Dating from the 15th to early 20th century, 160 works from the rich material culture of Japanese n? and kyogen theatre (nogaku – including masks and costumes as well as paintings, musical instruments and libretti – have been selected from the collections of the National Noh Theatre, Tokyo and the Agency of Cultural Affairs, Japan.
A programme of n? (or Noh) theatre generally consists of one or two n? plays with a kyogen interlude. Both theatre forms deal with the multitude of human emotions, but while n? is a more dream-like pursuit of an ideal beauty to portray the essence of human nature, kyogen strives for realistic expression through humour.
The beauty and elegance that pervades the world of n? and the spirited, playful mood that characterise kyogen plays are echoed in the masks and costumes, which distinguish nogaku from other forms of traditional Japanese performing arts.
The objects in this book represent Japan’s unique aesthetic sensibility and the excellence of its traditional arts and crafts. The splendour of the masks, robes and paintings invites viewers to appreciate and better understand these complex and sumptuous worlds.