Performing Arts passed on in Yamaguchi, “Sagiryu Kyogen”

Performing Arts passed on in Yamaguchi,
“Sagiryu Kyogen”

Kyogen Passed Down among Citizens

Sagiryu Kyogen is a precious traditional performing art which was only passed down here in Yamaguchi, with only two performers remaining who possess the techniques.
Originally, Sagiryu was one of the three major schools of Kyogen along with Okuraryu and Izumiryu. Okuraryu and Izumiryu both have “Iemoto”, a hereditary leader of a school of art, and professional performers who belong to the schools. For example, Mansai Nomura, a popular actor seen on television belongs to Izumiryu.
However, Sagiryu could not establish an “Iemoto”, and disappeared from the professional world. But here in Yamaguchi, it is passed down in the form of civilian succession. Sagiryu was introduced to Yamaguchi in Meiji 19 when a Kyogen performer of the Mori (Choshu) clan, Shosaku Shunichi, was invited to perform in a Shinto ritual Noh at Noda Shrine. Later, Shosaku moved his residence across from Honkokuji Temple in Dojomonzen, Yamaguchi where he took many apprentices.

Passing Down to Future Generations

Sagiryu flourished in Yamaguchi having several dozens of direct apprentices. But after the direct apprentices died out, it declined rapidly. Those who grieved the decline formed “Preservation Association of Yamaguchi Sagiryu Kyogen” in 1954, to train students. It must have been painstaking to preserve a school without a presiding “Iemoto”, but the work paid off as Sagiryu was registered as the first Intangible Cultural Property of Yamaguchi Prefecture. For the record, Sagiryu sects – Soke Niemon and Bunke Denemon – the script and direction differ between the sects. Soke Niemon sect of Sagiryu was introduced to the Sado region. Yamaguchi is the only place where Sagiryu that descended from Bunke Denemon is preserved.
At present, two performers, Eiji Kobayashi who has a soft and natural yet dignified performing style, and Bunmei Yonemoto who admires Kobayashi’s style and has devoted over 20 years of study, are registered as retainers of traditional performing art. There are also about 20 students who are passionately in training.
Nakata was given a chance to see Sagiryu Kyogen. Everything about Sagiryu Kyogen, such as the costumes, have a deep meaning. The Preservation Association holds regularly scheduled performances every year. The precious performing art left only here is surely something to be appreciated.


Sagiryu Kyogen
Mine, Yamaguchi