The balance between warrior and artist was important to the samurai class as they were trained in painting, calligraphy, poetry, flower-arranging, the tea ceremony, and all enjoyed a form of theatre known as Noh. Noh plays were popular because the themes reflected samurai history.

Noh began in the1300s and is a combination of Sarugaku and Dengaku which involve acrobatics, juggling, dancing and recitations. During the Edo period (1603-1868), Noh became the official performing art of the Shogun and many daimyo had their own troupes and even performed themselves.

Using dance, drama, and music Noh is acted out with slow, subtle movements. The actors wear elaborate costumes and dramatic masks, whose expressions tell the age, sex and social status of the character. Made of wood and lacquer, many Noh masks are considered important examples of Japanese art.

To offset the serious content of the Noh plays, kyogen plays – short farces to lighten the mood – would run between the Noh plays.

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
1300s - 1868
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