”Shigeyama Sengoroke” The Art of Laughter

”Shigeyama Sengoroke”
The Art of Laughter

Performing Human Drama

In comparison to Noh where music and dancing is its main feature, Kyogen’s main feature is its lyrical phrases. Also with Noh, gods and ghosts appear as ”shitekata main character) ” performers. In Kyogen on the other hand, Daimyo (Lord) and Tarokaja (servant) appear, the majority of the plays ending with a punch line. In other words Kyogen are performances regarding human drama. They are short stories about blunders people make and cliches in daily life acted out comically. Noh and Kyogen have a strong connection, whereas Kyogen performers appear on Noh stages. By having inserts of comical Kyogen within Noh tragedy, it emphasizes the expression of both. The current Shigeyama Sengoro is the 13th generation, their name dating back almost 400 years. Their name was a highly appraised top ranking Kyogen name, have been warranted by the Shogunate government recommended by Ii Naosuke, the Chief minister and had been patronized by the Hikone han.

Kyogen Loved by All

Shigeyama Sengoroke is famous for the ”Otofu Kyogen”. So what exactly is this? Originally Noh and Kyogen were not allowed performance other than on Noh stage. However, even under strict rules, the 10th generation often displayed his Kyogen at weddings and other ceremonious events, which were mocked where people said ”Shigeyama Kyogen is like a tofu stand.” In Kyoto back then, when people hadn’t prepared and had no clue to what to serve for dinner, they would say ”Oh well, never mind, we might as well just have tofu.” and tofu had no appreciation. Shigeyama Kyogen was bad-mouthed, ”Cheap Kyogen that would be performed anywhere.” However the 10th generation used to reply, ”Say as much as you please. Being called tofu is completely fine. Tofu is loved by everyone. By different garnishing, it can become posh or normal.” He started to call his Kyogen ”Tofu Kyogen” himself. His spirit lives on to this day, keeping the motto, displaying Kyogen loved by all. Nakata was able to talk with Shigeyama Sengoro and his father, Living National Treasure Shigeyama Sensaku. Shigeyama Sensaku still performs on stage, though he is over 90 years old. Shigeyama Sengoro appeared on stage for the first time at 4 and ever since, has been performing Kyogen until the present. His clear tone of voice reflects their history. ”I do not need a microphone if the audience is about 850 people,” he says with confidence.

Bringing Life into the Program

This day, we were fortunate to see their program, ”Boh Shibari”. A feudal lord upon leaving his house ties two of his servants onto a boh (a pole) suspicious that they will drink sake while he is away. It is a slapstick style comedy where in the end, the servants cooperate and drink up the sake. Masakuni Shigeyama, Shigeru Shigeyama and Ippei Shigeyama’s energetic humorous performance makes the audience laugh out loud. Their phrases are of old language, such as ”Yai yai!” or ”Yoinarino, yoinarino,” which matches well with their actions. The performances of Shigeyama Sengoroke are held in various places, such as Tokyo, Nara, Osaka. There is no reason why you should not try this out. Why not watch ”Otofu Kyogen” and shake with laughter.


Shigeyama Sengoroke Shigeyama Kyogen kai Committee
346 Ooinokumacho, Kamigyoku, Kyoto
URL https://kyotokyogen.com/