Kanze Sosetsu (観世宗節)

Sosetsu KANZE (1509 - January 17, 1584) was a Noh performer of the Kanze school active during the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States). He was the seventh Kanze Dayu (head of the Kanze school). His imina (personal name) was Mototada and his Kaimyo (posthumous Buddhist names) was Ichianzai Sosetsu (一安斎宗節). He is reported to be the first person who used the name 'Sakon KANZE,' which is the a commonly used name of the Kanze family head down to the present, but this is likely to be inaccurate information for posterity.

In show business, put into a difficult positiondue to war, he copied and organized densho (books handed down from ancestors) and Utai-bon (chant books) that were handed down from ancestors and approached Ieyasu TOKUGAWA from early on to lay the foundation for the prosperity of Kanze-za (the Kanze group).

Place of origin

He was born the third son of the sixth Tayu (head of the school) Motohiro KANZE (also known as Doken), who lead Kanze-za that descended fromKanami. His mother was the daughter of Zenpo KONPARU the Tayu of Konparu-za. He was a lineal great-grandchild of Onami, who was one of the distinguished actors during the periods of Yoshinori ASHIKAGA and Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA. In addition, he also inherited the blood of masters who led the early period of Noh including Zenchiku KONPARU and Zeami from his mother.

His oldest brother Soken lost sight in one eye and the second older brother Ochi-Kanze inherited the family name of the Ochi-Kanze family that was in a direct line of Zeami, so Mototada, who was the third son, inherited the position of the Kanze family head. Shigekatsu (重勝) HOSHO (aka 'Kohosho'), who was adopted to the Hosho school and inherited Tayu, was his younger brother.

As a young Tayu

In 1523, he was bereaved of his father Motohiro when he was 15, and assumed the seventh Tayu.

During this period, his father's cousin Nagatoshi KANZE was an influential person of the group as 'waki no shite' (beside-the-doer role). Nagatoshi, along with his father Kojiro Nobumitsu KANZE, was a leading Noh writer in the mid Muromachi period.
After his father's death, Mototada studied under Nagatoshi, from whom he was universally transmitted Noh plays that were handed down to the Kanze school, and became a master lauded as a 'superior during the modern age.'
However, relations between Mototada and Nagatoshi who was of high professional standing not less of Tayu and his child Motoyori KANZE were not necessarily good. Under such circumstance where he could not ask for their full support, young Mototada took charge of the Kanze-za.

Mototada started activities right after he assumed Tayu, and appeared in sarugaku (a form of theatre popular in Japan during the 11th to 14th centuries) when Shogun Yoshiharu ASHIKAGA visited Takakuni HOSOKAWA's residence in January 1524 (December 1523 in old calendar). It is recorded that he visited Sanetaka SANJONISHI for New Year's greetings in 1524, the following year, and visited residences of Hisamichi KONOE and Sanetaka SANJONISHI in 1526. In March of the same year, he worked in the Takigi-noh (Noh theater performed at night by a fire) at Kofuku-ji Temple, and in November, he played a competitive Sarugaku performance at Shogun's residence. He was protected by the Hosokawa family of Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and had activities that showed a strong link with powerful people, for example, he demonstrated Utai (the chanting of a Noh text) with his younger brother, and so on, in the blossom-viewing at Hisamichi KONOE's residence in April 1528.

In 1530, he played the first Kanjin Noh (performance held to raise subscriptions for the construction of shrines or temples) in Gojo of Kyoto. Coplayers at this time included masters who became history makers including Yajiro Nagatoshi, otsuzumi (big drum) player Kuro Yoshiuji OKURA (originator of the Okura school of Otsuzumi and the Okura school of Kotsuzumi - small drum), Kotsuzumi player Chikakata MIYAMASU, and Nohkan flute player Hikobe. It is easy to imagine that a young Tayu at age 22 was supported by such experienced masters. Among these masters, he inherited, together with his younger brother Kohosho, a boisterous dance from Yazaemon MIYAMASU.

As such, Mototada started his career as a performer in relatively smooth water, but when Takakuni HOSOKAWA was killed in a battle in 1531 and the authority of the shogun family became weaker, the Kanze-za which had strong links with the Bakufu for generations also got into trouble.

In maelstrom of wars

As the Bakufu's power declined, opportunities for Mototada to perform significantly decreased. When Kyoto was in a comparative lull, he did a Noh performance at Shogun's residence in November 1536 after a long period, but after that, he did not have an opportunity to play on an official occasion for a while. In April, 1540, he played second Kanjin Noh in the Nishijin of Kyoto with the support of Shugodai (the acting Military Governor) of Tanba Province, the Hatano clan. It is said that the authority of the group Nagatoshi died around that time.

In 1542, Kanze Dayu's residence caught fire which caused heavy loss that all Noh costumes were damaged by fire. Luckily, they weathered out this hardship with the support of Emperor Gonara, and Shogun Yoshiharu, and so on, but most documents handed down in the Kanze family were burned and other documents, books handed down from ancestors had significant damage. Later, Mototada made a great effort to copy and maintain lost books and Utai-bon (chant books).

In addition, during the Mototada's period, relations with Kofuku-ji Temple in Nanto (southern capital (Nara)) that had been a supporter for generations became chilled. Yamato-yoza (four sarugaku performance groups) (Kanze, Konparu, Kongo, and Hosho) from the Yamato Province were obliged to appear in rituals at Kofuku-ji Temple, but it is said that Mototada often found reasons not to appear or had Ochi-Kanze Tayu (the head of Ochi-Kanze school) or Juni Tayu (head of Juni school) deputize for him and this did not turn out properly. In 1544, during an incident where Konparu and Kongo fought over the order of precedence, Mototada, a cousin of Yoshikatsu KONPARU, joined him and they goofed off along with Shigekatsu, the Hojo Tayu. As such, he significantly disregarded Kofuku-ji Temple.

However, not joining rituals at Kofuku-ji Temple, the supporter, meant no income, when the power of the Bakufu declined. Mototada, in search of new opportunities in Kanjin Noh for ordinary people, held fund-raising Noh performances in Ishibashi Hachiman of Shokoku-ji Temple in April 1545 and in Inubaba of Ise no kami (Governor of Ise Province) in April, 1552. During this period, in 1546, he also played in Noh to celebrate genpuku (celebrate one's coming of age) of a new Shogun Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA under Yoshiharu and his son who went to Omi.

Mototada was active in performance tours to provinces from early on and went to Kyushu from 1535 when he was 27. In Kyushu, at that time, Noh was popular and his grandfather Zenpo also stayed with the Otomo clan in Bungo during his last years. Because of such relations, it is thought that Mototada traveled to Kyushu several times after that. In 1577, he visited Sado, where his ancestor Zeami was deported, and it seems that Kenshin UESUGI in Echigo Province invited him. He also visited Itsukushima-jinja Shrine in the Aki (the western part of Hiroshima Prefecture) area several times, including in 1563 to play Horaku Noh (a Noh performance dedicated to Shintoist and Buddhist deities) and in 1568.

In 1558, when Shogun Yoshiteru and Nagayoshi MIYOSHI reached a settlement, Kyoto became stable again. With this, Mototada actively played in Kyoto, including a Noh performance in April of the same year when Yoshiteru visited Yoshioki MIYOSHI residence.

In June 1564, he held his last Kanjin Noh for four days with his adopted child Motohisa KANZE in Shogun Yoshiteru's presence at Ishibashi Hachiman Shrine of Sokoku-ji Temple. Mototada played Shite (a main actor) in songs such as 'Tomonaga' (MINAMOTO no Tomonaga), 'Teika' (FUJIWARA no Teika), 'Kantan' (The Pillow of Kantan, Noh play), 'Oimatsu' (The Old Pine Tree), 'Ataka' (The Ataka Barrier, Noh play), 'Futarishizuka' (a couple of the young ladies named Shizuka), 'Mii-dera Temple,' 'Yamanba' (old mountain witch), 'Matsukaze' (Wind in the Pines), 'Miwa' (deity of Mt. Miwa), 'Kasuga Ryujin' (The Kasuga Dragon God), 'Shojo' (an Imaginary Animal Like an orangutan), 'Taema' (Princess Chujo in Taima-dera Temple; a Noh play), 'Sanemori' (Sanemori SAITO), 'Sotoba Komachi' (Komachi on the Stupa), and 'Sakura-gawa River'. Seeing the players, however, hayashikata (people who play hayashi, or provide musical accompaniment) were fewer compared to Kanjin Noh in 1530 during the glory days, and some people point out that the Kanze-za was showing a decline.

In June 1565, the following year, Shogun Yoshiteru was assassinated and Kyoto became unstable again.

Later years

In late 1565, Mototada resigned Tayu at the age of 57 and shaved his head to become a priest and called himself Ichianzai Sosetsu (hereafter called Sosetsu). Sosetsu seemed to remain single all his life and adopted Saburo Motohisa (三郎元尚), a son of his younger brother Shigekatsu, the Hosho Tayu.

In October 1568, Nobunaga ODA went to Kyoto with Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA as his head and became a new hegemon. In the Noh to celebrate the appointment to Shogun in November of the same year, and the inauguration of Nijo-jo Castle in May in 1570, the new Tayu Motohisa performed then. However, while Nobunaga gave shoryo (territory) to Kojiro Motoyori KANZE and others, who seem to be close friends since his reign in Gifu, it seemed that he did not like the Kanze Dayu so much. Motoyori, Nagatoshi's son, had a foul relationship with Sosetsu, and he did not perform in Sosetsu's Kanjin Noh even he was waki no shite of the Kanze-za.

It may have been because of Nobunaga's cold shoulder, but Sosetsu and his son moved out of Kyoto and went to Hamamatsu in Totomi Province in 1571, and since then, their activities in Kinai region (the five capital provinces surrounding the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto) decreased. Sosetsu's older brother Juro Dayu SURUGA waited upon Ieyasu since he was a captive of the Imagawa family. Sosetsu moved relying on that relationship.

In the spring of 1577, the eighth dayu Motohisa suddenly died in Mikawa Yoshida. It was an unduly early death at the age around 40. During the year before his death, he went to Nanto to perform Takigi-Noh after a long while, arranged an adoption from the Kongo family to his birth family the Hosho family, and taught Noh to Ieyasu's child Nobuyasu MATSUDAIRA. As such, he was enjoying productive activities. For Sosetsu and the Kanze-za, it was a fatal blow.

In the first place, the Yamato Sarugaku troupe was originally a group for serving rituals in Kofuku-ji Temple. Because Motohisa's child was too young, the former Dayu Sosetsu was retired in Hamamatsu, and other performers were acting separately, it was not possible to conduct rituals. During the decade from that until the Toyotomi government protected Yamato-yoza again, the Kanze-za is considered to have been in a state of collapse.

At that time, Motohisa had a 12-year-old child, Oniwaka, with the daughter of Kojiro Motoyori and Sosetsu raised this bereaved child during his late years. It is said that he returned to Kyoto in his late years, and died in 1583 at the age of 76. Thus Oniwaka, later Tadachika KANZE (Kokusetsu) the ninth, revived the Kanze-za under Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, tenkabito (person becoming the ruler of the country).

Writing Books

As the Ochi-kanze family, which Sosetsu's older brother Suruga Juro Dayu became the head of, was founded by Ochi-kanze Dayu, the first of Zeami's legitimate grandchildren (Fujiwaka-kanze Dayu), it possessed a larger amount of precious documents that had been handed down from Zeami than the head of the Kanze family did. Most of the documents of the family head had already been lost in a fire in 1542, and Sosetsu together with Motohisa worked to copy and organize the remaining works, which Juro Dayu had presented to Ieyasu. Zeami's representative works, such as "Fushikaden" (The Flowering Spirit) and "Sarugaku dangi" (Talks about Sarugaku), were among these works. He gained a name for himself as one of the most distinguished artists of the late Muromachi period by compiling many of the theories of his forerunners in works such as "Kansubon Sosetsu Hitsu Onkyoku Densho" (Scrolled book of Noh melodies by Sosetsu) for posterity, appearing in Sosetsu's talk about the secrets of the arts in "Genki Keicho Noh Bunsho" (the Book of Noh during the Genki and Gencho periods), which was traditionally an heirloom of the Hosokawa family, and so on. Because of this, he was considered the 'soshi' (founder) by later generations and became the subject of Noh chants.