Kyogen is one of Japan’s four oldest traditional performance genres, together with noh, kabuki and bunraku. Collectively known as Nohgaku, kyogen and noh received the prestigious designation of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanities in 2008.

Kyogen performance is characterised by highly kinetic yet stylised movements and creative use of onomatopoeia. Plays are usually fast-paced and humorous, and sometimes include singing and dancing, which often parody noh plays.

The kyogen repertoire can be identified based on the identity of the protagonist. There are different categories of plays including master-servant, husband-wife, mountain priest, and blind man. Most plays introduce characters who are archetypes such as fierce wives or greedy servants. They exhibit an exaggerated aggregation of characteristics associated with the type. Poking fun at these characters not only invites laughter from the audience, it also often solicits a poignant sense of resignation when the audience realises that they are laughing at themselves.

Kyogen has attracted great interest in both Japan and overseas, and was translated into English as early as 1879. The performance brought by Shigeyama Sennojo, Iguchi Tatsuya and Yamashita Moriyuki are the classic Tied to a Rod (Boshibari), a modern time play The Washing River (Susugigawa) and The Owl (Fukuro).


狂言の演目は主人公の役柄によって識別され、主人と従者、夫と妻、山伏、盲人などさまざまなカテゴリーがあります。多くの演目は、「悪妻」や「いやしい召使い」 といった特徴を大げさに盛り込んだステレオタイプの型を取り入れています。また、これらの役を面白おかしく表現することで笑いを誘うだけでなく、その笑いを通じて観客がふと自らを振り返る時、哀しみを含んだ諦念で心を揺さぶるものでもあります。


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