara Mizuya Nohzu

Yamato Sarugaku particularly stands out among the Sarugaku schools from which Nohgaku originated. Yamato Sarugaku belonged to a powerful temple in Yamato (present-day Nara Prefecture) and gave performances in dedication to the gods at memorial and religious services. The Takigi O-Noh performed at Kohfukuji Temple illuminated by the burning of firewood is said to be the model for the Takigi Noh (Noh performed on outdoor torch-lit stages) which is currently staged in various areas of Japan.

A variety of performing arts are dedicated to the gods at a festival held since the 12th century

Kasugataisha Shrine

Tsukinami fuzokuzu byobu

Kasugataisha Shrine expanded Yamato Sarugaku together with Kohfukuji Temple. Having deep ties to performing arts, it has continued to hold the Kasuga Wakamiya On-matsuri for more than 800 years during which a variety of performing arts is dedicated to the gods,, including Nohgaku and Gagaku. It is said that the old pine tree depicted on the rear panel of a Noh stage was modeled on a pine tree called “Yogo no Matsu” (god-manifesting pine) on the premises of Kasugataisha Shrine.

Northern and Southern Noh Stages

Nishi Hongwanji

The Northern Noh Stage (National Treasure)

It used to be customary for Nohgaku to be performed outdoors. Noh stages were built on the premises of temples and shrines, inside castles, and inside the residences of samurai, among other places. Nishi Hongwanji temple in Kyoto has two Noh stages: the Northern Noh Stage and the Southern Noh Stage. Built in the late 16th century, the Northern Noh Stage is the oldest Noh stage still standing and retains the style from that period.

Click on the place names listed on the left or in the boxes on the map to see pictures and explanations of that area.