1/15/17: Kitano Tenmangu, Attempted Kinkakuji, Hakurakuten and Ikkaku sennin

This morning Louisa, Ayami and I went to Kitano Tenmangu to get amulets for studying. We didn’t spend a lot of time there but got a number of great pictures. At about 10:00 we realized that we were extremely close to Kinkakuji. Though we had to be at the Noh theater by 12:00 we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see Kinkakuji in the snow. As we approached the temple it became clear that we weren’t the only ones with that idea. In short order we found ourselves in a sea of umbrellas queuing up for a line of indeterminable length. After about 30-45 minutes of standing in line, we were unfortunately forced to choose between seeing Kinkakuji and being on time for the Noh performance. Responsibility won the day and we pushed our way back to the end of the line.

Hakurakuten was a bit of a challenge for me. I spent most of the performance trying to justify the idiosyncrasies of Noh. The abrupt, disjoint speaking style was one artistic choice I couldn’t quite pin down the reasoning behind. It seems to have a lot in common with Shinto/Buddhist chants so perhaps that has something to do with it. Another point of interest was the often suffocating pace of the performance. The first half hour of the play was basically the characters entering the stage. I think this sparseness is in agreement with the idea that empty space is as important as content. However, it was honestly a bit heavy-handed for my taste. It reminded me of being behind a car going 15 mph on a street with a speed limit of 30 mph. There’s something disarming about it. Deep down everyone knows that honking and tailgating just won’t change anything. They’re being taken for a ride and the old lady in the beige ’98 Buick is calling the shots. Annoyance, confusion, and resentment all give way to a kind of incredulous admiration. Here’s someone who’s doing it her way with no apologies and no hesitation. Here is someone who is truly free. Such was Hakurakuten.

Ikkaku Sennin was easier to enjoy in a traditional sense. It was a shorter play with a livelier pace and an abundance of props. My favorite part by far was the last ten minutes of the play. The music quickened into a cacophonous thunder and the two “dragons” charmingly burst from their flimsy lair. It was exactly the touch of sweet playfulness something bitter and serious like Noh begs for. I would enjoy seeing more performances like Ikkaku Sennin.

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