How to watch Noh theater in Tokyo

Show up at the last second and buy two tickets to something you don’t know the name of and receive a program you can’t read. Have 5 minutes to eat convenience store food while watching women in gorgeous kimono pour into the hall. Feel bad about wearing clothes you haven’t washed since you walked around in them in a typhoon. Enter the hall and observer the stage, which is minimal—just a painted tree inside a wooden structure surrounded by white gravel. The show starts on time to the second. There are some guys with drums who sing “Nooooooooo, noooopppppppeeee, nowwwwwooooowwww, over and over.” and a flute, and a chorus of guys who sit on their feet throughout the 3 1/2 hour long show, which you now realize is painful because you had to do it while copying a zen sutra last week. A lady, who is played by a man, comes in slowly—like an inch a time and there’s another guy who is winning the Guinness Book of World Records for wide pants. The two drummers keep going “noooope, noooooooo” and it’s like tuvan throat singing and Gregorian chants and a monster movie scored by Philip Glass.  Another guy comes in with boy-band hair and long dragging pants-cuffs and he moves an inch at a time too.  Your bladder is almost bursting. The inch at a time people go through a half size door and the comic interlude is performed, with impeccable timing. Second act, different people singing “Nope no neoowwwww” and a lady with a fright wig and a mask flips her sleeves around. The big pants guy and another lady with a scary mask stand on two platforms and screech. Slowly everyone walks off stage. Then the musicians go through the half door. The show is over, No one claps. 





Look at this nerd with a map in each pocket of his easy-dry travel shirt


How we got to Tokyo: train from Osaka.
Where we slept: Apa Hotel Asakusa Tawaramachi Ekimae. Price: €89 for a double. Recommended: yes.


  1. I’ve never seen any of this. But I’ve eaten convenience store lunch. That I don’t mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This was my first time seeing Noh too. We LOVED it—the performance was excellent—but we could have used surtitles. There was a gizmo on the back of the theater chairs for surtitles but it wasn’t working.

      The convenience store food in this instance was Lawson, in my opinion inferior to 7-11 and Family Mart, but since we had just a few minutes to eat it was no time to be finicky.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was there with you, especially the slow walking and the relatively incomprehensible ‘action’, such as it is. I remember trying to make sense of Chinese opera on Hong Kong TV in the 50s, and failing to penetrate beyond the clashing cymbals in the wall of sound. But then I’m not sure that The Miraculous Mandarin by Béla Bartók or Alan Berg’s Lulu would make much sense to a neophyte either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh man the pacing was glacial—-the first inch-at-a-time lady puts down her basket after an hour and it’s like “Whoa, high drama!” I quite enjoyed the austerness of it all. The next day we saw Kabuki and it seemed gaudy in comparison. Did see Lulu at the Lyric Opera in Chicago and savored it, but the only Bartok I watched was Bluebeard’s Castle which was the source of much inappropriate giggling due to the “beautiful” ex wive wearing unflattering body suits and writhing;

      Liked by 1 person

  3. All I can say is ‘noooope, noooooooo’…but i am very glad that you enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Failed to see Bunraku though—rats!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am giggling here, reading this. Sooooo (peee) on the money. Perfect description and as usual, hysterical! I’ll be sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I take it you also saw Noh in Japan?

      Please don’t pee on the money!


      1. Yes! Once. So long!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I would go to see one of these based on your excellent description!! Brilliant!


    1. Do it! If you can figure out the name of what you saw, tell me, because I still have no idea….


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