Introducing the world of NohOther Roles


From the Muromachi period the specialty roles of the waki were developed separately from the shite and became a “family business” in that the art was handed down from generation to generation. After the period of za-tsuki, in which the shite schools were in control of the waki, the waki schools are now independent and are hired separately by the shite. The current waki schools include: Takayasu, Fukuō and Shimogakari Hōsho.


Hayashi-kata are responsible for the instrumental music of noh. The noh hayashi or orchestra is comprised of four instruments: fue (flute aka noh-kan), kotsuzumi (small hand drum played at the shoulder), ōtsuzumi (large hand drum aka ōkawa played at the hip) and taiko (stick drum) altogether they are also called shibyoshi. The musicians study all the instruments, but specialize in only one. The traditional teaching method is one that is handed down from generation to generation.

The current schools are as follows
Flute Issō, Morita, Fujita
Kotsuzumi Kanze, Ōkura, Kō, Kōsei
Ōtsuzumi Kadono, Takayasu, Ōkura, Ishii, Kanze
Taiko Kanze, Komparu

In a noh performance, the four musicians, one of each instrument, sit at the back of the stage in an area called the hayashi-za. Occasionally a musician’s assistant sits behind them during a performance.

go For Hayashi (music) click here


Kyōgen, developed at the same time as noh from sarugaku, can be divided into three classifications: hon-kyōgen (performed independently), ai-kyōgen (performed as part of a noh) and Sanbasō aka betsu-kyōgen (performed as part of the noh Okina).

In general, when one thinks of kyōgen, one thinks of hon-kyōgen. Hon-kyōgen is a comedic farcical form commenting on everyday life. Typical stories involve characters such as: a feudal master and his servant Taro Kaja, a father and son-in-law, a nagging wife or a foolish thief to name a few. There characters were typical inhabitants of life in feudal Japan and these stories are humorous, and take on the everyday occurrences from that time.

The kyōgen performed in the middle of a noh is called the ai-kyōgen or the ai for short. In a two act noh, while the shite is changing costumes between the maeba and the nochiba the ai will frequently perform the i-gatari. The i-gatari is usually a local person who will retell the story of the shite from the first half in order for the audience to more easily understand. The local person may also have a dialogue with the shite or waki to introduce the second half. This is known as ashirai-ai.

The schools of kyōgen-kata include the Okura school and the Izumi school.

go For kyōgen click here.

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