Another treat. This performance, put on by the Japan Foundation in Kyoto, was of Noh and Kyogen theatre. Normally accompanying each other in what I have been told can be marathon performances. This particular performance was a modest 1 1/2 hours. Specifically aimed at non-Japanese speakers, the performance is accompanied by a full english translation in the theatre notes. The sounds of the Noh musicians and accompanists is certainly like a sound I have never heard. And the Kyogen is almost slapstick in its amplification of some Japanese protocols and hierarchies.
The Japan Foundation Kyoto Office will organize “An Evening of Noh and Kyogen” to provide foreigners such as students and researchers from around the world with an opportunity to experience Japanese traditional culture.
Following a dream which the retired Emperor Ichijo has had, an envoy is sent to the swordsmith Kokaji Munechika to order him to make a blade for the Emperor. As Munechika has no skilled assistant to help him in this, he goes to his shrine and prays there to the god Inari. A child then comes to him and gives an account of famous swords in China and Japan. Though refusing to tell Munechika who he is, he promises him all the help he needs to make a sword worthy of the Emperor, and then vanishes from sight. The swordsmith then prepares for the ceremonial forging of the blade, and after he has offered up prayers, the god Inari himself descends and helps him in the work. The sword thus miraculously made is presented to the envoy and the god returns to his shrine.
<From A GUIDE TO NŌ 5th ed. by P. G. O’neill, Hinoki Shoten,1954>
Kyogen: BUNZO (The Tricky Memory Trick)
Taro Kaja took off work for a few days without his Master’s permission and went to the capital. …… When the Master hears where Taro Kaja has been and that while there he visited the Master’s uncle, he says he will forgive Taro Kaja if he tells him about the trip and especially about what the uncle gave him to eat, since the uncle is famous for serving very delicious and unusual foods. Taro Kaja says he did indeed eat something that was very unusual and very delicious, but he can’t recall what it was called. …… The Master names all the foods he can think of …… , but nothing rings any bells with Taro Kaja.
Taro Kaja always has a hard time remembering things, so the Master had instructed him to use the memory trick of relating things. Taro Kaja says that he remembers that the name of the food is in the chanted narrative (katari) the Master likes to recite about the battle at Ishibashi Mountain. The Master agrees to recite it ……. Taro Kaja finally stops him …… when he hears the word Bunzo, the name of a warrior. The Master …… suddenly realizes that Taro Kaja has even used a mistaken memory trick. The Master asks him if it was unzo gayu (a lukewarm tasteless soup eaten by Zen priests for breakfast) and Taro Kaja exclaims, Yes, that’s it.”The Master scolds him for putting him to so much trouble to recall something so disagreeable.
<From A GUIDE TO KYOGEN by Don Kenny, Hinoki Shoten, 1968>