Ondrej Hybl was born in 1977 in Czech Republic. He studied Kyogen Ookura style, the traditional Japanese theater, under the influence of Shigeyama Sengorou. In 2000, he started studying at Charles University Graduate School of Philosophy. In 2002, he enrolled in Doshisha University Graduate School of Letters as an exchange student. He began studying Kyogen under Kyogen Master, Shime Shigeyama.
After graduating with a master’s degree from Doshisha University in 2005, he further moved his study and is currently studying for his doctorate at Oosaka University Graduate School of Letters. At EXPO 2005, Mr. Hybl was recognized by the Czech Republic government for his work and contribution as a representative of Czech Republic.
Mr. Hybl, who became fascinated with the Kyogen world which is a quintessential traditional Japanese performing art, became the first Czech Kyogen pupil.
He says that Kyogen requires technique to make people laugh, but that the laughter is not cheap. It is a humor that is kind to people.
Mr Hybyl adds “When people laugh, the boundary between countries disappears. Now that Kyogen is recognized as a world heritage art form, Kyogen has become a valuable asset for people all over the world. Kyogen, which has deep roots in the ancient Japanese world, has the potential to make people in the world rich inside.”
The Minaichi Odori dance is a unique folk performing art that has been passed down since the Muromachi period (1336-1573) on Oki-Chiburishima Island in Shimane Prefecture. It is designated as an intangible folk cultural property of Chibu Village.
Minaichi Odori is said to be derived from Kyogen Furyu. The origin is unknown but it was dedicated when people prayed for a rich harvest. Also it was performed with different lyrics when people prayed for bringing rain or stopping wind.
Today it is dedicated to the god at Ichinomiya Shrine on August 15 on the old calendar. Villagers get together in the precinct and dance elegantly in circle to the song and rhythm of Japanese drums, waving folding fans in their hands. The drums in the center of the circle are beaten by local junior high school students.
Koromo Festival is held on the 3rd weekend in October every year at Koromo Shrine in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture. Koromo Shrine is said to be founded in 1189, when Suzuki Shigeyoshi, a retainer of Minamoto no Yoshitsune, transferred Komori Myojin from Yoshino in present Nara Prefecture. Takamimusubi no Kami and other four deities are enshrined.
The festival is said to originate in the dedication of Kyogen Kabuki held at the shrine in around 1354. According to an old record, the parade of decorated floats, Kasaboko (giant floats) and lions was already held Minami Town in the city in 1630.
Today, eight neighborhood towns around Koromo Shrine have their own floats, which are beautifully decorated with gorgeous tapestries and wood carvings carved by specialist float decoration sculptors of the Tachikawa school or Segawa Jisuke, the master sculptor in the Edo period. The eight floats are valiantly pulled through the city. During the parade, men on the float throw confetti at every corner. Koromo float parade represents the valiant spirit handed down among townspeople in this castle town of Koromo.
Okayachi Nanbu Kagura is a traditional folk performing art handed down in Toyoma Town in Tome City, Miyagi Prefecture. It is designated as an intangible cultural property by the city.
In the periods around the beginning of the 17th century, the kagura dance called Hoin Kagura was performed by mountain practitioners in the areas in the northern part of Miyagi Prefecture and the southern part of Iwate Prefecture. It was developed into the Nanbu Kagura, a new style of kagura dance performed by farmers.
In Towa Village in present Tome City, villagers created a new style of kagura dance named Sagadachi Kagura, which was a combination of Hoin Kagura and Nanbu Kagura. In around 1905, the Sagadachi Kagura troupe visited Okayachi Village and taught their kagura dance to the local people, who later adopted several Kyogen plays from another Nanbu Kagura dance handed down in the adjacent village and created their original kagura dance, Okayachi Nanbu Kagura.
Okayachi Nanbu Kagura is characterized by up-tempo music, elaborate dancing techniques and dramatic stories. It is an entertainment for farmers rather than a dedicatory ritual. Most stories are borrowed from mythology or historical tales, to which elements of Kyogen are added. The plays such as “Yamato Furisode” and “Utatsu Katakiuchi-no-ba (the Revenge in the Village of Utatsu)” are unique to this kagura dance.
Ometsuki Festival, which dates back over 300 years, takes place every January 24th at Naburi, Ogatsu-cho, Miyagi Prefecture.
It is said to have started in 1781 after a big fire raged through the village and people started to pray at the shrine to prevent it happening again.
On the festival day, led by a person dressed as Shishi lion, Dashi portable shrines parade dynamically followed by Choujirushi portable shrines carried by children.
The biggest attraction in the festival is a series of performances called “Ometsuki”. What will be seen in the performances is kept secret until the day of the event. This is because young people who become lively after drinking “Omiki”, sake offered to a deity, used to demonstrate improvised performances on a whim. Ometsuki is said to have derived from the word, “Omiki” and “omoitsuki” or acting on whims. Although most of the themes in the performances are current social issues, they use a form of traditional Kyougen play with some similarity to Niwaka, a comical street performance, with exaggerated female and male roles. This is very unique in the nation and is a valued cultural event.
Ometsuki is designated as an important intangible folklore cultural asset by Miyagi Prefecture.
Noh performance pertaining to the Date clan has been handed down in Toyoma Town in Miyagi Prefecture for 230 years.
During the Edo period, Noh was considered to be important as Shikigaku (music and dances performed at official occasions) of the warrior class. In the Sendai domain, Noh of the Konparu Okura school was given generous protection and encouragement by the successive domain lords.
In the territory of the Toyoma-Date family, who followed the formalities of the Date clan, Noh was also extensively practiced and handed down by the warrior class.
After the abolition of clans in the Meiji period (1868-1912), the warriors who handed down Noh plays became farmers, which resulted in Noh becoming widespread among townspeople. While many Nohgaku in the territory of the old Sendai domain died out, Noh was inherited in Toyoma Town as Toyoma-Noh. As a precious cultural heritage that hands down traditional Noh and Kyogen to the modern age, it was designated as a folk cultural property by the prefecture.
Toyoma-Noh is presented to the public as Takigi-Noh (traditional plays put on outdoors with light supplied by bonfires) twice a year, in Shinryoku Takigi-Noh in June and on the eve of Toyoma Autumn Festival in September. Elegant plays performed by the light of burning torches transport spectators somewhere ethereal.
Souun Takeda, a calligrapher, was born in 1975 in Kumamoto. He started calligraphy when he was three years old, studying with his mother, Souyou Takeda, also a calligrapher.
After graduating from Tokyo University of Science majoring in Science and Technology, he worked at NTT for three years before he became a calligrapher. Since then, he has established himself through a series of unique and original pieces, often collaborating with other artists in various fields including Noh and Kyougen actors, sculptors and musicians, and unconventional one-man exhibitions. He also runs a calligraphy school where many of his students study. “Calligraphy is the same as a conversation. I just use calligraphy to communicate with people”, says the gentle but passionate Mr. Takeda, who is hailed as the new generation of calligraphy.
In 2003, Mr. Takeda received the Longhuacui Art Award from Shanghai Art Museum in China and the Constanza de Medici Award in Firenze, Italy. His work includes title letterings for many movies such as Spring Snow and Year One in the North. He also published three books; Tanoshika, Shoyudou and Sho o kaku tanoshimi.
Yamaage Festival held in July every year in Nasu Karasuyama City, Tochigi Prefecture is a dynamic performance of outdoor kabuki, which is nationally designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property. The history of this outdoor kabuki dates back to 1560, when Nasu Suketane, the castellan of Karasuyama Castle enshrined Susanoo no Mikoto at Yakumo Shrine and prayed for the country’s stability and a rich harvest. During the Kanbun era (1661-1672), a dance performance was first dedicated to the deity in addition to the sumo wrestling matches and Kagura Loin Dance. In the Horeki era (1716-1763), kabuki dances began to be performed and later it took the form of the outdoor kabuki plays.
On the day of the festival, about 150 young stagehands quickly build a kabuki stage with “yama (backdrops),” which is made of bamboo and traditional Japanese paper produced in the Nasu area. When musicians start playing the Tokiwazu-bushi shamisen, local kabuki players appear on the stage and play kabuki dramas such as “Masakado,” “Modoribashi,” and “Yoshinoyama.” After the performance, the stagehand staff quickly breaks up the set, carries all necessary parts to the next locale and re-builds the stage for the next performance. The performances are held five to six times a day.