This is the Nohgakuden of Misogi Shrine.
The Nohgakuden is where Noh plays are performed to the gods once a year. Noh plays are an important part of the biggest festival of the year at Misogi Shrine.
Every Year on the Evening of August 3rd
The shrine festival takes place over two days, the 3rd and 4th of August. Although, the 4th of August is the main festival, the Noh play takes place on the evening of the 3rd.
Noh plays are performed to the gods, therefore, the Noh stage is connected to the main shrine. There is a bridge, an entrance, a corridor, and the Kagami-no-ma. In the Kagami-no-ma (mirror room), there is a large mirror in front of which the Noh performers calm their spirits, put on their costumes, and put on their masks before they come out on stage.
The curtain rises quickly and the Noh performers come out.
The terrace to the right of the main stage is the noblemen's seating area or royal box.
The marble area in the front is the seat of the gods. The gods are invisible, but on the day of the event, we invite them here.
The grounds become an outdoor theater where about 1300 people can sit and watch the performance.
The Reason Why There Is a Pond
This is a very wonderful Noh stage that is commonly described as a phoenix standing on a pond with its wings spread.
This pond is not simply an elaborate feature.
Noh was invented 650 years ago. In the Muromachi period (1336-1573), Kan'ami and Zeami developed the art of Noh from Kagura (sacred performances). Naturally, there was no electricity. Therefore, there were no electric lighting systems. Furthermore, there were no microphones, amplifiers, speakers, or other types of sound equipment.
A pond naturally reflects both light and sound, thus, having one underneath a stage was the state-of-the-art lighting and sound system of the time. A pond under a stage carries the voices of the Noh performers, the chanting, and the sounds of the flutes and the drums of the musicians a surprisingly great distance.
The use of a pond underneath the Noh stage is the result of the great wisdom of our ancestors.
Having a pond underneath the Noh stage is actually a very authentic design feature.
According to a renowned performer, there are only about three stages like this in Japan.
Five Schools of Noh Performance
There are five schools that have preserved and passed down Noh performance. These are the Kanzeke, which is a direct descendant of Kan'ami and Zeami, the great masters of Noh, as well as the Hosho, Kongo, Konparu and Kita families.
In Noh, there are performers of various rank, but here, the heads of the five schools perform. It's not often that you can find such a place.
Performances Originally Took Place Surrounded by Nature
There are about 250 carp in the pond. They swim gracefully, and occasionally jump. The third day of August is the height of summer. At dusk, crows caw, and cicadas sing out.
A Noh performer once said, "When you practice Noh here, you can understand that it was originally performed in this kind of natural setting.” Here, you can experience truly authentic Noh.
Noh Plays Are Registered as an Intangible Cultural Heritage
Noh is one of Japan's world-class spiritual and traditional forms of art. It is truly a performing art.
Please come here to have a Noh experience which is beyond compare.
Why Does Misogi Shrine Have a Noh Stage?
Most other shrines have a Kaguraden (sacred-performance stage). Why does Misogi Shrine have a Noh stage?
This is a relatively new shrine, but a shrine is a place where the heart is grounded. Even after we are gone from this world, we need to pass on the spirit of the Japanese people. In the field of traditional Japanese spiritual, culture and performing arts, what can the shrine do?
“We will perform Noh. Noh is a complete art form.”
This is the view of the current priest and the fruition of his thoughts.
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