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Question33 Do Zeami’s manuscripts exist today?

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There remain several Noh playbooks handwritten by Zeami in the first half of the 15th century (during the Ōei period). They are invaluable literature on Noh art having a history of seven hundred years, and they are designated as Japanese Important Cultural Properties.

Four of the books, “Naniwa,” “Furu” (no longer performed), “Matsura” (no longer performed), and “Akoya-no-matsu” (no longer performed), have been handed down in the Kanze family, and five others have been handed down in the Komparu family. They have all been written in the Japanese phonetic alphabet (katakana), assumedly because Zeami tried to describe the exact pronunciations of the pieces.

The books also show us Zeami’s elaboration on several ancient pieces created before Zeami, as well as his annotations on choreography and representation. They convey the living history of Noh that has changed style and established its current form.

(Jul 7, 2008)


illustration : Hiroko Sakaki
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