What is Kyogen?

About Kyogen:

Together with the Japanese ancient court music and dance called Gagaku(雅楽), Sarugaku(猿楽) which was developed from Sangaku(散楽: amusing gymnastic entertainment) was imported from China in the Nara Period (710-794). Out of Sarugaku, the music-and-mask play characterized by Yugen (幽玄:subtle and profound), abstract, and serious style is called Noh(能), while a play without music, dance, and mask characterized by a comical, realistic, and light style is called Kyogen(狂言). Collectively, Noh and Kyogen have been called Nohgaku(能楽) since the Meiji Period(1868-). Nohgaku is a one of the oldest drama traditions that does does not use a stage set, and was added to “The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (common name; Intangible Cultural Heritage)” by UNESCO at the first registration (19 items were listed in the world) in 2001. Kyogen is classified into two types; the independent program called Honkyogen (本狂言); and the comedic interlude in Noh called Aikyogen(間狂言). Various characters, irrespective of age or sex, such as the gods, religious men, samurais, merchants, common people, plants, and animals appear in Kyogen, and develop the story with an exaggerated expression. Today, there are two Kyogen schools, the Izumi school and the Okura school; the Izumi school consists of three different ha(派: group) – Yamawaki ha, Nomura ha, and Miyake ha; the Okura school consists of the Shigeyama family and Yamamoto family as soke (宗家:the head family). The Sagi school existed until the Meiji Period (1868-1912).

About the Izumi school:

While the Okura school and the Sagi school were controlled by the Shogunate in the Edo period, the Izumi school was newly started by Motoyoshi Yamawaki, who lived in Kyoto and served as a Kyogen player in the Imperial Palace, with Matasaburo Nomura the first and Tokuro Miyake (both of them served in the Imperial Place too) in 1614. Although the school was also called Kyoryu(京流: Kyo school), it became more well known as Izumiryu(和泉流: Izumi school) from the end of the Edo period as Yamawaki was granted the honorary title of Izuminokami(和泉守). Today, the Izumi school is organized and managed by the council of the Izumiryu Shokubunkai (和泉流職分会), established in 1995, because soke does not exist. In comparison with the quaint Okura school, the Izumi school is characterized by the use of many songs and ballads, unexpected turns of the story, and costumes rich in variation and reality. The greatest feature is, despite the same program, that there is a lot of variation in words, names and the number of characters, and turning and concluding parts of the story because each of Yamawaki ha, Nomura ha, and Miyake ha has passed down its own scripts since beginning of foundation of the school. However, holding many joint performances, they compare notes and adjust scripts by the active exchanges when a performance is held.

About Matasaburo Nomura:

The head of Nomura ha (野村派), one of the three ha of the Izumi school. It is said that he was originally a self-sustaining samurai called goshi(郷士) in Miyazu Domain Tango Province (modern day Kyoto) and ran a kimono fabric store. It is believed that the beginning of Nomura as a Kyogen family is one of the small factions active around Kyoto in the early 17th century. Due to the connection with Motoyoshi Yamawaki who served in the Imperial Palace together, he was welcomed at the time of Izumi school formation as an honored guest in 1614 and played a role in the school. During the Edo period, he served as an actor with an exclusive contact with Hosokawa Domain Higo Province (modern day Kumamoto) and Tokugawa Domain Owari Province (modern day Aichi) while living in Kyoto and serving in the Imperial Palace. After the Meiji restoration, he moved his residence to Osaka and Tokyo to open a new field of activity. A lot of important families in the Nohgaku world became extinct because of earthquake and war damage, whereas Nomura ha of three ha in Izumi school has never interrupted since foundation of the school. After the war, Nomura ha was inherited by the 12th-generation, Matasaburo Nobuhiro Nomura (1921-2007), and moved its base to Nagoya where it has been in connection with the family for a long time. Today, Nomura ha contributes to performance, guidance, and promotion activities of Nohgaku under the leadership of the 14th-generation, Matasaburo Nobuyuki Nomura.

- From the Nomura Clan’s website, kyogen.net.

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