Imashige Yashiki Noh Bukan

Imashige Yashiki Noh Bukan

Learn about Nagahama’s Noh culture in an old sake brewery

place Area: Nagahama access_time Published: 2020.12.03

Name in Japanese: 今重屋敷能舞館
Pronunciation: imashige yashiki nō bukan

The streets of Nagahama are lined with machiya townhouses, long, narrow buildings that extend for a whole block. They’re typically fronted at one end by a shop, with a private home behind, often with an inner garden. The Imashige Yashiki Noh Bukan stands at the end of one city block, and its chimney and warehouse mark it as an old sake brewery.

This old machiya and brewery has been restored and was opened as an exhibition hall for Noh theatre in 2011, with the concept of familiar and enjoyable Noh that is rooted in the culture of northern Lake Biwa. Noh theatre had its origins in vernacular theatrical entertainments called sarugaku, or monkey music, that developed in farming villages, and one of the six centres of Ōmi Sarugaku was in Nagahama. Shintō shrines in the city own Noh masks and costumes from the Kamakura and Muromachi periods, and Nagahama Hachimangū has a Noh stage built in 1778.

You enter the Noh Bukan through the shop front and make your way down a stuccoed corridor with displays of antiques related to sake and Noh. You come to a room with an impressive cistern and sinks, and the pit where rice used to be steamed for sake. Beyond this is the Noh museum, which features a somewhat miniaturised Noh stage. Another room houses exhibits of Noh costumes, masks, and musical instruments on two floors. The variety of expression in the costumes and masks is impressive. There are a number of masks that you can handle and clap onto your face if you’re so inclined, and there’s an exhibit showing how the masks are carved.

The museum holds regular events including Noh chanting, dance, and Noh masking classes.