The Earliest Noh Play of the Year – New Year’s Day – The Venerable Old Man

The History of the New Year’s Day Noh Play “The Venerable Old Man” and Sasayama Noh

Every year on the first of January, at 12:20 a.m., starts Japan’s very first Noh play of the year. “The Venerable Old Man is performed on the stage of Kasuga Shrine (Kurooka). Combined with the spring play “Sasayama Kasuga Noh” and the autumn play “Tamba Noh” (performance currently suspended), these 3 are known as The Great Three Tanba Noh Plays.

Kasuga Shrine (Kurooka) was enshrined by the gods after having been separated from the Great Kasuga Shrine in Nara. Designated as a cultural asset of Japan, the stage was built during the Meiji era (1861) using contributions from the feudal lord at the time and lover of Noh, Tadanaga Aoyama. Tadanaga was a member of the shogun’s council of elders during the Edo Shogunate. After, he modeled the stage in Kasuga Shrine after that of the stage in Edo Castle. Under the floorboards of the stage are 7 urns made from one of Japan’s most noteworthy kilns; the Tamba ware kiln in Sasayama. They have also become points of attraction during the Noh plays. They were placed there so that when the performers stomped on the floors, the sound would echo for effect.

Humorous and Whimsical – New Year’s Day Noh Dance

The Japanese traditional art form; Noh. Noh is a wondrous performing art where, along with an elegant musical accompaniment, the performers, clad in traditional Japanese costumes, dance.

No Noh plays were held at Kasuga Shrine during the Meiji Period from 1868 to 1912. They were finally revived in 1973. With the help of volunteers, they we able to breathe life back into the traditional Sasayama Kasuga Noh plays.

Okina (The Venerable Old Man) is a noticeably different, sacred and more unique kind of programme from normal Noh plays. The performer, dressed as an old god in a mask, dances and prays for peace to reign over the land, for peace to be brought to the kingdom and for an abundant harvest.

Among the peculiar tension and strain, and surrounded by the air of a new year, how about appreciating an art that reminds you of the season at hand.


Title: New Year’s Day Noh – The Venerable Old Man
TEL: 079-552-0758(Sasayama City Chamber of Commerce) 079-506-1535(Tamba Sasayama Tourist Association)
Access: JR Fukuchiyama Line (Get off at Sasayamaguchi Station and take the Shinki green bus towards Sasayama’s Business Office. Get off at Kasuga Shrine Mae)
Date and Time: January 1st, 12:20 a.m.
Price: Free