For other Noh info, look at "Actor's Packet" where Mike has posted most of his research.


This document was originally published in 'Noh' or Accomplishment: A Study of the Classical Stage of Japan. Ernest Fenollosa & Ezra Pound. London: Macmillan and Co., 1916. pp. 56-60.

THE stage is, as I have said, a platform open on three sides and reached by a bridge from the green-room. Notes of the conversation of June 2 [with Professor Fenollosa] run as follows:
  • - They have Hakama Noh in summer. The general audience does not like it, but experts can see the movements better as the actors sometimes wear no upper dress at all, and are naked save for the semi-transparent hakama. New servants are surprised at it.

  • - Mr. Umewaka Minoru has tried hard not to change any detail of the old customs. In recent times many have urged him to change the lights, but he prefers the old candles. They ask him to modernize the text and to keep the shite from sitting in the middle [of the stage? or of the play?], but he won't.

  • - A pupil of his, a wood-dealer, says that a proper Noh stage could not be built now, for it is all of hinoten. The floor is in twenty pieces, each of which would now cost 250 yen [1]. There must be no knots in the pillars, and all the large pillars and cross pieces are of one piece. This would cost enormously now even if it were possible at all.

  • - Awoyama Shimotsuke no Kami Rojo built this stage [the one used now by Minoru] for his villa in Aoyama more than forty years ago [2]; it was moved to its present site in the fourth year of Meiji (1872). The daimyo sold it to a curio dealer from whom Umewaka Minoru bought it. Shimotsuke was some relation to the daimyo of Bishu, in Owari, and so he got the timbers for nothing. The best timber comes from Owari. So the stage had cost only the carpenter's wages (2000 yen?). Now the wood alone would cost 20,000 to 40,000 yen [3], if you could get it at all. You couldn't contract for it.

  • - The form of the stage was fixed in the time of Hideyoshi and Iyeyasu. In Ashikaga (fourteenth century) the performances were in Tadasu ga wara, and the stage was open on all sides. The bridge came to the middle of one side (apparently the back) where the pine tree now is. The stage was square, as it now is, with four pillars. The audience surrounded it in a great circle "like Sumo" [whatever that may mean]. They had a second story or gallery and the Shogun sat in front. The roof was as it now is.

  • - The roof should not be tiled, but should be like the roof of the shinto temples in Ise. Shimotsuke had had a tiled roof because he was afraid of fire. People had said that he (Minoru) was mad to set up a Noh stage [at the time when he was starting to revive the performance]; so he had made the roof small and inconspicuous to attract less notice.

  • - Under the stage are set five earthen jars, in the space bounded by the pillars, to make the sound reverberate--both the singing and the stamping [4]. There are two more jars under the musicians' place and three under the bridge. This has been so since early Tokugawa times. The ground is hollowed out under the stage to a depth of four feet. [5]

  • - The jars are not set upright, as this would obstruct the sound. They are set at 45 degrees. Sometimes they are hung by strings and sometimes set on posts. Minoru's are on posts.

  • - Some jars are faced right and some left; there is a middle one upright. Minoru says it is just like a drum, and that the curve of the jars has to be carefully made. The larger the jars the better.

  • - Hideyoshi or Iyeyasu put the back on the stage. It is made of a double set of boards in order to throw the sound forward. They didn't like having the sound wasted. This innovation was, on that score, aesthetic.

  • - "Social and palace" reasons have in some measure determined the form of the stage.

  • - The floor is not quite level, but slopes slightly forward. The art of stage-building is a secret of "daiko." It is as difficult to build a Noh stage as to build a shinto temple, and there are no proper Noh stages built now.

  • - The painting of the pine tree on the back is most important. It is a congratulatory symbol of unchanging green and strength.

  • - On some stages they have small plum flowers, but this is incorrect; there should be no colour except the green. The bamboo is the complement of the pine. To paint these trees well is a great secret of Kano artists. When skillfully painted, they set off the musician's forms.

  • - The three real little pine trees along the bridge are quite fixed; they symbolize heaven, earth, and man. The one for heaven is nearest the stage, and then comes the one which symbolizes man. They are merely symbols like the painted pine tree. Sometimes when a pine is mentioned the actors look toward it.

  • - The measurements of the stage have not changed since early Tokugawa days. It should be three ken square, but this measurement is sometimes taken inside, sometimes outside the pillars.

  • - There is no special symbolism in the bridge; it is merely a way of getting across. The length was arbitrary under the Ashikaga; later it was fixed by rule. At the Shogun's court the bridge was 13 ken long, and one needed a great voice to act there. The middle palace bridge was 7 ken. Minoru's bridge is 5 ken. The bridge must be an odd number of ken, like 13, or like the "in" and "yo" numbers (7 and 5). The width is 9 "shaken" outside and 8 inside the pillars.

Check out this site for more information on Shinto Shrines!

Notes from Chemers lecture on Noh drama 9/28/10

focus on the play, "Matsukaze"
- Story is least important, below Pathos, spiritual lesson, beautiful sadness
- But there is conflict: attachement to the world
- Suffering comes from desire
- Matszukaze is serf class — she makes salt — but since she's the Shite she STILL has a beautiful costume

- Pre-cursor to Noh, called Sarugaku-Noh, Buddhist monk perfromance
- European colonialism doesn't work in Japan, because the Saumrai won't betray the Emperor
- Tokugawa (Shogun at the time) sponsored Zeami/Noh drama
- Tokugawa have Artistic license to prostitutes— they became called "geisha"

Video we watched:

Totally weird video I found:

Mike wrote to me:

Hi Katie,

After analyzing the script it appears (although doesn't state
explicitly) that Yoshida and his servant do not enter the stage via
the hashigakari- just before they enter Hanago exits via the
hashigakari. The only other character that uses the hashigakari (at
least according to the script) is the Proprietress.

Regarding the moon, it is referenced about 5 times in the play:

p.137 Chorus: "Each one of us too Has a moon of enlightenment That shines
on unclouded Though we live out our lives Never suspecting its presence."

p.138 Chorus: "I lie my head on a lonely pillow And watch the moonlight
from my chamber. 'Should the moon be hidden By the many-folded hills, I
would hold up my fan To symbolize the moon.'"

p.140 Hanago: "The moon that I hide and carry In the breast of my robe."
-In reference to a poem by Po Chu-I, no. 199 in the Wakan Roei Shu. I
haven't been able to easily find it online, but if you want me to search
for it more I can.

p.141 Hanago: "One look-what for? The evening moon Is painted on the fan,
But why do you importune me so?"

p.142 Chorus: "His hand puts out the fan. Just now in the twilight Dimly,
I see the moonflowers, painted on your fan. What more need I know?"


The reading I gave you is from William T. Vollman's "Kissing the Mask." It's a personal and Western angle on Noh, and I've found it really interesting. You can read most of it lonline, or borrow from me if you want.

Helpful sources: Theatre Nohgaku and The Noh

Noh stage