Monday, June 9, 2008

Kyogen and Kyoto

Today when Sachin and I were walking, the beeping sound of the crosswalk suddenly reminded me of Kyoto. A few years ago I was given the wonderful opportunity to study theater in Kyoto, one of the oldest cities in Japan. I thought I'd share a few photos...

Living conditions. I was able to stay at the home of a very nice woman who gave us her entertaining room to sleep in. The floor is covered in tatami mats and everyday we would fold our mattress and blankets before getting ready.

The shower. I'm not kidding. We would stand on that wooden board on the floor and shower next to the kitchen and the washing machine. It was also in an outdoor hallway which was only protected by a plastic curtain so every time a breeze came through the curtains would fly around and everyone around got quite a show.

One drizzly day I decided to have my lunch of rice balls and ume (pickled plum) in the Imperial Palace Gardens.

Schoolchildren fishing in the Kamo River one afternoon.

That same river by night. My friend, Matt, and I decided to take a bike tour of Kyoto by night. Not only was it incredibly safe, but we were able to visit the very active Kyoto University and lost 1,000 yen at a Pachinko parlor.

A night view of Osaka taken atop a ferris wheel.

Fushimi Inari Taisha, a tribute to the farmers of Japan. There were hundreds upon hundreds of these gateways winding up and down a steep hill. Quite the hike.

My family was taken on a boat to watch Komerant fishing. The fishermen have strings tied to the neck of about a dozen Komerant birds who dive into the water for fish. Once the bird has swallowed a fish, the fisherman will pull the string, reach into the bird's mouth, and pull the fish out. Yum.

Watching a Kyogen play. Kyogen is a comedic style of Japanese theater that is shown in between scenes of a Noh play. Here we are watching it at a nearby temple and, believe it or not, this professonal actor is American.

A Noh actor dressed up as a samurai. It took about 20 minutes and two men to dress him.

A Noh actor (they are all male) showing a traditional Noh mask. He is demonstrating that by tilting the mask just a few degrees you are able to see a distinct change in the facial expression of the mask. This particular mask is of a young girl and is a few hundred years old.

Our Kotsuzumi teachers. These drums are also a few hundred years old and very fun to play. The woman on the right is part of a famous Noh family - her father and husband are Noh actors and her son recently had his stage debut. He was five years old.

Our Bunraku teacher. Bunraku is performed entirely through puppets and is my favorite type of Japanese theater. Here the teacher is showing us the many bodies of the puppets (the heads are removed and replaced for quick costume changes).

The Bunraku puppet costumes. Some of the costumes are just as expensive as the most expensive costumes used for Noh productions.

Our Kyogen teachers. Both are members of the Shigeyama family. The man on the left is the 14th generation in the family to perform; he was 22 years-old and had been performing for 19 years. The man on the right was adopted into the family and is technically supposed to answer to the man on the left, but he told us he'd punch him in the face if that rule was ever enforced. Here they are performing a scene about two traveling salesmen who meet and compare jokes.

1 comment:

Sachin said...

I like these pictures.