This presentation will analyze the ambivalent position of folk performing arts communities struggling to find a way to adapt their tradition to changing life patterns while at the same time they are forced to present a tradition that can serve as a reminder of a ‘lost Japaneseness’. Therefore, Kurokawa Noh, one of Japan’s best-known folk performing arts, will be investigated. It is famous for being a shinji geinō, a sacred art performed in a shrine. At the same time it is frequently being staged at events and other performance occasions outside religious contexts. One reason for this popularity is that the villagers of Kurokawa perform a wide Nō repertory, far exceeding what is usual for a folk performing art. I will explore the ambivalent position of Kurokawa Nō as a folk performing art caught between sacred festivals and a professional art form. I will look at the evaluations of Noh researchers and connoisseurs of Kurokawa Noh performances at professional Noh stages in Tokyo since the Meiji period, with a short retrospective on the development of Kurokawa Noh during the Edo period. Relying on my own fieldwork in the village of Kurokawa, I will show the importance and the dangers of these performances for the villagers and explore how they influence the transmission of the Noh tradition in the village. I conclude that the performance of highly stylized Noh forces the villagers into an ambivalent position, since their art is ascribed the status of an authentic and archaic tradition, but when staged out of the festival context it fails to be acknowledged as a possible counterpart of professional Noh theatre.
Eike Grossmann finished her PhD on socio-cultural aspects of Japanese folk performing arts and the influence of rural tourism in 2008 at Trier University (Germany). Currently she teaches at the Department of Japanese Studies, Goethe-University Frankfurt (Germany). Recent publications include: Under the Burden of Noh: Community Life in Kurokawa and the Ritual Noh Performances. In: Nō Theater Transversal. Ed. by S. Scholz-Cionca and C. Balme: Munich: Iudicium (2008).