Johakyu is a word used in discussions regarding such arts as renga (Japanese collaborative poetry), kemari (a kick-ball game arranged by aristocrats in the Heian period), kodo (traditional incense ceremony), swordsmanship, batto-jutsu (the art of using swords and cutting with swords) and iaido (an art using swords), which was originally used in the field of Japanese traditional music including gagaku (ancient Japanese court dance and music) and nohgaku (the art of noh).
Johakyu is a word relating to the performance of gagaku. Johakyu indicates the three sections composing a piece of gagaku music, including togaku (the art of noh introduced by the Tang Dynasty), and is broadly equivalent to the movements of Western music. Johakyu can be regarded as a form of music in its own right. However, many of the pieces which exist today are missing sections because they were lost or remain unfinished.
The word 'johakyu' is well known because this word is mentioned in "Kakyo," "Sando" and "Fushikaden" (these three books form the doctrine of Noh art) written by Zeami. This word is thus often misunderstood as being a word pertaining to noh, but its origin is in fact gagaku. However, Zeami considered johakyu to be a word common to every field of art.
Johakyu is used as a synonym of "kishotenketsu" (the four-part organization of Chinese and Japanese narratives), and the "three-act play" in the theatrical arts in Japan today.