Today we listened to a two-hour lecture as an introduction to Noh Theatre by Professor Monica Bethe. The lecture was held at Terminal Kyoto, where we will be giving our own presentations at the end of our stay. I think I learned a lot about Noh Theatre, and I gained a greater appreciation for the importance of the execution of each element of a Noh play.
I liked the interactive portions of the lecture. Professor Bethe had us clap and vocalize as though we were Noh drum players. It was a bit tough for me to get the timing right, but I thought it was fun because everyone else seemed to enjoy getting involved. I also liked practicing fan manipulation. I like fans a lot and I thought the different hand positions were very pretty.
I never appreciated until this talk that Noh programs, in a circular fashion, enter the world of dieties, then the world of human problems, and re-enter the world of dieties with an emphasis on returning to harmony and prosperity. I had also never heard of Okina, which is the first of the performances we will see tomorrow and which is not truly a Noh play but rather a ceremonial ritual that is performed only at the beginning of the year. Unlike at many places that are better appreciated with cherry blossoms in bloom, in the case of Noh we are lucky to be in Kyoto during January.
We had the afternoon free because Gakyu-san, the Buddhist statue sculptor, is unfortunately ill. Hopefully we will see him at a later date. To explore more of the city, all of the ladies on the trip went to see Nijo Castle, where we walked the castle interior and the garden, which was gorgeous. It was amazing to me how opulent the building and its furnishings were without seeming too flashy. The nightingale floors were also surprisingly birdlike. I had expected it to sound more similar to the sound of creaking floorboards, but it was a sharp whistle sound. A sign explained that this had to do with the way that the nails in the structure hold the wood together but I’m not sure I remember it correctly.
After Nijo Castle, Leah, Tiffany, Breelyn, and I went to Nanzen-ji and climbed up the Sanmon to view part of Kyoto and to see the Buddhist sculptures inside the top floor of the gate. The steps were so steep that I was holding the rail and nearly sitting down every time I took a step downward. If other sanmon are like the one at Nanzen-ji in terms of this element of the structure, I likely won’t be entering them. But it was nice to have gone in at least once during my first time in Kyoto.
Then Breelyn, Tiffany, and I completed the Philosopher’s Walk twice. We went to Ginkaku-ji and back. Though by the time we got to Ginkaku-ji it was dark and everything was closed. So we walked back to Nanzen-ji and took the subway back to Sanjo. My feet are so sore that by the time we got back to the hostel I was limping. But I think once I get some rest I should be fine, and we’ll be spending six hours sitting tomorrow when we watch the Noh performances. It was another good, long day.