Noh Theatre, The Aesthetics of Breathing

  • Naohiko Umewaka


It had always been in the breathing rhythm; this is where a weapon had been concealed. This concealed weapon could work dreadful impact. The Samurai always possessed these two entirely different implements of destruction. The visible and concealed weapon; these were the sword and breathing rhythm. Breathing rhythm as the implement of expression in Noh. This focus on breathing rhythm is not limited to Bushido, but holds true also for many of Japanese traditional performing arts. Experts and the greatest thespians of Noh, one of Japanese most acclaimed performing arts, in particular had focused on breathing rhythm as an implement of expression for the past several hundred years. They discovered that the body expression could be altered by breathing method and succeeded in incorporating breathing rhythm as an artistic element of their craft. We Noh actors believe that in order to alter the outward expression of the body, we ourselves must consciously stir change in composure of the body internal, feel the sensation of transformation while at the same time let the body itself speak as a means of expression. Though this internal change may be miniscule, it can nevertheless be a powerful transformation that an audience often senses. In an instant, what seemed to be an insignificant internal change can astonishingly captivate an audience. It is at this instant that the expressive power of internal change to communicate outwardly is perfected. This discipline evolved to be of utmost importance for a Noh actor.


Expressive Power Powerful Transformation Deep Valley Internal Change Body Expression 


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Naohiko Umewaka
    • 1
  1. 1.Royal Holloway University of London, Shizuoka University of Art and CultureShizuokaJapan

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