Noh is a classical Japanese performance art that developed into its present form during the 14th and 15th centuries under the patronage of the shogunate. It became one of the favorite pastimes of the ruling class in Japan. Noh drama consists of dance and music. An utai-bon (book of lyrics) was made for each song in the drama. Noh was most popular during the 17th century, so many utai-bon, or Noh libretti, were published at that time. Shown here is a part of an utai-bon of Kanze-ryū style, one of the schools of Noh, printed with wooden type during the Keichō era (1596−1615). The work includes 100 poems in 100 volumes, and this is one of them, entitled Akogi or Akoki. The type used is of the Kōetsu school style. Kōetsu school utai-bon can be classed into several groups according to decorations and printing style. This book is of the "special style," as it has mica-like patterns on the covers and the pages. Because they have delicate decorations throughout, such special style books are the most beautiful of all those of the Kōetsu school. Akogi takes its name from the bay Akogi-ga-ura, which was in the sacred domain of the Ise Shrine (on the southeast side of the main island of Honshū), where fishing was prohibited. In this Noh drama, the ghost of a fisherman who had been put to death by drowning for poaching fish in the bay tells the story of his agony. The recounting of personal tragedies by ghosts, or the restless dead, is one of the most typical story patterns in Noh drama.

Last updated: December 12, 2017