Stage and PerformancePerformers

Performers: Noh
  • shite
  • waki
  • jiutai
  • Hayashi-kata

Nohgaku is staged by Nohgaku performers. In Noh, the main actor is known as “shite,” the actor playing opposite the main actor is “waki,” the shite’s supporting role is “tsure,” and the facilitator or supporting role is “ai.” There are also people in charge of the music, such as jiutai chorus that performs the utai (chanting) and hayashi musicians that play instruments. They are respectively divided into the four groups of shite-kata, waki-kata, hayashi-kata, and kyogen-kata and perform specialized roles.

Roles of Nohgaku performers

Shite-kata The shite-kata plays the roles of shite, tsure, jiutai chorus, and koken (stage assistant).
Waki-kata The waki-kata plays the roles of waki and its supporting role waki-tsure.
Hayashi-kata The hayashi-kata is in charge of playing instruments and is divided into the flute, shoulder drum, hip drum, and stick drum groups.
Kyogen-kata The kyogen-kata performs Kyogen and plays the role of ai in Noh.


In Noh, importance is attached particularly to the main actor shite, who mostly appears wearing a mask. In many plays the main actor plays unworldly beings, such as deity, spirit, ghost, and ogre. In a two-act play, the shite has different names and is referred to as “mae-shite” in the first half and “nochi-shite” in the second half.


It is common for the waki who plays a character opposite the shite to be an adult male who actually lives in this world, such as a travel monk, Shinto priest, or samurai. Generally he does not wear a mask. The waki interacts with the shite and brings out his acting.


In Noh, sometimes Kyogen performers known as “ai” appear to explain the background of what transpired or comically liven up the scene.

Jiutai chorus

Lines are spoken mainly by the shite and waki, and a chorus known as “jiutai” sets the scene and describes the mental state of characters. Sometimes there are back and forth exchanges between the chorus and other performers, such as the shite and waki. The chorus sitting in two rows facing the stage is headed by a leader known as “jigashira."

Hayashi musicians

Instrumental music known as hayashi uses four types of instruments: fue (flute); kotsuzumi (shoulder drum); otsuzumi (hip drum); and taiko (stick drum). They are not simply musical accompaniment; they are an essential element for creating the world of Noh. The taiko is omitted in some plays.


Koken have the role of adjusting the costumes of shite and bringing props in and out. If a shite is in an accident during a Noh performance and cannot continue performing, koken will play the shite’s part from the middle of the play. For this reason, koken are of the same or higher rank as the shite.

October 24, 2013
National Noh Theatre
“Toru (Lord Toru), Jusandan no Mai,” Kanze School

Characters and Performers

Old Saltmaker (mae-shite): Asami Masakuni
Ghost of Lord Minamoto no Toru (nochi-shite): Asami Masakuni
Traveling Priest (waki): Hosho Kan
Local Man (ai): Nomura Mansaku
Koken (stage assistant): Kanze Tetsunojo IX, Asami Jiichi
[Hayashi musicians]
Flute player: Isso Yukihiro
Shoulder drum player: Hayashi Kichibe XIII
Hip drum player: Kamei Tadao
Stick-drum player: Maekawa Mitsunaga
[Jiutai chorus]
Rear row: Asai Fumiyoshi, Kitanami Takahiro, Oka Hisahiro, Kobayakawa Osamu
Front row: Takeda Yoshiteru, Takeda Munenori, Takeda Fumiyuki, Takeda Tomoyuki
Documentary photograph (Y_N0150123002006)