Doumeikai Noh

68th Doumeikai Noh Program

For this year’s program, we chose music associated with “sound,” revolving around the theme of “Tones, Instruments, and the Deities.”

Please enjoy the range of tonality and imagery.

Gendayu Gakubyoshi (Taiko)

When an imperial envoy pays a visit to Atsuta Shrine, the deity Gendayu appears beating a taiko drum and dancing to extol the music’s virtues. It is a profound piece that evokes the solemn past of the divine era.


Gendayu was the deity who played the taiko outside the cave in which Amaterasu, the sun deity, was hiding herself. He invented the instrument and has been revered by musicians since ancient times. Gendayu is Otoyo no Mikoto, the father-in-law of Yamato Takeru who founded the Owari clan. But in this piece, he is set as Ashinazuchi no Mikoto, the father-in-law of Susano no Mikoto, which makes Atsuta and Izumo the same entity.


The rhythm is beaten by hand before the Gaku dance begins and enhances the enjoyment of the protagonist’s dance.


Dokko Genjo (Biwa)

Dokko is a performance of a Noh verse with one drummer and one singer.


When performing Dokko pieces solo, the style of playing is not as complex as when accompanying an actor, and it involves showier hand movements.


Fujiwara no Moronaga, a master of the biwa, wanted to travel to Tang Dynasty China to immerse himself in the secrets of the biwa. But he was dissuaded by the spirit of legendary biwa player Emperor Murakami. On receiving the famous Shishimaru biwa, Moronaga returns to the capital. The piece is short, but the light rhythm of the taiko is refreshing.

Matsumushi Kanpai no Mai “Insect cries”

Once upon a time in Nanba-Abeno, Osaka, a man was attracted by the chirp of the crickets and dived into the grass and died. Distraught, his best friend followed him and committed suicide.


The friend’s spirit reminisces of the man’s fondness for crickets. He talks of his deep feelings for him and dances as he drinks sake. When dawn breaks, only the chirps of the crickets can be heard.


The sounds of various insects overlap with the clamor of the city, only to highlight the loneliness of the man waiting for his intimate.


In the Kanbai no Mai dance, the side character pours sake for the protagonist before the dance. The woroshi of the Oshiki Hayamai is eliminated, there are no fluctuations in the tempo, and the nagashi is inserted at the end. Accompanying the dance with an up-tempo performance expresses the low rank of this Noh piece.

Itcho Issei Kogo (Koto)

Itcho is a performance by one singer and one drummer on a kotsuzumi, or small drum. Added is the solo accompaniment for the appearance of the protagonist, which is usually played by the flute, kotsuzumi, and taiko. Although short, the performance leaves the audience feeling the same satisfaction as seeing a full Noh performance. The rhythm is complex and ornate, unlike normal music performances. Only those who are of impeccable competence in their art are allowed to perform this high-ranking piece.


Minamoto no Nakakuni, on orders from Retired Emperor Takakura, rides a horse to Sagano in mid-August in search of Lady Kogo with only the information that she was staying in a humble abode. The early autumn night is emotionally expressed through the sound of horse’s hooves, the clear skies, the moon, and the sound of the koto.

Yoshino Goto (Koto)

When Ki no Tsurayuki visits Yoshino at the height of spring, a village woman carrying a koto appears before him. She tells him of the origins of the imperial court harvest dance performed by nymphs in ancient times, and reveals to him that she is an incarnation of the nymphs. She gives a koto to Tsurayuki, who is the imperial court’s top koto player, and ascends to the heavens. That night, the nymph reappears and dances to heavenly music accompanied by Tsurayuki’s koto, only to disappear when dawn breaks.


This piece, which was revived by the Kyoto Kanze school in 2014, has the flute part reworked to be played by big and small drums.

Jinenkoji (Sasara)

Jinenkoji is a child monk involved in preaching and the performing arts at the Buddhist temple Ungoji in the eastern mountains of Kyoto. He chases a young girl, who has sold her clothes to pay for her parents’ memorial service, to the shores of Lake Biwa to save her from a merchant who has abducted her. The merchant refuses to return the girl and commands Jinenkoji to dance until he is told to stop. The accompaniment has many highlights with the Kuse and Sasara no Dan dances explaining the origin of boats and the sasara, a wooden percussion instrument made of wooden panels, and the Kakko danced with a double-headed drum. Jinenkoji’s efforts eventually save the girl.

Kinuta (Fulling block)

A feudal lord has been away in Kyoto for three years to file a lawsuit. In the fall of the third year of their separation, his wife who eagerly awaits his return strikes her chest with a fulling-block in the hope that the sound will carry her longing to her husband still in the capital. (A fulling-block refers to the wooden mallet used to beat out the wrinkles in washed cloth.)


The sound of the wooden block beating in the late autumn night echoes with the complex feelings of longing, prayers for her husband’s safety, and resentment at the fact that he has not come home. This masterpiece conjures a rich, poetic, folkloric scene.

Kokaji Shirogashira (Hammer pounding)

The emperor receives a vision and sends a messenger to order Sanjo Kokaji Munechika to forge a sword. Munechika is lacking an expert hammering partner, so he prays to Inari Myojin, the Shinto deity of his parish.


On hearing the petition, Inari Myojin appears as a fox spirit to serve as Munechika’s partner. They successfully forge the sword, called Kogitsunemaru with “Kokaji Munechika” engraved on the front and “Kogitsune (small fox)” on the back. After the sword is entrusted to the imperial messenger, Inari Myojin rides a cloud back to the peak of Mt. Inari.


In Shirogashira, as Inari Myojin’s divine authority increases, his movements and the musical accompaniment become more intense. The piece is fun and refreshing, especially with the synchronized hammering.

Tsunemasa Karasude (Biwa)

Tsunemasa is a Heike clan lord proficient at playing the biwa. Prior to a battle with the Minamoto clan, he entrusts his favorite biwa, named Seizan, to Gyokei, a monk at the Buddhist temple Ninnaji. On hearing of Tsunemasa’s death at the Battle of Ichinotani, Gyokei offers the biwa at the Buddhist altar and mourns for him. At that moment, Tsunemasa’s spirit appears in the lamplight. The kogaki (special interpretation) of Toride is a flute solo of the biwa score. The sound of the biwa causes Tsunemasa to reminisce about the old times. Tsunemasa and Gyokei spend the evening chatting. But eventually Tsunemasa wants to spare Gyokei from viewing scenes of torment from the other side, so he extinguishes the lamps and disappears. Enjoy this special piece that has only been handed down in the Kita and Morita schools of Noh.

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