What is Kyogen? – The world’s oldest Comedy!
Kyogen, said to be the source of all Japanese theatre, which developed during Muromachi period, 1380-1466, in conjunction with and alongside of the tragic Noh drama.
It’s also called the art of laughter, and is sole example of comedy among the traditional Japanese theatre. Registered as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2001.
Some of the Kyogen are farcical, but they never are farce. They are short folk plays portraying the less complex emotions and everyday experiences of simple personalities in their own languages, which was offered to gods at its inception.
It has enchanted the people of every age, at its heart depicting universal of humor that overcomes time and place. The way we would want to be, the way of aspiration: this is Noh. The way we are, the way to acceptance: this is Kyogen. Both roads lead us to wisdom. You will know there is more to Kyogen than funny stories simply played for entertainment.
The Izumi school
There are two schools of Kyogen in existence at the present time, the Izumi school and Okura school. The Izumi school is made up of the Izumi (the headmaster family) and Miyake and some other families. The main branch of the family, initially centered Kyoto, is now headquartered in Tokyo. The current headmaster or Iemoto, the 20th in the direct line of descent from the day of the Ashikaga shogunate, is Motoya Izumi, born in1974 as the son of the 19th Iemoto, Motohide Izumi, whose father, the 9th actor to bear the stage name Tokuro Miyake, was designated in his lifetime as a “living national treasure” by the Japanese government.
During the Muromachi period, the Izumi school was under the patronage of the noble Konoe family and during the later, Edo period(1600-1867), that of the upper class of the Tokugawa family (not to be confused with the shogunate or ruling family of the same name).
The Izumi family has been maintaining their 582year tradition and performances in Japan and various part of the world, more than 14 countries and 30cities.