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Inner view of the National Noh Theatre
Inner view of the National Noh Theatre Click here to expand

Noh and Kyogen are both performed upon a very special type of stage known simply as a "Noh stage."

Looking like a shrine or temple building, it has three sides open around a main stage (hon butai) that is about 5.5 m on each side. There are four pillars supporting the roof over the main stage area, each of which has a special name. Among them, the "sighting pillar" (metsuke-bashira) performs an especially important role in helping the actor to position himself upon the stage. The wall at the back of the stage is called the "mirror board" (kagami ita), and on it is painted an ancient pine tree. There is upstage (ato-za) area, where the musicians and stage assistant(s) sit, and the eaves from the roof overhangs the main stage on three sides. The "chorus seat" (jiutai-za) is where the members of the chorus sit in two rows facing the main stage. The "bridgeway" (hashi-gakari) serves as the place of entrance and exit for the characters, and also plays an important role as part of the performing space, and at the far end of it, the multicolored curtain (agemaku) is raised and lowered. The green room, or, literally, the "mirror room" (kagami no ma) is an important space, because it is there that the performers, when fully dressed, gaze into a mirror to concentrate on their role\there they don their mask and wait to enter the stage. In front of the "bridgeway," three small pines trees are planted, evenly spaced. In order for the stage floor to be as appropriate as possible for the "sliding foot" walk of the Noh actors or for the dramatic dancing, it is constructed with thick boards of hinoki cypress that are polished to a smooth, glassy finish. There is no stage equipment whatsoever, and there is no curtain separating the stage from the audience.

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