A reader's contribution article in the Asahi Shimbun March 18, 2011 edition
On March 11, the day of the great earthquake, I was at the Nohgakudo (Noh theater) in Suidobashi,Tokyo. Because it was after the earthquake, the two leading performers came out to announce, "today's performance will either be cancelled or postponed". All the trains and subways had stopped. To us who had no way of getting home, the people at the theater suggested that we wait at the theater, and they even offered us the bento (boxed meals)of staffs who were not able to make it to the work place.
We were not able to get through to our families -text messages, cell phones, public phones were all unaccessible. When it was announced that JR (Japan Railways) was not going to move that day, the people at the theater started to look for places we could stay for the evening. There were five of us who had remained including an elderly person who was born in the Taisho era (1912-1926).
As it turned out, all the hotels were full, and so they said that they would take us to a performer’s home so we can spend the night there. Being general guests, we were hesitant, but because they insisted that they wanted to do what they could for people who had come to the theater, we decided to accept their kindness.
The traffic jam was very bad. The staffs were very concerned about the elderly guests, and after they obtained information that the subways had begun to move, they confirmed this and led us to the station. By subway, we first arrived at the Nohgakudo in Aoyama. Because it would take even more time to get to the performer’s home, they offered to put us up for the night in the warm room at the theater.
There is a heartwarming Noh piece called “Hachinoki”. Through the way the Noh performers worked together to help us, and we were able to experience something very much like what is depicted in the piece. I have come to realize that the spirit of the Noh performers who support the World Cultural Heritage, and the development of the long history of Japanese culture will prevail. Right now, I can only hope that a life of peace will return to the people at the disaster-stricken areas as soon as possible.
Noh-actor Mr. Minoru Shibata in his Official Blog, gives us some background information on the day’s events:
(translated by flowerbossa with the author's permission)
On March 11, the day of the great earthquake, our group “Tessenkai” was scheduled to hold our March regular performance. Although public transportation had stopped completely, there were about 20 guests who had arrived at the Hohsho Nohgakudo. Unfortunately, this day’s performance was cancelled.
I personally was not able to get to the theater, so I do not know the details of the event. However, I heard later that the theater performers and staffs had thought that as long as there were guests there to see the performance, they should do what they could. Since all of the Miyake family (performers of the Kyogen) were present, they Ukon Miyake-san had suggested to show their Kyogen piece.
Also, the Noh program for the day was “Sakuragawa” and “Sesshoseki”. Because Kuroemon Katayama-san and Hisa Uzawa-san were there, there was also talk of performing the Shimai (dance) of the two pieces, however in the end they decided to cancel everything.
The staffs’ bento were passed out as supper, and it was decided that the five guests who were not able to get home will stay at Uzawa-san’s home.
They first set out for Tessenkai at Aoyama, but it took them 6 hours for the distance of 5 km. Since no one could guess just when they could reach Uzawa-san’s home, they ended up spending the night on the stage of Tessenkai.
There was an article in the Asahi Shimbun by one of the guests who had experienced this event, thanking the performers for their kindness.
I would like to applaud my fellow performers and staffs for having served our guests with sincerity.
I believe such consideration and sincere thoughts for our guests help us to increase our audience.
I would like to keep this event in my heart always, as a heartwarming episode.
Almost all the Noh performances for March have been cancelled.
I do not know what the future will bring, but when we do resume with our performances, I can only pray that many guests will come back to see us as just as before.
For now, patience, patience!
Poster of Upcoming Noh Performance
AOBA NO KAI
May 4, 2011 14:00 at Tessen-kai Nohgaku Kensyujyo
Noh "SHUNKAN" KANZE School
第１１回 青葉乃会 能と素浄瑠璃 －能と語りを探る―
２０１１年５月４日 （水・祝） １４時開演
Synopsis of "Hachinoki": http://www.noh-kyogen.com/story/english/Hachinoki.pdf
For information on Noh in English: http://www.the-noh.com/index.html