Noh, one of Japan's traditional forms of theater, has a long history of inspiring and being inspired by a number of literary figures, including French writer Paul Claudel (1868-1955), whose text for the opera "Christophe Colomb" (1930) incorporates various dramatic elements of noh; and Irish poet W. B. Yeats (1865-1939), whose drama "At the Hawk's Well" (1916), was adapted for noh as "Takahime" (The Hawk Princess).
If you're looking for inspiration, visit Kofukuji temple in Nara on May 15 and 16 when takigi noh, open-air entertainment that features masked actors and a handful of musicians performing by the light of torches and bonfires, will be demonstrated by several different theater companies.
Both installments will begin at 5:30 p.m. with butai aratame, a centuries-old ritual in which a man dressed as a sōhei (warrior monk) checks the condition of the stage. On May 15, the ritual will be followed by a performance of "Mitsuyama" (The Three Mountains), a play based on works from Japan's earliest poetry anthology, "Manyoshu." The following day's performance will be "Takasago" by Zeami Motokiyo (1363-1443), who is considered to be one of the fathers of noh.
After the noh performance, there will be a solemn Buddhist ceremony called hi-ire during which two priests will light baskets of wood, followed by a kyogen comic drama and another noh play — "Neongyoku" (Singing in One's Sleep) and "Ukai" (Cormorant Fishing) on May 15 and "Obagasake" (The Stingy Aunt's Sake) and "Yokihi" (Imperial Consort Yang) on May 16.
If that's not enough theater to keep you satisfied, you can also check out shows in the daytime, although there will be no bonfires then. At 11 a.m. on both days, noh dramas — "Okina" on May 15 and "Yorimasa" on May 16 — will be staged at Kasuga Grand Shrine. (Yuki Yamauchi)
Performances at Kofukuji temple will be held at Nara Prefectural Cultural Hall's International Hall if it rains.