Practicing Noh for 40years


I started practicing Noh when I was 18, in the spring. Normally around this time of year most clubs would host lavish parties to welcome the freshmen, but I opted for a rather serious club: the Noh Study Group. Why you ask? Because the senior students looked so stunning in their hakama. If you saw a woman in a hakama, a garment worn more commonly by men, jauntily walking around the campus, well, let’s just say you couldn’t take your eyes off her.


”It won’t take you long to learn how to chant and dance.” “You also get to learn how to wear a kimono for free!” “We have lots of events with other schools and two recitals a year.” Everything they told me sounded so interesting, so I immediately joined the club and started practicing from May. It was there where I met Master Yasuyuki Imai, a Noh performer who is still my mentor to this day. I also figured that my father, who coincidently practiced the same Hosho school of Noh, might be able to back me up in many ways as well!


The four years I spent with the Noh Study Group were full of fun memories. I worked hard to be on stage. During our summer camp, we lined up on the beach and chanted Noh towards the sea. We had passionate discussions about the art of chanting and the dancing with friends from other schools. In short, even though we were a club about Japanese art and culture, we practiced like an athletic team.


It’s been almost 40 years since then. I continued to practice after graduating from the university, but the chants and dances that I learned when I was a student are a part of me I will never forget. You can easily start practicing Noh as long as you have your tabi socks, a fan, and the lyrics. It is so simple. But it never ends. Noh is what kept me going at my day job for 33 years. So, what is Noh practice all about? It is not quite the same as an ordinary class you would do for fun. I think there is a kind of structure and spirituality particular to Japan.


In this blog, I would like to write what I think about practicing Noh, after having been at it for 40 years.