Japan: Water

Born Into A Noh Family: How the New Generation is Keeping the Tradition Alive

Noh is a traditional Japanese performing art with a history of almost 600 years. Comprising both music and dance, the extremely sophisticated and stylised body movements of the performers and the wearing of elegant masks to identify the characters make Noh distinctive. Alongside Kyogen, which developed in parallel, the significance of Noh performance to global performing arts was recognised by UNESCO in 2008, when it was designated as Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Compared to Kabuki, there are comparatively fewer obstacles on the path towards becoming a Noh performer. Anybody who wishes to learn the Noh art form can do so, regardless of their gender or origin. Nonetheless, becoming a professional is a long process of perfecting the skill over the course of many years, and those who are born into a Noh lineage often have their future predetermined in order to keep this very intricate tradition alive.

How do these new generations settle into their fated roles? How much dedication is necessary to carry on creating an enduring legacy?

In this special online talk, the Japan Foundation has invited Noh performer TAKEDA Takafumi, a direct descendant of an established Noh family, to share his experience of being born into such specific circumstances. In conversation with Dr Ashley Thorpe (Royal Holloway, University of London) who specialises in Noh, Takeda will reveal the daily practices he has followed since childhood, his views on the pursuit of keeping the tradition alive, as well as how he and his family adapt to the changes and challenges of the present day.


TAKEDA Takafumi

Board member of Noh Shо̄ Kai.

Born in Tokyo in 1989 as the second son of TAKEDA Naohiro, a Shite (main role) Noh actor of Kanze-Ryū School. Since his debut at the age 3, Takafumi has studied and been trained under his father. He has taken part in about 100 performances every year in which he took on the intricate Shite role several times. In addition to this, he has been involved in projects run by Gyokuto no Kai, which support victims of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake. He has also been active in the promotion of Noh performances through various workshops and other activities as part of the Ōryū no Kai projects which center on conveying the appeal of Noh. His Shite role repertoire includes his performance in Shyakkyo in 2018, and he is scheduled to perform as Shite once again in Midare in 2020.

Dr Ashley Thorpe

Ashley Thorpe is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Drama, Theatre & Dance at Royal Holloway. He has studied Noh in the Kita School for ten years and is a member of the theatre company Theatre Nohgaku. In 2011, he established the only annual intensive Noh training programme in Europe, Noh Training Project UK, with Richard Emmert and Matsui Akira. He has written and performed his own English Noh, Emily (London, 2019), and performed alongside the Ōshima family of Noh actors in the touring production of Janette Cheong’s Between The Stones (London, Ireland, Paris, 2020).


Please note that this online event will be hosted on Zoom.

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