Mysterious beauty Nohgaku Photographers Society Photo Exhibition

Nohgaku (Nokyogen) has a long history. It evolved from an ancient circus-like form of popular entertainment known as “Sangaku” that was introduced from China in the 8th century, by incorporating elements of Japanese performing arts like Dengaku, Imayo, Shirabyoshi and later Kabuki. The genre eventually became known as “Sarugaku” (saru meaning “monkey”) because of its comical overtones. Noh theater as it is known today was established in the 14th century by the father-son duo of Kanami and Zeami from the Yamato School of Sarugaku, with the strong patronage of Ashikaga Shogunate. Nohgaku quickly won a strong following amongst the aristocracy, which led to the rise of five troupes (Kanze, Hosho, Konparu, Kongo and Kita) by the 16th century. The art was renamed from “Sarugaku” to “Nohgaku” in the late 1800s. Over time, the costumes, masks and instruments were turned into works of art and traditional handicrafts by master artisans. Some of the costumes and masks that were made as far back as the 14th and 16th centuries are still being used today.

There are variant versions of most Nohgaku works that creatively depart from the customary rendition and styles of dancing, recitation and music accompaniment. They are known as “kogaki” (tantamount to “side note”) and noted in programs in small print. Moreover, works of the same title are performed differently by each troupe as might be expected of Noh (Kanze, Hosho, Konparu, Kongo and Kita) and Kyogen (Okura and Izumi) troupes since the actor in the lead role serves also as stage director. This makes it imperative for photographers to do their Noh homework because, without basic knowledge of the vocals, music, movements or ending, you will miss the best opportunities to take that special shot.

For this exhibition, we have tried to express the captivating magic of Noh under the theme of Yugen no Bi (Mysterious beauty). We hope you will enjoy the realm of Nohgaku through the beauty and splendor captured in these works.


  • Yutaka Ishida
  • Misako Ogata
  • Yoshiaki Kanda
  • Kaoru Kunisaki
  • Kiyonori Komma
  • Yumi Shinnguu
  • Kaoru Suzuki
  • Masaki Seno
  • Yoshihiro Maejima
  • Fuminori Mikami
  • Toshiro Morita
  • Ken Yoshikosi
  • Kunishige Watanabe

Nohgaku Photographers Society

Nohgaku Photographers Society is a group of photographers who photograph and film indoor and torch-lit outdoor Noh performances at the National Noh Theater and elsewhere. Formed in 2005, we have 33 members who hail from the Kanto (19), Chubu (1), Kansai (12) and Kyushu (1) areas.

Members are committed to improving their work through continuous research of photographic expression and technique, and regular interaction with each other, and to making Nohgaku more widely known by sharing copyrights to quality photographs and video footage. More recently, We have collaborated with other organizations on drafting rules and a code of ethics for photographing Noh performances.

Nohgaku Photographers Society website