Kyoto Noh Theater Kotsuzumi Drum Performer: Naoyasu Sowa

The art of Noh theater is a complex mixture of dance, drama, music and poetry that was formed in the middle of the 1300’s. For reference, Noh started about the same time as the Inca Kingdom and the Ottoman Empire. Noh has developed and become more sophisticated over the centuries, Noh is now a complete expression of the Japanese arts. The movement, costume, music and atmosphere is something you can enjoy with your 5 senses, even without Japanese language.

Noh is consists of performer, singer, and music players which are called hayashikata.

The musical instruments are only of four types; fue (flute), kotsuzumi drum (small drum), otuszumi drum (big drum), and taiko drum (very big drum). Kotsuzumi is the only drum that is hit against gravity and the player can not see the hitting points.

Kyoto Noh Theater Kotsuzumi Drum Performer: Naoyasu Sowa 曽和尚靖

Naoyasu Sowa 曽和尚靖

In Japan, to study and perfect one thing is very important, especially when it comes to one’s profession, therefore hayashikata players only play one instrument.

Naoyasu Sowa 曽和尚靖
I met a very interesting kotsuzumi player last summer named Naoyasu Sowa who has been play in since he was 6 years old and has now been playing for 30 years. He was born in a very famous kotsuzumi drum family, and his grandfather is a living national treasure, called ningen kokuho (人間国宝) in Japanese. He inherited the rare talent and with diligence of practice and now is known for delicate but daring sound. He already has the reputation of a musician with a keen sense. His affection towards drum is very deep, so that sometimes he even finds himself doing gesture of hitting without holding a drum.

Why we introduce him in Open Kyoto? because he is in very very traditional world of Kyoto, but is very open, energetic and friendly. If people in Kyoto were all like him, Kyoto will be more accessible and all people could truly benefit from the cultural heritage of Kyoto. It does belong to everyone. In addition, he wears kimono every day! I love kimono too! He does things to remaind Japanese senses to Japanese people.

Sowa teaches all over Japan from Hokkaido to Shikoku and is enthusiastic in rearing players for the next generation. He likes Japan and offers many activities such as workshop to introduce Noh culture. He also produces music concert series that only consists of Noh music instruments, called Hayashido.

In the Noh musical instruments, they express every situation and scenery by combination of the sounds. This is something you can enjoy even you don’t understand Japanese.

Hayashido will give a major performance on August 1, 2009 at 2 pm at the Kyoto Concert Hall. Make reservation here.

Naoyasu Sowa English website: Petit Kodo

Here are a few photos from his ‘Petite Noh’ workshop in the summer of 2008.

Kyoto Noh Theater Kotsuzumi Drum Performer: Naoyasu Sowa 曽和尚靖

Naoyasu Sowa 'Petite Noh' Workshop: Kotsuzumi Drum

Kyoto Noh Theater Kotsuzumi Drum Performer: Naoyasu Sowa 曽和尚靖

Naoyasu Sowa 'Petite Noh' Workshop: Kotsuzumi Drum

Kyoto Noh Theater Kotsuzumi Drum Performer: Naoyasu Sowa 曽和尚靖

Naoyasu Sowa 'Petite Noh' Workshop: Kotsuzumi Drum

Kyoto Noh Theater Kotsuzumi Drum Performer: Naoyasu Sowa 曽和尚靖

Naoyasu Sowa 'Petite Noh' Workshop: Kotsuzumi Drum

Kyoto Noh Theater Kotsuzumi Drum Performer: Naoyasu Sowa 曽和尚靖

Naoyasu Sowa 'Petite Noh' Workshop: Fue Flute

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3 Responses to “Kyoto Noh Theater Kotsuzumi Drum Performer: Naoyasu Sowa”

  1. Fascinating. Noh is something to behold as I learned a few years ago at an onsen ryokan in Nagano. The ryokan had a Noh stage and as the author correctly observed I was deeply impacted despite my tenuous grasp of the Japanese language.

  2. miwa says:

    Hello, Thank you for your comment! It is good that you have enjoyed Noh, because not many people will get to see it when they visit Japan. Even if you are a native Japanese, you can not catch everything.
    It is the same with me that it is better to study up the story before hand to understand more. However as you also mentioned, Noh is itself is overwheling without language.

  3. Karen Wang says:

    I really enjoyed reading your site! Thank you for all the wonderful information. I will be in Kyoto from 11/12 – 11/17 and would love to see a play in Kyoto. Could you tell me how to get tickets if there are performances?

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