Kurokawa-Noh is a traditional entertainment preserved in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture. It is an important intangible folk cultural asset (designated in 1976). Not played by professional Noh actors nor belonging to any Noh schools, it is an original local art that has been handed down for about over 450 years in this region.
Kurokawa-Noh, as it is called in general, refers to the Noh performed at 'Ogi-sai' (Ogi festival) at Kasuga-jinja Shrine in Oaza Kurokawa, Kushibiki-machi, Yamagata Prefecture, but it is also performed at Kinen-sai (a festival for bountiful harvests) of March 23, Rei-sai (an annual festival for the shrine) of May 8, and Shinkoku-kansha-sai (a festival for the harvest of the year) of November 23. Also, it is presented at Dewasanzan-jinja Shrine on top of Mt. Haguro on July 15, and at Shonai-jinja Shrine in the site of Tsurugaoka-jo Castle on August 15.
In Ogi-sai, after Ogi-sama of Kasuga-jinja Shrine, an object inhabited by a god's spirit when it descends and called Yorishiro is invited, Noh is performed on the stage in two houses from Kami-za (a troupe from the south area of Kasuga-jinja Shrine) and Shimo-za (a troupe from the north area of Kasuga-jinja Shrine) each on the evening of February 1. At dawn of the next day, February 2, a ritual called Miya-nobori is held, when Ogi-sama goes back to the shrine, and in the evening another Noh play is performed at the hall of worship of the shrine in the presence of the both troupes. The Noh play is followed by a program called Daichi-humi to pray for a bountiful harvest.
Among the Noh costumes are Hikari-kariginu and Shokko no nishiki, which are said to be Emperor Seiwa's clothes and designated as tangible cultural assets of Yamagata Prefecture, and some of the Noh masks are considered to have been made in the early days of Noh. Also, some Noh music pieces already abolished and some motions already forgotten in the four extant schools, Kanze school, Hosho school, Kongo school, and Konparu school remain.
Legend of the origin
The origin remains within the bounds of the legend.
One legend says that Emperor Seiwa, who stole out of the palace and concealed himself in Kurokawa owing to some circumstances from 859 to 877, loved the local people and nature there and taught them the private Noh of the court called Ouchi-kakari.
The other legend says that the third prince of Emperor Gokomatsu (Muromachi period), Ogawa no miya or Kokawa no miya became a priest to avoid the social disorder and changed his name to Ryuju no miya, who lived in Onabe, Atsumi-machi, then in Kurokawa after traveling through the country, where he taught Noh to the local people.
Those two legends have been handed down by word of mouth. Neither of them has historical grounds, and they are considered to be typical of the common stories in which a young god or hero becomes a valuable person after traveling through the country. The legends are also said to be from the background that the Muto clan, who had governed the area since the Kamakura period, invited Noh players from Kyoto. Some other historical spots in this region are Koshi-zuka, which is considered to be Ogawa no miya's grave, Shoju-in, which is said to be the old site of his temporary palace, and Bokudo-in, which is said to have been built by boys who took care of Emperor Seiwa's horses.