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  • Thumbnail for Chujo mask
    Chujo mask

    The Chujo mask represents a young aristocrat of early times, with light complexion, high painted eyebrows, and teeth blackened (ohaguro). Traditionally, this mask type is said to have been modeled after Ariwa no Narihira, the famous poet of the Heian period whose court rank was chujo, middle captain, in the headquarters of the Inner Palace Guards. The Chujo mask is used for the role of Prince Genji in the Tale of Genji, and for other courtiers. While Chujo is typically carved with a melancholic exprssion and knitted brows, these ualities are especially formalized and given emphasis in this mask. It was owned by the Konparu family, one of the four main groups of Noh actors. - Matsushima Ken

  • Thumbnail for Shochiku Light Opera Company
    Shochiku Light Opera Company

    Members of the Shochiku Light Opera Company are shown taking curtain calls in November 1935 at the Shinjuku Daiichi Theatre. With the changing tide in Japan, the government in general frowned on all activities having a Western flavor.

  • Thumbnail for Sumo match
    Sumo match

    After the establishment of the first Shogunate in Kamakura from 1185 to 1392, Sumo came to be practiced by the warrior class. Minamoto no Yoritomo, the most famous Shogun of the era, was a huge Sumo fan. Oda Nobunga (1534-82) was particularly fond of Sumo. In February of 1578, he assembled 1,500 wrestlers from across Japan for a tournament held at his castle. Until then, there were no boundaries to the area in which Sumo matches were held. The space was previously designated by the people waiting for their turn to compete. Nobunga was the first person to draw circular boundaries on the ground for the first time. In the Edo period (1603-1867) several Daimyo (Feudal Lords) began sponsoring the strongest wrestlers. Those sponsored by the Daimyo got a big paycheck and Samurai status.

  • Thumbnail for Master puppeteer Lee Tien-Lu with puppets
    Master puppeteer Lee Tien-Lu with puppets

    Photo of Master Lee Tien-lu, an internationally known puppeteer, posing with two puppets.

  • Thumbnail for Karaori or Noh Robe
    Karaori or Noh Robe

    A silk outer robe for female roles in the Noh performance.,

  • Thumbnail for Chinese Carved Nuts with Literary Scenes (1 view 3)
    Chinese Carved Nuts with Literary Scenes (1 view 3)

    1 1/2" h x 1 3/4" l (including base). Side view of finely carved gourd showing scenes from literature and opera.

  • Thumbnail for Carved Nuts with Literary Scenes - top view
    Carved Nuts with Literary Scenes - top view

    1 1/2""h x 1 3/4""l (including base). Finely carved sampan with moveable windows and doors set on a peach stone stand carved with raised flowers on an inverted chevron ground.

  • Thumbnail for Upstairs balcony of theater building with lanterns and banners bearing actors crests in background
    Upstairs balcony of theater building with lanterns and banners bearing actors crests in background by Ginko Adachi (1874-1895)

    Upstairs scene of couple relaxing in theater building. Color woodblock print;9†x 14â€.

  • Thumbnail for Noh stage, National Theatre, Tokyo
    Noh stage, National Theatre, Tokyo

    This is the Noh stage at the National Theatre in Tokyo, photographed after a performance in December, 2000. Off to the left, out of the photo here, is the bridge, the hashigakari , along which the actors (rarely more than three) enter the stage and exit the stage. Constructed of unpainted wood, probably hinoki cypress, without curtains or scenery, the stage design is rooted in the utter simplicity of Ashikaga aesthetics, which was, of course, extraordinarily sophisticated in its focus on essences. This type of simplicity is very difficult to achieve, as any artist will attest to. -- All noh stages are identical in size and configuration and all have only one permanent element of decoration -- the pine tree on the back wall of the stage, seen also, e.g., at the noh stage at Hiraizumi (image ecasia000005).

  • Thumbnail for Noh Mask: Yamanba
    Noh Mask: Yamanba

    Yamanba describes an otherworldly being who lives deep in the mountains. As the goddess of the mountains, Yamanba lives far outside the human community and is both respected and feared. The Yamanba mask is used in only one Noh play, Yamanba, written by Zeami in his later years, after he had experienced disfavor, exile, and personal diappointment, and it reflects a deeply Buddhist vision. In the play a young dancer, known as Yamanba because of her powerfully evocative performance impersonating the mountain goddess, travels on a pilgrimage through the mountains and meets the real Yamanba, who is portrayed in the first half of the play with a mask used to represent middle-aged women. After revealing her true identity to the girl, she returns in the second half of the play, wearing the Yamanba mask, and through dance and poetic song reveals the depth of her feeling. She describes herself as suspended between two world, the human world and the supernatural world, the world of attachment and the world beyond all emotion. - Andrew Pekarik

  • Thumbnail for Noh Mask: Usobuki
    Noh Mask: Usobuki

    Kyogen, the comic drama in which such subjects as old tales and the problems of real peopple are treated with humorous actions and witty dialogue, uses some masks, though the number of mask types is much mor limited than for Noh. In contrast to the serious quality of Noh masks, those for Kyogen are characterized by their humorous nature, with amused expressions, or by deliberate exaggeration and distortion. Usobuki represents the latter type. The name implies several possible meanings, including to feign innocence, to whistle, or to shape the mouth as though blowing a fire. The mask is worn by both human characters and the spirits of fragile creatures such as the moth, mosquito, or cicada. - Matshushima Ken

  • Thumbnail for Nokan Flutes and Cases for Noh Drama
    Nokan Flutes and Cases for Noh Drama

    Bamboo flute with a mouth hole and seven finger holes. The nokan is the only wind instrument among the instruments used in Noh,and functions as a rhythm instrument.

  • Thumbnail for Uki-e: The interior of the Ichimura-za Theater, Edo
    Uki-e: The interior of the Ichimura-za Theater, Edo by Utagawa Toyoharu

    Utagawa Toyharu was the founder of the Utagawa school of ukiyo-e painting and printmaking. He was born in Kyoto and studied Kano school painting under Tsuruzawa Tangei. Upon moving to Edo in the 1760s he studied with Shigenaga and Sekien and began releasing his own work shortly thereafter. In 1763 he became a printmaker in the ukiyo-e tradition. After establishing himself as a foremost master of printmaking, Toyoharu began to take pupils, among them Toyohiro and Toyokuni, who assumed Toyoharu’s title after his death. Toyoharu’s output was diverse. He is probably best-known for creating the innovative uki-e or perspective print, which was a melding of Japanese and Western art tastes for composition and design. He created several landscape print series in the uki-e manner but he also worked within traditional subject matters and designs. The perspective print illustrates the influence of western images as they made there way into Japan. While contrary to traditional Japanese depictions of space, perspective was particularly appropriate to depictions of the floating world. Attending the Japanese theater, particularly Kabuki, was a popular pastime in the theater quarters of Edo and other large cities. Many plays depicted well-known historical and literary events from Japan’s past, while others featured narratives of a particularly modern bent. The uki-e print was able to capture the bustle and din of the Kabuki theater and the pleasure quarters in which they were located.

  • Thumbnail for Carved Gourd with Literary Scenes (1 view 1)
    Carved Gourd with Literary Scenes (1 view 1)

    1 1/2"h x 1 3/4"l (including base). Side view of finely carved gourd showing scenes from literature and opera.

  • Thumbnail for Kabuki Actor at his Dressing Table
    Kabuki Actor at his Dressing Table by Unidentified artist, possibly Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864)

    Woodblock print, surimono type, ink, colors, and embossing on paper. Surimono were limited edition, fine quality prints produced for a small, select group of clients, in this case, fans of the actor portrayed.

  • Thumbnail for Ivory Figure with a Spinning Face
    Ivory Figure with a Spinning Face

    Noh performer with long hair holds bells for Shinto Dance in his raised arm. The figure's head spins up from a calm face to that of a demon like face; figure's garment has a geometric/floral motif; he holds a fan in his left had and wears a cap on his head; his hair is tied back with a bow which is broken on one side.

  • Thumbnail for Actor on Walkway; Scene from Chikubushima play
    Actor on Walkway; Scene from Chikubushima play by Kogyo, Tsukioka

    Actor in elaborate costume and mask with long red hair. Published by Matsuki Heikichi. Color woodblock print. Color woodblock print; 9†x 14â€.

  • Thumbnail for Kurishima Sumiko
    Kurishima Sumiko

    A top-ranking Japanese actress of the 1920s.

  • Thumbnail for Charumera
    Charumera

    A double-reed wooden flute used to create a Chinese mood in Kabuki plays.

  • Thumbnail for Noh Mask: Uba
    Noh Mask: Uba

    Uba, the mask of an old woman, is used primarily in Takasage, a play in which an old woman and her husband represent the spirits of two pine trees. On his way to the capital, Tomonari, a Shinto priest from he shrine of Aso in Kyushu, rests beneath the pines along the shore at Takasago in Harima Province. The old couple appear and sweep beneath the pines. They tell the priest of two aged pines, one here in Takasago and the other at Sumiyoshi in Settsu Province and of their auspicious associations. Tomonari goes to Sumiyoshi in the second half of the play, and a deity appears and performs a god dance. The Uba mask came to be also used for the roles of ordinary old women in other Noh plays. Typically, the eyes are carved as they are for the mask of a blind person. - Matshushima Ken

  • Thumbnail for Kotsuzumi Drum and Storage Box
    Kotsuzumi Drum and Storage Box

    The kotsuzumi is a percussion instrument shaped much like an hourglass, with a thin middle and two flaring ends. Drumheads of leather mounted on iron rings are fitted on either end with the two drumheads connected by hemp cords. It is held with the left hand, placed on the right shoulder, and struck with the fingers of the right hand. This set is decorated with a spring design of rafts with cherry blossoms in gold maki-e on a black lacquered ground. This kotsuzumi is accompanied by a storage box decorated witha design in maki-e on black lacquer of running water and maple leaves. The design allude to many poems from the Heian period regarding the Tatsuta Riber, famous for the autumn foliage along its banks." - Kawakami Shigeki

  • Thumbnail for Chinese Carved Gourd with Literary Scenes (2 view 1)
    Chinese Carved Gourd with Literary Scenes (2 view 1)

    1 1/2"h x 1 3/4"l (including base). Side view of finely carved gourd showing scenes from literature and opera.

  • Thumbnail for Chinese Carved Gourd with Literary Scenes (1 view 3)
    Chinese Carved Gourd with Literary Scenes (1 view 3)

    1 1/2"h x 1 3/4"l (including base). Side view of finely carved gourd showing scenes from literature and opera.

  • Thumbnail for Ivory Figure with a Spinning Face
    Ivory Figure with a Spinning Face

    Noh performer with long hair holds bells for Shinto Dance in his raised arm. The figure's head spins up from a calm face to that of a demon like face; figure's garment has a geometric/floral motif; he holds a fan in his left had and wears a cap on his head; his hair is tied back with a bow which is broken on one side.

  • Thumbnail for Tale of Genji Matched to Pictures of the Floating world (Genji kumo ukiyo-e awase)
    Tale of Genji Matched to Pictures of the Floating world (Genji kumo ukiyo-e awase) by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1789-1861)

    Showing the 34th or Wakana (Young Greens) Chapter of the Tale of Genji with the Actors Juro Sukenari and Kobayashi Asahira. Woodcut on paper, 14 x 10 inches (oban size). The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu is one of the classics of court literature and was often the subject of hand-scrolls (Yamato-e). An example of such a Yamato-e hand-scroll appears in the upper part of the print. The cover of the hand-scroll is folded over, so that its back faces us. A vertical title bar normally decorates the back of a hand-scroll. In this case, the title reads Tale of Genji Matched to Pictures of the Floating world (Genji kumo ukiyo-e awase.) The text that follows the title starts with the word 'wakana', identifying the section of the Tale of Genji in question as Chapters 35 and 36, that is New Herbs, Parts 1 and 2. Below the hand-scroll, there is a diagonal wall covered by branches. Beneath it, a censor's seal appears and then the signature of the artist Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi with his seal. Another long inscription follows to the right, and then the figures of two actors, identified by vertical cartouches as Kobayashi Asahira to the left and Juro Sukenari to the right. To the bottom left is the publisher's seal: hangen Ise-ichi. Prints such as this one are excellent evidence of how ukiyo-e relates to Yamato-e. They also show how ukiyo-e used the 'double-edged' line. For instance, consider the vertical contours of the two folds in the part of the blue belt on the left that hangs down beneath the tie. Note that the lines begin thick and quickly grow thinner. Focus on the thicker areas at the tops of the line. The right and left sides of these lines differ slightly. The right side creates a flat, square area at the top that shows how the cloth changes direction as it bends downward, whereas the left side is curved to reveal the way in which the material is continuous across the fold.