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能樂百番 Nōgaku hyakuban  

Nōgaku hyakuban (Prints of One Hundred Noh Plays) was published in 1922-1926 (although no prints were published between September 1923 and August 1924 because of the after effects of the Great Kanto Earthquake.) The publisher was the same as for the Nōgaku zue prints, Matsuki Heikichi and his Daikokuya publishing company. The prints were originally sold as a monthly series in envelopes with three prints each. The front cover of the envelope had a printed set of elegantly abstracted pictures of pine trees, the title Nōgaku hyakuban, the name Tsukioka Kōgyo and address of the artist, and the names of the publisher and his company, all in Japanese. The back cover listed the title Nōgaku hyakuban, the names of the plays included in the set, the actors’ roles, a brief description of the three plays, and the date the set of prints was issued, in Japanese. The back also included the name of the series, the titles of the plays contained in the envelope, and the name of the publisher, as well as his address and the date of publication, in English. Alas, we do not have statistics on his sales, but many North American and European museums and libraries own sets of Kōgyo noh prints--and other Kōgyo/Matsuki prints as well. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, for example, owns an 1898 print, drawn by Kōgyo and published by Matsuki, depicting Admiral Dewey’s victory over the Spanish fleet in Manila Harbor in 1898. The only Japanese on that print is Kōgyo’s artist’s signature and seal; the title and captions, Matsuki’s name, and the date of the print are all written in English. This may indicate that Matsuki had a foreign, as well as a Japanese, market in mind.

Matsuki also sold Kōgyo’s Nōgaku hyakuban prints in a set of two volumes, which included 122 prints of 100 plays, after the final print was completed shortly before Kōgyo’s death at age fifty-nine in 1927. Volume One includes a title page which lists the plays represented in the volume, one triptych of the play Okina, eight diptychs of the plays Takasago, Shakkyō, Ataka, Kokaji, Kōgō, Momijigari, Kurama Tengu and Dōjōji, and 41 single-sheet prints of plays, that is, 61 prints of 50 plays in total. Of the eight diptychs, each set of two can be put together as one scene in the play. Volume Two consists of 61 prints of 50 plays; one index page, 2 triptychs, 6 diptychs and 42 one-sheet/one play prints. The triptychs are Tsurukame, a play about an emperor of China, and Ema, a play about the Japanese sun goddess. The diptychs are Ryōko, Atago Kūya, Sumiyoshi Mōde, Hibariyama, Eboshiori, and Tomonaga.

The Nōgaku hyakuban prints are dramatically different from those in the Nōgaku zue. Here Kōgyo focused on the shite, that is, the main actor, and for the most part excluded other actors (only one-quarter of the prints show more than one actor, compared to two-thirds in Nōgaku zue.) He also worked to eliminate stage architecture, side stories and boxes with secondary pictures or text, listings of characters, synopses, or other images that might distract the viewer’s attention from the central character. In fact, the only writing on the prints are the words Nōgaku hyakuban, the title of the play, the artist’s signature and seal, and information about the publisher and date of publication. The backgrounds to the principal characters usually include fewer details—behind Shunkan, exiled to a remote island, one finds a faint representation of a cliff with a scraggly pine tree; in the case of Nue, a sea monster, only a grey and black wave, and in the case of Kinuta (The Fulling Block), only three flying geese, printed in a faint grey. The backgrounds of other prints are monochrome without even a hill or birds. For example, in his print of Sanemori, a story of an elderly warrior who goes into battle one last time, Kōgyo has the actor sit on the stairs at the front of the stage, which he does not do in the play, against a stark yellowish-brown background. In fact, although the style of the cliff and birds is in the Japanese ink painting tradition, the prints often have a modern, minimalist look to them, reminiscent of Picasso’s portraits from the 1920’s or Georgia O’Keefe’s flower paintings from the same period. Kōgyo seems to be focusing on what he understood as the essence of the play, and eschewing unnecessary detail. In an era when Japanese aesthetics deeply influenced Western art and poetry, one wonders if we don’t see a merging of Western modernism with the Japanese ink-painting tradition in Nōgaku Hyakuban. Kōgyo was an artist of his time, absorbing the new Western modernist aesthetics and combining it with Japanese aesthetics he learned as a young man.

Richard Smethurst - Emeritus Professor - University of Pittsburgh

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Noh 5 Categories and Examples

During the Edo Period (1600-1868), noh plays were formally organized into five categories, and programs included one play each, in order, from the following categories. The term gobandate (five play program) describes this organization of plays. The categories of the gobandate each feature specific kinds of shite (main character): gods, men (warriors), women (usually aristocratic beauties), mad people (usually women), and demons, in that order. All plays included in the Edo Period repertoires of the noh schools are assigned to one of these categories.

First Category (shobanme mono): God Plays (kami noh)

Noh in which the shite (main character) plays the role of a god. Since these noh also sometimes accompany a performance of Okina, they are also known as waki noh (accompanying noh). The appearance of a god can signify the promise of peace, happiness, abundant crops or the like. Often the shite appears disguised as an old man, but reveals himself as the true embodiment of a god when he returns in the second act. Because the shite has a different form in each act, the role is called the maeshite for the first act (“mae” deriving from maeba, or “first act”) and the nochishite in the second act (“nochi” referring to nochiba, or “second act”). Takasago, Oimatsu and Yoro are noh in this category.

Second Category (nibanme mono): Man or Warrior Plays (shura mono)

The shite in these plays is a warrior, and often the tormented soul of a warrior who has died on the battlefield. Because those who die in battle spend their afterlife in the shura realm (a hell whose residents are in constant battle), this category is also known as shura mono (warrior hell plays). The characters and situations in these plays derive predominately from the Heike Monogatari (Tales of the Heike), a historical tale recounting the Genpei War (1180-85). Most shura noh depict the ghost of a warrior is seeking redemption or forgiveness that will release him from the shura realm. Many plays of this category were written by Zeami, one of the founders of noh. Noh in this category include: Atsumori, Kiyotsune, Yashima, and Tomoe.

Third Category (sanbanme mono): Woman or Wig Plays (kazura mono)

Women or the ghosts of women are the shite in third category pieces. Because the actors of the all-male troupe must perform in masks and wigs to create female characters, plays of this category are also known as kazura mono (“wig pieces”). The kazura mono is the central noh in the gobandate. It usually depicts the ghost of a woman abandoned by her lover, and the themes center on love and suffering. Often the ghost is condemned to wander the earth trapped by feelings of love that even death do not extinguish. Noh in this category include Hagoromo, Izutsu, Matsukaze, and Teika.

Fourth Category (yobanme mono): Miscellaneous Plays (zatsu mono)

This category encompasses plays that do not easily fit into another category. Many concern shite whose suffering is so intense that they behave as if “mad.” Because women (mothers bereft of a child, or abandoned wives, for example) are the shite of many of these plays, they are also known as kyōjo mono (madwoman plays) or kurui mono (madness plays). Noh in this category include: Sumidagawa, Hyakuman, Kanawa, and Dōjō-ji.

Fifth Category (gobanme mono): Demon or Final Plays (kiri noh)

The shite of plays in this category are otherworldly creatures, including demons, monsters, and dragons. As this is the fifth and final noh in a gobandate, it is also known as kiri noh (final noh). With intense dance, complicated drumming, and lively music, these noh are in some ways the flashiest pieces. Noh in this category include: Nue, Sesshōseki, Kurozuka/Adachihara, and Shōjō.

Elizabeth Oyler, Associate Professor, Department of East Asian Languages & Literatures, University of Pittsburgh

First Editions

First edition of Nōgaku hyakuban was published as monthly services of three prints each for complete 120 prints between 1922-1926. The collections that own at least 30 or more prints include:

  • Mizuta Museum of Art, Jōsai University, Japan (complete 120 prints)
  • Ritsumeikan University, Japan (complete 120 prints)
  • Scripps College, California (complete 120 prints)
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (38 prints)
  • Lavenberg Collection of Japanese Prints, online (33 prints)

Bound Editions

Daikokuya also sold Nōgaku hyakuban prints in a set of two volumes after the final print was completed shortly before Kōgyo’s death at age fifty-nine in 1927. There is also one volume set with 120 prints, which publish date is unknown.

  • National Noh Theatre of Japan, Tokyo (2 volume set with 120 prints)
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Nork (2 volume set with 120 prints)
  • Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois (incomplete 2 volume set with 112 include 2 indexes, but some diptychs are missing another half)
  • Harvard University, Yenching Library, Boston (1 volume set with 120 prints)
  • Columbia University in the City of New York (1 volume set with 120 prints)
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1 volume set with 120 prints)

Hiroyuki Good, Japanese and Korean Studies Librarian, University of Pittsburgh Library System

Browse & Search

Prints from Nōgaku hyakuban

Shakkyō sōzu (left) 石橋 双圖

Shakkyō sōzu (left) 石橋 双圖 Print

Description of Content
Left image of diptych. White lion dances among the peonies.

Tsuchigumo 土蜘

Tsuchigumo 土蜘 Print

Description of Content
The demonic earth-spider in its lair, protected by threads of a web.

Chikubushima 竹生島

Chikubushima 竹生島 Print

Description of Content
A dragon god, holding a sacred object, appears before a court official on a pilgrimage to the island of Chikubushima.

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