Stage and PerformanceStage Structure

Nohgaku is performed in an exclusive space known simply as a “Noh stage.” A Noh stage set up inside a building is referred to as a “Noh theatre.”

Unlike traditional theatres, a Noh stage protrudes out into the audience, and there is also no curtain separating the stage from the audience. Neither is there use of theatre effects, such as stage lighting and large sets. From individual seats, the audience watches an entire play unfold, which starts out in an empty space and ends with the stage becoming an empty space again.

Honbutai (main stage)

The stage is square, at the rear of which is a panel with a painting of a pine tree. As the visual field of performers is narrowed by their masks, the pillars at the four corners supporting the roof function as a guidepost when they perform movements. Connected to the stage are seating areas for performers whose locations are determined according to their role, such as singer and instrumentalist.

Hashigakari (bridgeway)

The stage is connected to the backstage by a corridor called “hashigakari.” It is used not only for performers to enter and exit, but also to represent a path linking the real and spiritual worlds. It is an important space for the performance.

Kagami no ma (mirror room)

There is a room in the backstage side of the hashigakari, where performers wait to enter the stage. The main actor puts on his mask and gets into his role here, in front of a large mirror showing his reflection. This is where instrumentalists also play and tune their respective instruments, which serves as a signal that the performance is beginning.

* The names of Noh theatres and Noh stages may be written in Romanized form as “Noh Butai” or “Noh Gakudo/Nougakudo.”

Why does an indoor stage have a roof?

It used to be customary to perform Nohgaku on an outdoor stage. However, from the Meiji period, a new type of stage known as “Noh theatre” emerged, incorporating both the stage and the audience seating into a single building, and this style became mainstream. Noh theatres are indoors but have a roof and pillars, as well as pebbles between the stage and the audience, because they have inherited the style of Noh stage dating back to when Nohgaku was performed outdoors.