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  • Thumbnail for Noh Mask: Shikami
    Noh Mask: Shikami

    Shikami is one of the demon masks. His threatening expression, with scoowling eyes and bared fanglike teeht, well conveys his ferocity. Furrows are intensified with red and, as was often done in Noh demon masks to manifest rage, the eyes are highlighted in gold. - Matsushima Ken

  • Thumbnail for Noh
    Noh

    The actor Umewaka Rokuro leads a busy life, reviving ancient Noh plays, presenting new Noh productions and performing overseas.

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

    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 (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 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 Man and Woman
    Man and Woman by Ippitsusai Buncho (active c. 1760-1794)

    Woodblock print. Dimensions: 11 1/2 x 5 3/4 in. Kabuki Actors Ichikawa Monnosuke II playing Hisamatsu and Yamashita Yaozo playing Osome.

  • Thumbnail for Untitled
    Untitled by Kunichika, Toyohara (1835-1900)

    14 x 10 inches. Woodblock print of famous actor, Ichikawa Danjuro, in Kabaki drama role of a warrior-assassin, drawing sword, which has been concealed in a musical instrument.

  • Thumbnail for Kabuki Scene
  • 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 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 Kabuki Woman
    Kabuki Woman

    Nakamura Kantaro, a 20 year old kabuki actor, plays a woman in the play Sannin Kichisa.

  • 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 The actor Iwai Kumesaburo VI as Shizuka-gozen
    The actor Iwai Kumesaburo VI as Shizuka-gozen by Utagawa Toyokuni I

    A student of Toyoharu, Toyokuni became the head of the Utagawa school after his master’s death. At eighteen the artist published his first works, a series of illustrations of Japanese folk tales and thereafter he devoted much of his early career to the creation of bijin-ga. He achieved the greatest renown, however, for actor prints in which he was one of the first to show the full bodies and the costumes of his subjects. Like his contemporary Kitagawa Utamaro, Toyokuni was punished for the content of some of his prints, at one point being sentenced to fifty days in hand-shackles for his series Ehon Taiheki (The Taihei Romance Illustrated). By the 1820s Toyokuni’s name had become synonymous with fine prints of actors and their roles. A tragic female character in numerous Kabuki plays, Shizuka-gozen offered Kabuki actors a chance to portray the gamut of emotions from love to mourning and demanded a great degree of agility and grace as she danced before the gods and her captors.

  • 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 Chinese Carved Gourd with Literary Scenes (2 view 3)
    Chinese Carved Gourd with Literary Scenes (2 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 Rampei Monogurui
    Rampei Monogurui

    One scene in Rampei Monogurui (Rampei Goes Insane). Here the main character, Rampei (played by Onoe Shoroku), fights with his enemies. Traditionally, Kabuki skills are passed from older members of a family of actors to the younger members, down through the generations. But in 1969, the National Theater established the Kabuki Actor Taining Center to teach aspiring performers from outside the Kabuki world as well. The training program lasts two years and is free. A few participants join every second year, and after they graduate, they are eligible for a role on the Kabuki stage. Almost all of the actors shown here graduated from the Kabuki Actor Training Center.

  • Thumbnail for Noh Mask: Ko-ushi
    Noh Mask: Ko-ushi

    Old man mask worn during Noh performance.

  • Thumbnail for Noh Mask: Koomote
    Noh Mask: Koomote

    One of the earliest Noh masks to be developed, Koomote represents the countenance of a calm young woman, her neatly arranged hair parted in the middle, with three loose, but not overlapping, strands on either side. Ko (small), the first Japaanese character of the two that form the word koomote, suggests the youth, freshness and charm embodied in this mask. Reflecting the standard of beauty from the Heian period on, the oval face is full, with eyebrows shaved and repainted high on the wide forehead. The teeth are blackened (ohaguro), with a paste made of powdered iron filings and gall nuts steeped in vinegar or tea; this was a cosmetic fashion adopted by young women on coming of age. Although Koomote represents a general character type, subtle differences among masks are apparent. Some emphasize youthful freshness, some refinement, some a delicately erotic charm. - Matshushima Ken

  • Thumbnail for Kariginu or Noh "Hunting Robe"
    Kariginu or Noh "Hunting Robe"

    The kariginu, literally hunting robe," was originally an informal jacket worn by men of the court class in the Heian period. In the medieval era it was adapted by elite samurai as their most formal garment. It is thought that the kariginu first used in Noh performances were those actually worn by samurai aristocrats. In the Edo period the kariginu was established as a Noh costume, and these kariginu for the stage were made larger than the kariginu for daily wear from which they had originated. in Noh, the kariginu is regarded as the most imortant outer garment for male roles." - Kawakami Shigeki.

  • 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 Karaori or Noh Robe
    Karaori or Noh Robe

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

  • Thumbnail for Kana-dehon Chushingura Act IV: Scene at Enya-Hangan's Castle in Kamakura
    Kana-dehon Chushingura Act IV: Scene at Enya-Hangan's Castle in Kamakura by Utagawa Kuniteru

    Studied first under Kunisada and later with Toyokuni, took the name Kuniteru around 1844. Kana-dehon Chushingura (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers) was a popular and frequently performed Kabuki play in the late 18th and early 19th century in Edo. Based on actual historical events from 1701 – 1703, the play tells of forty-seven ronin (samurai without a lord) who seek revenge for the unjust death of their leader Enya-Hangan. Included here are printed depictions of some of the particularly dramatic acts of the play. Act IV: Enya-hangan commits hara-kiri, while his loyal retainer Yuranosuke vows revenge on Moronao.

  • Thumbnail for The actor Ichimura Uzaemon XIII as the scoundrel Benten-Kozo Kikunosuke
    The actor Ichimura Uzaemon XIII as the scoundrel Benten-Kozo Kikunosuke by Utagawa Yoshiiku

    A pupil of Kuniyoshi, who despite the innovations and new subject matters and styles brought on by the Meiji period continued to practice a fairly traditional style of ukiyo-e. Ukiyo-e artists were often commissioned to execute portraits of kabuki actors in some of their most famous and popular roles. These portraits served as advertisements of an upcoming performance and as souvenirs for fans of kabuki, who would often loudly shout and cheer when one of their favorite actors struck a particularly dramatic and expressive pose (mie). Like many professions in Japan, acting was often a family tradition, thus like some ukiyo-e artists, actors would take the name of their predecessor and simply add a number to mark their position in the line of succession. The scoundrel in this case is the lead in a popular Kabuki play of the Edo period written by Kawatake Mokuami (1816– 1893). The role demands a wide range for an actor who must transform from a young maiden into a rough criminal.