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Question17 When and how was the first independent Noh theatre created?

When the Meiji era began, the Noh community lost the patronage of feudal lords, and as a result of this decline were forced to reduce the number of stages.

The Meiji government tried to revive Noh to entertain foreign VIPs with the traditional art. It is said that Iwakura Tomomi found the same value in Noh as in the opera and supported it after watching various performing arts abroad. In 1881 (Meiji 14), a few dozen members of the nobility, including Iwakura, and Noh performers founded a society called Nōgakusha. In the same year they built an independent Noh theatre, which enshrines a conventional style Noh stage that was traditionally located the outside. It was the Shiba Noh Theatre in Shiba Park in central Tokyo. The stage was later moved to Yasukuni Shrine, and the Shiba Noh Theatre no longer exists.

Since that time the number of Noh theatres has increased providing us with opportunities to enjoy performances without being influenced by the seasons and the weather. Our predecessors in the Meiji era decided to leave not only plays but also the dedicated theatres.

Their decision greatly contributed to handing down Noh without reducing its original charm as a unique performing art.

(Apr 10, 2008)


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