Noh, or Nogaku —derived from the Sino-Japanese word for skill or talent—is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century. Developed by Kanami and his son Zeami, it is the oldest major theatre art still regularly performed today. Traditionally, a Noh program includes five Noh plays with comedic kyōgen plays in between, a program of two Noh plays and one kyōgen piece has become common in Noh presentations today. An okina play may be presented in the very beginning especially during New Years, holidays, Noh is often based on tales from traditional literature with a supernatural being transformed into human form as a hero narrating a story. Noh integrates masks, costumes and various props in a performance, requiring highly trained actors. Emotions are primarily conveyed by stylized gestures while the iconic masks represent the roles such as ghosts, women, children. Written in ancient Japanese language, the text describes the ordinary people of the twelfth to sixteenth centuries. Having a strong emphasis on rather than innovation, Noh is extremely codified and regulated by the iemoto system. The word Noh means skill, craft, or the talent particularly in the field of performing arts in this context, the word Noh may be used alone or with gaku to form the word nōgaku. Noh is a tradition that is highly valued by many today. When used alone, Noh refers to the genre of theatre originated from sarugaku in the mid 14th century. Noh and kyōgen originated in the 8th century when the sangaku was transmitted from China to Japan, at the time, the term sangaku referred to various types of performance featuring acrobats, song and dance as well as comic sketches. Its subsequent adaption to Japanese society led to its assimilation of other art forms. L Various performing art elements in sangaku as well as elements of dengaku, sarugaku, shirabyōshi, another theory by Shinhachiro Matsumoto suggests Noh originated from outcastes struggling to claim higher social status by catering to those in power, namely the new ruling samurai class of the time. As Noh became the shoguns favorite art form, Noh was able to become an art form through this newly formed relationship. In 14th century, with support and patronage from shōgun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. Kanami Kiyotsugu and his son Zeami Motokiyo brought Noh to what is essentially its present-day form during the Muromachi period, Kanami was a renowned actor with great versatility fulfilling roles from graceful women and 12-year-old boys to strong adult males. When Kanami first presented his work to 17-year-old Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, Zeami was an actor in his play
Karaori garment, Edo period, 18th century, bamboo and chrysanthemum design on red and white checkered ground
Nō masks. Right: Drunken spirit (shōjō). Made of red and black lacquered wood, with red silk tying cord, by Himi Munetada (氷見宗忠). Edo period, 19th century. Left: Nakizo, representing a female deity or woman of high rank, associated with Nō plays such as Hagoromo and Ohara Miyuki. Made of lacquered and painted wood by Norinari (憲成), designed by Zoami (増阿弥). 18th-19th century.