Kurokawa Noh

Introducing a 500-year-old Noh tradition

By Alena Eckelmann    - 3 min read

Kurokawa, a small village in the mountains near Tsuruoka in Yamagata Prefecture, is preserving a 500-year-old tradition of Noh theater, a form of classical Japanese theater.

Once a year at the beginning of February a big Noh festival takes place here when the two Noh groups of the village perform Noh a whole night long.

The two groups are called Kami-za and Shimo-za and they are united in the Kurokawa-Noh Hozonkai (Kurokawa Noh Preservation Association).

Each season sees the performance of different Noh pieces, which is decided in a big meeting of the two guilds held on January 3rd. From this day on until the day of the show the performers don't eat meat and fish.

Performances take place in old farm houses that belong to Kurokawa families. Each year different houses are chosen and prepared by the owners of the houses for hosting about 50 people on each night on February 1st and 2nd each year.

The Kurokawa Noh is special and tickets for performances are issued by lottery. I was lucky to get a ticket to watch a superb Noh performance of the Kami-za for one night in February.

The evening starts with guests making their way to register at the Kurokawa Noh Museum. They are greeted by man-size candles bearing the Kanji for "kami" and "shimo", which represent the two Noh groups.

Guests are received at a reception table where they go through some rituals of greeting members of the Noh groups and eating a tofu dish prepared by the women of the groups.

All guests wait in a large hall until they are taken to the houses where the performances take place.

While waiting, you have a chance to admire Noh masks and Noh dolls which are for display at the Kurokawa Noh Museum. They give a glimpse of what treasures the two Noh guilds hold. They are said to own 250 Noh masks and over 500 Noh costumes.

This Noh museum is small and modest; the real attraction in Kurokawa is attending a Noh performance.

Enquiries (in Japanese only):

  • Email: ku-kyoiku@city.tsuruoka.yamagata.jp
  • Phone: ++81-(0)235-57-5310

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Alena Eckelmann

Alena Eckelmann @alena.eckelmann

Born East of the Wall and South of Berlin, I am celebrating my 15th year anniversary in Japan in May 2020, the country that I call home now. I lived in crazy Tokyo for 6 years and since 2011 I call the beautiful Kii Peninsula (Kumano, Koyasan and Yoshinoyama) my home.I have been a JapanTravel Partner since the conception of the platform in 2011! In Tokyo I worked in market research at AIP Corporation and in business education at JMEC. For the last 10 years I have been a guide for foreign visitors at Venture Japan, on top of being a Freelance Writer and a Business Researcher. Apart from work, I trained at the Yoshinkan Aikido Dojo and at the Oedo Sukeroku Taiko Dojo for several years each, and I ran the 1st Tokyo Marathon and enjoyed cycling around Tokyo. During the last 10 years I am working with local authorities to improve their hospitality to foreign visitors and I have participated in many monitors as a media representative. My current interest is in Japanese nature and spirituality. I love spending time in the forest and mountains, and I love visiting temples and shrines. I am a licensed guide for the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails and for Koyasan, the Buddhist monastery, in addition to being a practitioner and licensed guide for Forest Therapy (Shinrin Therapy). As a guide for walking tours, I have taken visitors to walk the Kumano Kodo trails, the Nakasendo trail and the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage trail. Being grounded during this COVID-19 crisis, I enjoy gardening, baking bread in my new Japanese bread-maker and going for walks around 'my' village. Take care, keep well, stay safe!

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