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A life devoted to the study of Noh Theater, a world that was completely alien to her -- Kaoru NAKAO (Associate Professor, Cultural Representation Program, Graduate School of Letters)

When Associate Professor Nakao was 5 years old, her parents took her to see the folktale play  “Yūzuru (Twilight Crane)”. “During the scene when the husband in the play shouts to his wife, who had turned back into a crane and flown away, everyone in the audience, myself included turned, around to look. Of course, there wasn’t actually a crane flying behind us, but the acting prowess that made us all imagine it was amazing.”

She had a passion for theater, playing the lead in her junior high school’s culture festival play and participating in a municipal theater troupe while at university. She considered working in theater as an actress, but as her desire to pursue studies in theater grew stronger, she chose to instead become a researcher.

“Noh Theater has a long history, and there are a lot of things we don’t know. Noh Theater had been alien to me, and because of that reason, I thought that it’s worthy enough to devote my life to its study.” That's why Assoc. Prof. Nakao chose Noh as her research theme.

“I was both surprised and moved when I learned that Noh actors tense every muscle in their bodies and concentrate for some 2 hours during a performance.”

Of the 5 schools of Noh Theater, 4 were started in Nara Prefecture in the Kansai region. The region in particular has a deep connection with Noh Theater, with many Noh theaters located in the region, and the daimyo (feudal lord) TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi loved performing Noh.

“There was a period when wealthy merchants and business people learned Noh Theater themselves and supported the actors. In this day and age, I feel that if more people had more interest in various forms of culture, including Noh Theater, Kansai would be a more lively area.”

Associate Professor Nakao’s hobbies include watching detective dramas, like "Agatha Christie's Poirot,"  and she feels that “the enjoyment of solving mysteries is something that can be found in research as well.”

She is also a fan of Funassyi (a mascot character, unofficially representing the city of Funabashi, in Chiba), and her office is full of Funassyi.

“It reminds me of the gagaku (ancient Japanese court music) in which Ranryo Ou, a high-ranking general fought with a terrible mask over his beautiful face,” she said, provided analysis from a very unique point of view.

Note: Gao Changgong, a high-ranking general of the Northern Qi dynasty, had a beautiful face, thus he always wore a terrible mask to intimidate his foes when he fought in battles. Music composed to commemorate his victory eventually entered Japan, which is known as the court music "Ranryo Ou."

I go see Noh whenever possible. That's how much I love Noh. So I’m able to continue my research,” she said with a smile.

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