The World of Traditional Performing Arts! The Sasayama Kasuga Noh Performances in April

The History of Sasayama Kasuga Noh

Every year, at the beginning of April, a Noh theater performance called “Sasayama Kasuga Noh” is being held on the Noh stage of the Kasuga Shrine.

The Kasuga Shrine in Kurooka, Sasayama city, is a shrine dedicated to the same deities as the famous Kasuga Taisha Shrine found in Nara. The Noh stage within this shrine was built in 1861, through the support of the 13th Lord of Sasayama, Aoyama Tadanaga. Lord Tadanaga was so fond of Noh that he used to hold private performances even before this Noh stage was built. Tadanaga had served the central government in Edo (the old name for Tokyo) for four years and he took the inspiration to built the Noh stage in Kasuga Shrine after the Noh stage found in Edo Castle.

However, during the Meiji Period (1868 – 1912), the frequency of the Noh performances on the stage of Kasuga Shrine gradually decreased until the stopped almost completely. The Noh performances were revived in 1973. It was then that the first Sasayama Kasuga Noh was held and this series of performances continues to this day.

Sasayama Kasuga Noh – The Plays

The Sasayama Kasuga Noh featured Noh performers such as Umewaka Manzaburo, who was designated an Important National Cultural Asset, or Otsuki Bunzo, a Living National Treasure, and many other actors who are active in the first lines of the world of Noh. Many of the Noh plays performed here have spring-related themes, such as “Saigyo Zakura”, “Sakuragawa” or “Suma Genji”. In between two Noh performances, the audience can also enjoy the comic theater called “Kyogen”.

Noh is often called “the oldest existing theater form”. The music, the chants and the dance – all belong to the authentic Japanese tradition, and Noh itself has been registered as Intangible Cultural Heritage. At the same time, it is also a rare form of mask theater as the lead actor wears a mask during the performance. On the Noh stage of Kasuga Shrine, visitors can see Noh only two times a year: at New Year’s, when the auspicious performance called “Okina” is held, and the Sasayama Kasuga Noh in April. How about coming to see a Noh and Kyogen performance here at Kasuga Shrine in the season of the cherry blossoms?

One of the special features of this stage is that it has seven Tanba pottery items on it. This gives the echo of the actors’ steps and the music a very special type of reverberation. You should definitely come and feel it for yourself!

Information

Name: Sasayama Kasuga Noh
Address: Sasayama city, Kurooka 75 Kasuga Shrine Noh stage
TEL: 079-552-5792 (Sasayama Office for Education – Cultural Heritage Section)
URL: http://tourism.sasayama.jp/english/
Access: Sasayama-guchi Station on the JR Fukuchiyama Line. Get off here and take the Shinki Green Bus heading to Sasayama Eigyosho. Get off at “Kasuga Jinja Mae” bus stop.
Perfomance dates: The beginning of April each year
Tickets: Adults – Advance Tickets 5000 yen (on the day 5500 yen), Middle and highschool students – Advance Tickets 1000 yen (on the day – same price) * The price of the tickets is subject to change.