It is said that “Okina is a Noh play yet it isn’t”. This piece which retains many traces of the ancient performing arts is a celebratory dance that prays for peace, prosperity, and safety across the land. It is the root of all Noh and Kyōgen, and the source of all performing art in Japan in which the relationship between humans and nature is deeply engraved. It is the head of the Umewaka family and master chanter Rōsetsu Umewaka who performs the divine chant of “Okina”, and the performance will be accompanied with the hand drum by Genjiro Okura, a living national treasure and the head of the Okura-school in kotsuzumi lineage.
“Shiranui” is a Noh play written by Michiko Ishimure that depicts the origin and consequences of Minamata disease in the style of a myth. It interprets the purification of the polluted earth from an anthropocentric perspective. This work is a centerpiece of this project as well as the driving force behind the project curation. Some scenes of "Shiranui" is specially edited for this occasion, and presented as a new work in this exhibition. The Divine chant of this piece will be performed by the head of the Umewaka family and chanter maestro, Rōsetsu Umewaka (Living National Treasure), with chorus [Jiutai] accompanied by Kawaguchi Kohei, a Shite Noh performer of the Kanze school, and a member of the Umewaka-Noh Theatre.
Rōsetsu Umewaka (1948-) is a shite performer of the Kanze school, a holder of Important Intangible Cultural Property (Living National Treasure) as well as a member of the Japan Art Academy. Born as the second son of the 55th Umewaka Rokurō, he succeed to the name Umewaka Minoru IV in 2018. The Kanze lineage granted him the seniority title of “Robun” and honourable of “Setsu”, and he became Umewaka Rōsetsu (meaning “sakura snow" in Japanese) in 2022. He composed and performed Shite both in Michiko Ishimure's "Shiranui" (2022) and "Underworld Journey" at the Greek Epitaurus Ancient Amphitheater (2015).
Genjiro Okura is the 16th headmaster of the Okura school of Noh theater (under the direction of the headmaster of the Okura school of Noh play). He is the head of Nohgaku Performers' Association, a member of Japan Nohgaku Organization as well as a comprehensive certiﬁcation holder of Important Intangible Cultural Property. He was also a member of the "Nohgakuza”, a Noh theater where ﬁrst-class Noh performers gather across different schools for Noh in the 21st century. Since his twenties, Genjiro, in addition to regular Noh performances, has produced "Noh outside the Noh Theater" to share anyone opportunities to encounter and familiarise themselves with Noh, the Japanese traditional cultural form.
Kohei Kawaguchi is a Shite Noh performer of the Kanze school, and a member of the Umewaka-Noh Theatre. Born in 1976 as the eldest son of manga artist Kaiji Kawaguchi, he became fascinated with Noh and aspired to become a Noh performer while a student at Keio University. In 2001, after graduating from university, he became a disciple of the ﬁfty-sixth Rokurō Umewaka Genshō, and made his stage debut in therevival of the Noh play “Gōma” (exorcism). After becoming independent in 2007, he has performed Chitose in the Noh play "Okina”, "Ishibashi”, "Shōjō Mirada”, and "Dōjōji”. Besides his performing on stage, he has also given lectures on Noh in various places to promote Nohgaku.
Kenichi Kasai studied under a kabuki researcher, Tetsuya Imao (1931-2013), and worked as secretary and assistant for Kabuki actor Mitsugoro Bando VIII (1906-1975) for his works. Kasai has continued his activities as a playwright/director, bridging the classical and the contemporary theatres. He has collaborated with Rōsetsu for numerous occasions as he directed a noh play “Commemorative Flowers" co-written by Masako Shirasu and Tomio Tada in 2009, "Shiranui” by Michiko Ishimure in 2020, and also wrote the Noh play for "Underworld Journey" at the Epidaurus Amphitheatre in Greece in 2015.
Born in Amakusa, Kumamoto Prefecture.
Throughout her life, she stood by the patients of Minamata disease, writing their voiceless voices in rich dialect, thus continued to convey the reality of the serious damage. Minamata disease is a neurological disease caused by severe mercury poisoning, and said to be the origin of pollution-related diseases in postwar Japan. As symbolically shown by the sentence “Even Minamata disease, seaweed is the taste of spring" in her novel “Paradise in the Sea of Sorrow" in 1969, Michiko Ishimure poignantly questions intertwined relationship among Capitalism, polluted land, human activity, and nature. photo by 芥川仁