A rehearsal noh stage, Nerima-ku, North West Tokyo.
Delighted to be in the presence of a noh stage and actually allowed to take photos, I annoyed everyone by snapping away at everything, from boxes full of masks and props
to the stringing of the kotsuzumi drum
Like the traditional Okina, which celebrates the wonders of the earth within a very simple story, Manhattan Okina is a noh/buddhist ritual 'mashup' - chanting, noh recitative, masks, two different types of singing - the works. The story was simple - three different men, at the moment of their deaths, are visited by a beautiful spirit who is the essence of a flower. They dance, and the moments before and after death blur together - both are happy and triumphant. The main character's white ceremonial robes were the perfect foil for the three different beautifully crafted masks
I was so surprised that the professional noh actor playing the flower spirit who visits the three old men was a woman (one of the only female professionals in Japan) that I almost forgot to notice how perfectly her faintly iridescent silk kimono coat fitted the role
The spirit danced with the 'man' (also played by a woman)
and retreated, leaving him alone to join the ranks of worshipped ancestors
Rehearsal over, I still wasn't absolutely sure what the play was supposed to say about old men in Manhattan.
But there was no time to worry about that - there was a performance the next day to get excited about!