Even if the entire project looks like a mountain,
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2018 The Uniqueness of Noh and its Fusion with AI Robots

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Noh Actor Takashi Katsumi (Holder of general designation of important intangible cultural heritage)Profile


Redefinition of Japanese civilization

The deepness of “Noh” symbolized by “static” and “abbreviated”


A Noh robot dancing to express the invisible world of the past and the present! …! Participated in an international robot exhibition for the first time

November 29~December 2, 2017 (Tokyo Big Site)

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The concept of a new AI robot developed by Noh (right brain)

Editorial Supervisor / NoH actor / Noboru Katsumi (Rising Cloud Advisor)

Noh Robot Production / THK Corp.) / SEED Solution / Nagatsuka & his team
Planning & Production / MPUF / with the cooperation of Hasaba Hirofumi / NPO Rising Cloud

What is “Noh”?

● The delicacy of “Noh mask”
* “Noh mask” is inherited by the performer from the time of Muromachi, about 600 years ago. A great many performers have been soaked in sweat wearing the Noh mask.
The performer has to kill his character and devote to play the character of that role. The soul of the performer will be in the “Noh mask”. That “thought” has been passed down through hundreds of years. It is a very beautiful art piece, but once it is used by a performer, the spirit of the previous performers stay with the Noh mask.
* The expression melancholy as seen in the Noh Shoru (crying) using two hands over the eyes or even one hand is considered exaggerated. Instead they just tilt the angle of the mask slightly down. There is nothing else in the world to express sorrow like this. Expressing the minumum is the concept of Noh. It is element of the art of Noh. Let the audience feel freely.

As the world’s oldest traditional classic stage art in existence, Noh has more than 600 years of history and it is designated by UNESCO as the world heritage asset in 2008. It is a play but also a musical play with the element of dancing and singing, so it comparable to opera in the west but the difference between those two is spectacular.

It can be said to be a masked play since they put on the mask when performing.

ZEAMI who perfected the Noh Play is one of the most important figures in Japanese theater history. It was more than 200 years before Shakespeare appeared when he wrote his concept of art theory FUSHIKADEN.

Noh is the play involving a perfect division of labor, those who are reciting and those who are performing TAHIKATA. The latter are divided into SHITEKATA a main actor and WAKIKATA supporting actors and KYOGENKATA comical actors and HAYASHIKATA musicians.

The main actor is called SHITE and sometime he plays a role of transcendental figure such as dragon god or a demon. Noh focuses on the main actor. The SHITE is not only a main actor but he also performs the functions of producer and director. Thus ZEAMI, as a leading SHITE, exerted his genius over the entire production.

Today’s guest speaker, Mr Katsumi Noboru is SHITEKATA in KANZE school and produces his own Noh plays.

Hello, everyone.

Today’s special guest is Mr Katsumi Noboru. He is a Noh player of Kanze School and he is a holder of important intangible cultural heritage.

Noh as a stage art often compared with the Opera in the west.

Today we would like to ask Mr Katsumi about Noh and study the difference between the west and east way of thinking and to introduce the most simple but deep performing art of Noh.

“You brought us beautiful costumes, how old are they?”

“This costume does not happen to be old. There are many different kinds of costume for Noh art. KARAORI is famous type of Noh Costume. It includes representations of traditional patterns such as flowers and grass of four seasons, and birds, wind, and the moon and patterns from Chrysanthemum. Patterns and costumes change in accordance with the music.”


“How many costumes do you have as your own?”

“Since I have conducted my own UNI NO KAI school for 30years, I have many costumes. I did not inherit any of them. They are all from my own time. But when it comes to Noh masks, I have some very old masks. Today I have brought three kinds of Noh masks from the Edo era who are about 300 years old. First I will show you a woman’s mask and as for the woman masks there are about 20 kinds of woman masks ranging from teenager to 90 years old lady. All are different. They change masks and costumes along with the music. Noh masks, Noh costumes, colors, patterns, they change everything. So it is very luxury world. This is mask bag made from small pieces of KARAORI. Some are mended and worn out now.”

“Noh masks are an art form; but the sweat of previous Noh player stays on the inside of the masks throughout each era. Noh masks are art; but for we Noh players they are also tools. When used on the stage by Noh players they come alive; but otherwise they remain dry and dead. They are grasped using the holes in the ears. We do not hold them in any other way. We feel it very important to keep them clean, so when storing them we try to avoid soiling with oil from our hands. We never touch them with our hands. The sweat of players from bygone days adds a certain flavor or value to the old masks. This one is a mask of a woman.”



“This is old one, too. It is backed with cloth. If that were not so, you could see through to the other side of the eyes. Then there would be no expression on the face.”

“This one is 315 years old from the Edo era. Its Surface is peeling. I have used it many times: and every time I put it on, a little bit peels off.”

“To me, Noh masks are tools for use by players on a stage so when displayed in a museum they are not alive, however great a masterpiece they may be. When in use, it even appears that blood flows. On a shadowy stage they provide a tremendous effect. My belief is that Noh masks are alive.”

“I have more than one hundred Noh masks. I feel that they seem to be chatting with each other at night. This is another old one. This is a mask portraying a ghost. It is used when we play such a role.Observe the frightful look of the face. It is dreadful just to look at. This is a mask and this a wig. When we insert the black wig on top of the mask and put on the costume they all become alive and present a dreadful appearance. It is not only the Noh mask: but adding the black wig the expression changes, does it not?”


This is also available in: Japanese