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A Chance to Watch Noh Theater From Home, With English Subtitles!

Okinomiya, a Noh play by writer Michiko Ishimure (1927-2018), holds a powerful message of revival that we want to share with the world. Please consider supporting the performance to be held on June 12 in Kyoto.

US$ 6,039 Funds Raised
133% Successful Goal: US$ 4,516
people 74 supporters
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*Update from May 14, 2021: New rewards have been added! A number of additional handwoven stoles naturally dyed by Atelier Shimura are now available.

A Word From Our Editors

“Behold, it’s raining!”. Photo by Halca Uesugi

MATCHA is extremely excited to provide this rare opportunity to watch a world-class Noh performance from the comfort of home. New Noh plays are extremely rare, because they are very difficult to create. Being able to watch a show is rather rare even in Japan. But being able to watch it from home with English subtitles is even rarer! 

We sincerely hope you will take this chance to watch “Okinomiya” with us.

Hello to Theater Fans Around the World!

My name is Shoji Shimura, and I’m the owner of Atelier Shimura. My family has been dyeing kimonos for generations, and I’m following in their footsteps as a kimono artisan based in Kyoto.

As a family of kimono artisans, we’ve been providing kimonos for Noh performances for decades, so Noh theater has always been a huge part of my life. My grandmother especially is a great fan of Noh, and assisting with “Okinomiya” was a dream come true for her, as it was created by her long-time friend, Michiko Ishimure.

Hosting a New Stage Performance of "Okinomiya"

The Okinomiya performance held in 2018. Photo by Halca Uesugi

“Okinomiya” is a contemporary Noh play that first premiered in 2018 to a sold-out theater, and has received critical and public acclaim since. It’s a beautiful play about humanity’s relationship with nature, and its message is especially poignant today.

However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, all performances were halted, and we weren’t sure when there would be a chance for people to watch this spectacular show again. This is why I started the Okinomiya Planning Committee. I wanted to give people a chance to watch this show that my grandmother loves so much, even during these difficult times.

Thanks to generous support from Japanese Noh fans, we can host a show at the prestigious Kongo Noh Theater in Kyoto, ensuring sanitation and social distancing measures. Now, we want to share “Okinomiya” with international audiences!

Why Crowdfunding?

Aya receiving the coral-red robe. Photo by Halca Uesugi

Noh fans in Japan have been very supportive of our project to breathe new life into “Okinomiya,” and we want to share this occasion with our theater friends overseas.

We know people who live outside of Japan will love Noh as well, but with the pandemic, they aren’t able to come and watch it live in theaters. We want to do something about this!

Our Goals

We want to provide an online viewing experience with English subtitles, so theater lovers overseas can experience “Okinomiya” from home. Due to technical limitations, the experience won’t be live and will be a recorded version, but we really hope you will enjoy this performance along with us.

We think the message this play shares is something that will resonate with everyone during these tough times.

We’ve also prepared some special rewards from my atelier, which uses the same dyeing techniques used for the kimonos worn in the play. We think you’ll love them.

What Is "Okinomiya" About?

The Story

The story is set in the village of Amakusa Shimoshima after the Shimabara Rebellion (1638), at the end of which Amakusa Shiro, the young leader of the rebellious local Christians, lost his life. 

Tormented by drought, the villagers choose Aya, Shiro’s foster sister, as a human sacrifice to the Dragon King, the guardian of water and rain. Wearing a coral dress, Aya boards a scarlet boat and is cast out to sea. Lightning strikes and she is thrown out of the boat. Shiro appears in a heavenly blue garment and leads Aya to Okinomiya, the Palace under the Sea, where the Great Mother of life resides. Due to her act of sacrifice, the village is blessed with rain.

The Creator, Michiko Ishimure

Michiko Ishimure and Fukumi Shimura. Picture from "Yuigon" (Chikuma Shobo Publishing), courtesy of Hidefumi Yawata.

Michiko Ishimure (1927-2018) is best known for her novels and poetry on the Minamata disease, which broke out near Amakusa, her hometown. She also created Noh plays centered around nature, human destiny, and history. Writing extensively about the Minamata disease, Ishimure has examined the relationship between humans and nature in the modern world throughout her work. 

After the Great East Japan Earthquake and nuclear power plant accident of 2011, Fukumi Shimura wrote a letter to her friend Ishimure with a sense of impending crisis. After two years of correspondence, the new Noh play “Okinomiya” came into being.

The Performance Scheduled for June 2021

Walking toward Okinomiya, the Palace in the Sea. Photo by Halca Uesugi

A performance of “Okinomiya” will be held on June 12, 2021, at the Kongo Noh Theater in Kyoto. The costumes for this performance, deeply evocative of nature and the elements, have been supervised by textile dyeing artisans Fukumi and Yoko Shimura, who are highly acclaimed in Japan for their achievements in the field of plant-based dyeing (kusaki-zome). The main roles will be performed by two talented young Noh actors, Tatsunori Kongo and Kazufusa Hosho.

While the tickets for the performance are already sold out, our supporters will be able to view a recording of the performance with English subtitles online from anywhere in the world.

Why Everyone Can Relate to "Okinomiya"

An Encounter with Shiro’s Ghost. Photo by Halca Uesugi

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our future is clouded and our lives are full of anxiety. Through “Okinomiya,” a story about life, Michiko Ishimure has left a message about the traditional Japanese view of life and reverence towards nature. Noh has always been an art that reveals the invisible world, connecting the living and the departed. By holding this performance of “Okinomiya,” we hope to spread this powerful message of life during these troubled times. 

What to Watch for in "Okinomiya": Performance Highlights

1. The Beautiful Noh Costumes by Fukumi and Yoko Shimura

Fukumi Shimura (left) and Yoko Shimura (right)

Left: The Prayer performed as a dance. Right: The coral robe. Photos by Halca Uesugi

The costumes supervised by Fukumi Shimura, a Living National Treasure, and Yoko Shimura, a dyeing artisan, are made with textiles dyed with kusaki-zome, a traditional plant-based dyeing method. The colors, imbued with the life and strength of nature, fully express the characters' souls.

Noh theater is a complex art that communicates a story through all its aspects, from acting and chant to the costumes. While watching the play, take a good look at the colors and designs of the kimonos worn by the characters. You’ll notice hints that connect the story and our own world to the elements. These fascinating details will add to the delight of watching this play and will surely enrich your experience of Noh theater.

2. The Co-starring of Kongo School and Hosho School Lead Actors

Tatsunori Kongo (left) and Kazufusa Hosho (right).

As in the 2018 performance, Tatsunori Kongo, head of the Kongo School of Noh, will play the role of Amakusa Shiro. Kazufusa Hosho, head of the Hosho School, will perform the role of the Great Mother of all creatures. Ryoichi Arimatsu, a Takayasu School wai actor, will play the village mayor. The cast of three young Noh actors should be exciting to watch!

3. East Meets West

Toshiyuki Muramatsu (left) and Akika Tsujimura (right)

Before the play, countertenor Toshiyuki Muramatsu and soprano Akika Tsujimura will perform “Anima no Tori,” a song with words by Michiko Ishimure and music by Takeaki Sato.

Program

Kongo Noh Theater. Photo by Halca Uesugi

Okinomiya

Date: Saturday, June 12, 2021. Matinee from 15:00, Soiree from 18:00.
Venue: Kongo Noh Theater 
Address: Kyoto, Nakagyo ward, Karasuma-dori and Nakadachiuri Agaru
Access: 5-minute walk from Kyoto Subway Imadegawa Station.

 Matinee Program

  14:30 Opening
  15:00 Greeting by Shoji Shimura, chairman of the Okinomiya Planning Committee
  15:10 Musical performance
    “Ave Maria,” composed by César Franck 
    “Anima no Tori,” words by Michiko Ishimure, music by Takeaki Sato
  Intermission: 15 minutes
  15:40 Noh “Okinomiya”
      (The performance is scheduled to end at 16:40)

                   ***

 Soiree Program

  17:30 Opening
  18:00 Greeting by Shoji Shimura, chairman of the Okinomiya Planning Committee
  18:10 Musical Performance
    “Ave Maria,” composed by César Franck
    “Anima no Tori,” words by Michiko Ishimure, music by Takeaki Sato
  Intermission: 15 minutes
  18:40 Noh “Okinomiya”
      (The performance is scheduled to end at 19:40)

Contingencies

Please note that the performance may be postponed, or changed to an exclusively online event due to circumstances regarding COVID-19. In this case, the shipping of the rewards may also be postponed. We will do our best to handle the situation and show our gratitude toward our supporters.

As preventive measures such as seat restriction will be taken at the theatre, we ask all the audience members to wear masks and be cooperative toward the sanitization procedures.  

Rewards

As rewards to our supporters, we offer a wide range of items such as the chance to watch a recording of “Okinomiya” online with English subtitles and handwoven scarves dyed at Atelier Shimura.

Some of the scarves are precious one-item-only works dyed by Fukumi Shimura herself.

The items that can be enjoyed daily include plant-dyed cotton gauze masks and original temple seal notebooks made in Kyoto using textiles woven by Atelier Shimura. The temple seal notebooks can also be used as diaries or sketchbooks. 

A thank-you e-mail will be sent to all our supporters after the performance. Three stage photographs adorned with the “Okinomiya'' logo, which can be used as wallpapers on PCs and smartphones, will also be included in the rewards. Feel free to use them on your favorite device!

*Please note that preventive measures such as sanitization and social distancing will be taken at the performance and symposium. We ask all participants to check their temperatures before attending and to wear masks during the event. 

Closing Words

Currently, any type of stage performance needs to include preventive measures against the spread of COVID-19 outbreaks. 

Our performance of “Okinomiya” will be taking the following measures:

 1. Reducing the number of seats from 355 to 177.
 2. Temperature checks and hand sanitization of audience members.
 3. Ventilation and sanitization of the theater.
 4. The use of e-tickets. 

Hosting a conventional performance while taking the measures mentioned above is a very challenging task. That is why we hope to use this crowdfunding project as a way to produce this stage performance of “Okinomiya” with the help of our supporters. 

Please note that all the tickets are only available as crowdfunding rewards and will not be sold separately.

We are all forced to reevaluate our relationship to nature in these times marked by the pandemic. As organizers, we are fully committed to this project, hoping to be able to deliver the message of “Okinomiya,” a story of life woven with moving words and vivid colors. 

On behalf of the “Okinomiya” Performance Planning Committee, I kindly ask you for your support and assistance.

Shoji Shimura

Chairman of the “Okinomiya” Performance Planning Committee

*This project is run in cooperation with THE KYOTO.


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