It is said Noh ( 能, /nóʊ｜nˈəʊ/ ) is one of the oldest performing arts in the world. It was codified by Kan-ami and his son, Zeami 650 years ago. It includes singing (謡), dancing (舞) and music with the band by Japanese traditional instruments (Noh flute 笛, small hand drum 小鼓, large hand drum 大鼓, drum with sticks 太鼓) such as modern musical. We can see the beauty of sophisticated forms and procedures in Noh.
The best way how to enjoy watching Noh may be to comprehend the specific styles as same as the visual aspects. In fact, not all of Japanese can comprehend the whole scripts called Utai (謡) / Yokyoku (謡曲) well. Japanese speakers may not gain advantages to enjoy Noh. Because each line in Noh scripts does not have subject words in sentences of old Japanese. It is not necessary to know everything about Noh to enjoy watching the best. We should make sure only the story lines of the Noh program in advance as same as modern entertainment.
We can imagine the alley and the main stage of Noh had been cutting edge and brand new Kimono runway like contemporary fashion show for hundreds of years. the element between dancing of Noh and posing of the show have in common. Moreover, the element between dancing of a famous Kabuki program and modern dance for popular music have in common. The dancing of Kabuki results from a famous dancing of Noh.
Noh had been showed at specific opportunities by investors and specific audiences such as shogun, samurai and aristocrats in the early years. It’d made people exclusive and difficult to be familiar with Noh. Ukiyoe (woodblock paints and paintings) helped Kabuki to advertise it as stars’ posters and leaflets in the Edo era.
The most typical difference between Noh and Kabuki is on faces of main characters. Noh is the masked play. You can feel various facial expression just by the tilts of Noh masks and other movements by the main character called Shite (シテ) if you cannot understand the scripts well. You must concentrate on the moves not only face but entire body carefully, since it’s delicate. You should not miss the very moments among the slow expression. Characters without Noh masks including main cast do not express on faces much. At the present time, somebody says impassiveness is “like Noh masks” in Japanese. But it seems he / she cannot have been satisfied with Noh plays well yet unfortunately. Kabuki needs cosmetics and other expression on faces and whole body.
The rhythm, tempo and structure of Noh music is refereed to the parts of Kabuki music. Noh’s quadruple time is the original of Kabuki music. It was mushed up. When people know the original, they may enjoy mush-up contents more. Noh is not complicated. Your essential sense of emotion will help you.