Kimono-clad Mayuko Kashiwazaki delivers her lines in guttural tones and transforms into an evil snake in the lead role of a Japanese noh play where, unusually, most of the cast are women.

Noh, with its elaborate layered costumes and hand-crafted masks, is one of the most ancient surviving forms of theater, with origins dating back to the eighth century.

Unlike kabuki, another type of classical Japanese theater, or sumo wrestling — both steadfastly male — noh has been open to performers of both genders for more than a century. But women are still a rarity in the traditional noh world, where fathers often pass the vocation on to their sons.