Wisdom of Japan through Kyogen drama
Kabuki and Noh are well known the world over as forms of Japanese
drama but there is an equally interesting, less well-known form of drama
called Kyogen which brings out the lighter side of the Japanese.
Audiences in Sri Lanka will get a rare opportunity to catch an
authentic Kyogen performance as part of a “Cool Japan: Wisdom of Japan”
cultural extravaganza in Colombo and Kelaniya on February 19 and 20.
This is the first time that a Kyogen performance is being held in Sri
The events are coordinated by the Honganji Foundation, Kyoto, Embassy
of Japan, Western Provincial Council, University of Kelaniya and the
Japan Foundation. The event has received the fullest blessings of Most.
Ven. Ohtani Chohjun, who leads the Honganji Foundation.
Kyogen, which hails from the historic city of Kyoto, is a traditional
Japanese stage arts known to be one of the world's oldest and foremost
comedy drama forms of the medieval period.
In an interview with the Sunday Observer, Akihiro Taino, General
Manager of the Foreign Event and public relations Division of the
Honganji Foundation, Kyoto, said the twin events will provide a rare
opportunity for the Sri Lankan public, especially those interested in
Japanese culture, to see and learn more about Kyogen performances and
Japanese culture in general.
“It is a very pure art form that has stood the test of time. It is
difficult to catch a Kyogen performance even in Japan, so this is a
great chance for all those who love Japan to see this authentic
performance by performers from the Nomura Art School,” Taino said.
While the Kyogen performance and symposium will be the centrepiece of
Cool Japan exhibition, Taino said it will encapsulate the entire gamut
of Japanese culture.
DVDs that showcase Japanese history and culture, with a special focus
on Kyoto, will be screened and distributed. The DVD and an accompanying
pictorial book will be distributed free of charge to Japanese language
schools, Sri Lankan government officials, and representatives of
Japanese societies in Sri Lanka and embassies of various countries.
The theme ‘Cool Japan’ portrays modern Japan as a dynamic nation that
looks forward to the future whilst preserving its past traditions.
A scene from Kyogen drama
Symposium on Kyogen
Date: February 19 at 3 p.m.
Venue: Sri Lanka Foundation Institute Auditorium, Colombo
Izumi School Kyogen performance (company led by Mansaku Nomura),
Showing of the “Cool Japan” DVD (“Wisdom of Japan”) and Symposium on
“Cool Japan” (“Wisdom of Japan”).
List of panellists: Nobuhito Hobo (Ambassador of Japan to Sri Lanka),
Dr. Ryu Murakami (Director, Fine Arts, Kyoto Museum), Yukio Ishida
(Senior Artist, Nomura Art School of Kyogen), Prof. H.D. Karunaratne
(Dean, Management Faculty, University of Colombo) and Dr. Sunil
Wijesiriwardena (Visiting Lecturer, University of Colombo).
Date: February 20 at 3 p.m.
Venue: University of Kelaniya, Colombo
Program: Performances of Kyogen by the company led by Mansaku Nomura
and by students at the University of Kelaniya. Kyogen classes to be
taught by members of the Mansaku Nomura company.
“Sri Lanka and Japan have a centuries-old relationship that is based
on and inspired by Buddhism. In fact, the common thread that runs
between both countries is Buddhism. The cultures of both countries are
based on Buddhism. Kyoto being the heart and soul of Buddhism in Japan,
art forms from Kyoto represent the very essence of Japan. The people of
Japan identify very easily with the people of Sri Lanka. It is a
We share many similarities than differences,” he said. “People in Sri
Lanka and elsewhere voiced their interesting in learning more about the
roots of Japan's spiritual culture, thought, and philosophy, as well as
other manifestations of the Japanese heart and mind--particularly in
terms of revealing “cool Japan” on a deeper level.”
He said the Cool Japan exhibition and the Kyogen performance would be
especially important for students of Japanese culture and language in
Sri Lanka. It would be an ideal fusion of the age-old wisdoms of Sri
Lanka and Japan.
In fact, Kelaniya University students will perform two Kyogen dramas
titled Suminuri (Crocodile Tears) and Busu (Poison) at the Dharmaloka
Hall of the University of Kelaniya on February 20, which will reflect
this infusion. Such initiatives will also promote peace and
reconciliation in Sri Lanka, Taino said.
He said the Kyogen performances, workshop and exhibition will be an
impetus for the Sri Lanka-Japan diplomatic ties which are now over 60
The Honganji Foundation received a certificate of appreciation from
the Japanese Foreign Ministry in 2012 for outstanding achievements in
the realm of international exchange.
“Japan is cool, Japan is modern, but we have never lost sight of
values based on Buddhism. This event will help reinforce the friendship
between our two nations and expose a cultural facet of Japan that only a
few people have seen so far,” he said.