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100th Anniversary of the Discovery of Zeami
- Togo Yoshida &"The 16 Volumes of Zeami" -

Kazumichi Sato, Research Associate
Waseda University Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum

Exactly 100 years ago, in the 42nd year of the Meiji Period, Hirobumi Ito was assassinated in Harbin and the Kokugikan was constructed in Ryogoku. In February of the same year, a single book was published by Dr. Togo Yoshida, who was a Professor at Waseda University at the time. This book, which was titled "Classic Noh: The 16 Works of Zeami", revealed to the world for the first time the personage of Zeami, who was clouded in mystery and was considered to be a legendary figure until that time.

Togo Yoshida, Historian

Portrait of Togo Yoshida (part of the Yoshida Collection)

Togo Yoshida was born in 1864 in the village of Yasuda in Kita-Kanbara County, Niigata Prefecture (currently the village of Yasuda, Agano City). He was the third son of Mokushichi Hatano. He became an elementary school instructor almost entirely by self-study, and passed through positions such as employee of a newspaper company before pursuing a path of historical research. In the 26th year of the Meiji Period (1893), after presenting a number of discussions under the penname of Rakugo Sei, he published his first book, "An Examination of Ancient Japanese and Korean History". Gradually, Togo gained recognition as a historian.

Furthermore, Togo realized that uniform topography still did not exist in Japan, and he began work to create a dictionary relating to place names in Japan. The resulting work was the "Comprehensive Dictionary of Place Names in Japan", which required a total of 13 years from conception to completion. This dictionary was based on a variety of historical documentation from ancient times until modern day, and speculated on the origin of place names, as well as changes which occurred in those names. The work was a project of unparalleled scale, containing 12 million characters and having over 40,000 categories in the dictionary. It is said that the thickness of the rough draft was 5 meters. This record of work by Togo was greeted with favorable approval, and he took the position of instructor at Tokyo Senmon College (currently Waseda university) in the 37th year of the Meiji Period (1904).

Revival of Noh and Research

Draft of "Zenchiku-Shu" (from the collection of the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum)

Noh, which is rooted in the Muromachi Period, became the ceremonial music of the shogunate in the Edo Period. Noh actors lived off a stipend from the shogunate and different clans. Therefore, when the shogunate system collapsed as a result of the Meiji Restoration, Noh actors lost the salary which they had been granted until that time. Furthermore, they lost the opportunity to hold performances due to the confusion of the restoration. As a result, many Noh actors were forced to abandon the art passed down through many generations of their family, and the art of Noh suffered a crushing blow.

Nobuyoshi Ikenouchi witnessed this critical situation and began work to revive the art of Noh. Ikenouchi, who is known as the older brother of the poet Kyoshi Takahama, was born in Matsuyama, an area rich in the culture of Noh. Since he was a small child, Ikenouchi was raised in an environment where Noh was very familiar. In the 35th year of the Meiji Period (1902), Ikenouchi spent all of his finances in order to move to Tokyo. Upon arriving in Tokyo, he established the Nohgaku Club as an organization for the development of Noh actors. He also published the magazine "Noh", and recruited like-minded individuals from throughout all of Japan while calling for assistance in the revival of Noh. Ikenouchi's efforts gradually began to produce results, and the momentum of the revival grew progressively greater.

Amidst these activities, and with the help of individuals from Waseda University such as Shoyo Tsubouchi and Sanae Takata, Ikenouchi established the Yokyoku Literature Research Conference as a place for research relating to Noh. The first conference was held on October 23rd in the 37th year of the Meiji Period (1904), and was attended by prominent researchers from a variety of fields, such as Kunitake Kume, Yaichi Haga, Tetteki Togi, Chikara Igarashi, Noel Peri, and Toshiro Ihara. The following passage regarding the atmosphere at this first conference was written by Ikenouchi for his book "Records of the Growth and Decline of Noh".

At that moment, a large man with thick and wild hair suddenly stood up from his position at the back of the room. "Among the issues which are to be submitted today is the question of the origin of kusemai (a type of Japanese song and dance popular in the 14th and 15th centuries). I would like to hear an explanation regarding that origin," said the large man. Everyone in attendance looked around at each other, but no one ventured to answer the question. (Omission) Chairman Takada lightly replied that "It is in no way such a strict theory of origin. We simply gave reference to kusemai here because it has a deep connection with Noh, that's all." Upon hearing this reply, the large man gave a slight laugh and returned to his seat. I found myself pondering the strangeness of this large man. However, I later learned why no one was able to bear the full brunt of his questions. In truth, the large man was in fact Togo Yoshida, a prominent member of this research conference and an authority in the field of history.

(Nobuyoshi Ikenouchi "Records of the Decline and Growth of Noh")

At the time, Togo was a central figure in the history department of Waseda University, and was already recognized as a prominent historian due to a record of works such as the aforementioned "Comprehensive Dictionary of Place Names in Japan". However, he had not given many presentations regarding Noh or the performing arts, and it seems that the people surrounding Togo thought that he lacked knowledge in these areas. However, Togo had gained broad insight into history during the editing and writing of works such as the "Comprehensive Dictionary of Place Names in Japan", and this same insight was of significant value in relation to research in Noh. In the following years, Togo gained an interest in historical research of Noh, and presented a series of discussions.

Discovery of Zeami

In the 41st year of the Meiji Period (1908), Togo republished and introduced the work Sarugaku-Dangi (Talks on the Sarugaku Theatre), which was in the hands of the national scholar Kosugi Sugimura. Sarugaku-Dangi is a record of Zeami's talks regarding the theatre, and was written by his son Motoyoshi. The book is a valuable document which specifically describes the golden age of Noh. Sarugaku-Dangi was read by Zenjiro Yasuda, who realized that he possessed a similar book in his own private collection and reported his finding to Togo. Togo visited Zenjiro Yasuda to find in existence a total of 16 volumes of Zeami's writings on Noh.

In the middle of this past July, when I was publishing the annotated work of Sarugaku-Dangi, some of the sections of the original work were lacking. I was hoping to someday discovery the missing sections, and one day I received a visit from Murao Okada, who told me of the discovery of Zeami's writings on Noh. "Recently, several volumes of ancient writings on Noh where discovered in the collection of a nobleman, and several days ago these volumes became part of the collection of Zenjiro Yasuda," said Okada. Upon examination, I found these works to be of great value, and I was quite pleased that my long-standing aspiration to locate the missing sections had been fulfilled. In particular, it was a wonderful discovery for the world of Noh. Although, due to an obligation I had to travel to Niigata, I was not able to perform a detailed inspection of the works at that time, I was able to inspect the works thoroughly when I returned to Tokyo at the end of August.

(Togo Yoshida, upon discovering the Kadensho (Flowering Spirit), Nosakusho (On the Composition of Noh), Shudosho, and other works of Zeami)

Togo writing(Yoshida Collection)

Zeami is known as a prominent figure in the world of Noh, and it is known that he composed a total of 20 volumes of writings on Noh. However, the existence of these works was not known for a long period of time, as they were kept secret and hidden in the collections of Noh actors and a handful of powerful people. In the 500 years since they were written by Zeami, only select people were permitted to see the 16 volumes of work that Togo discovered at this time. Therefore, discover of the works was a major event that clarified the record of Zeami, who had been a legendary figure until that time. Within only half a year of the discovery, Togo revised and republished the works and released them as "Classic Noh: The 16 Volumes of Zeami". Later, all of the works possessed by Zenjiro Yasuda burned in the fires caused by the Great Kanto Earthquake of the 12th year of the Taisho Period(1923). As a result, contact with Zeami's works is now only possible through the "The 16 Volumes of Zeami". Togo referred to "The 16 Volumes of Zeami" as "fundamental materials in the founding of Noh", and the materials are highly regarded even today as top-level documentation in the study of Noh.

After the discovery of Zeami's works, Togo continued to put great effort into the study of Noh history, and he published the subsequent "Classic Noh: Zenchiku-Shu" in the 4th year of the Taisho Period (1915). Also, Togo became interested in performing arts other than Noh, and, in the 2nd year of the Taisho Period (1913), he conducted a revival performance of enkyoku music together with traditional musician Tetteki Togi. Enkyoku, which is a type of music from the Kamakura Period, is considered to be one of the performing arts which preceeded Noh. Togo was planning large-scale research which revealed the history of all performing arts, including enkyoku. However, in January of the 7th year of the Taisho Period (1918), Togo fell ill and passed away without fulfilling this ambition. He was only 53 at the time of his death.

First-Ever Japan Exhibition of the Yoshida Collection

Sando (from the Yoshida Collection)

In March of this year, an exhibition entitled "100th Anniversary of the Discovery of Zeami" will be held at the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum in order to commemorate the 100th anniversary of "The 16 Volumes of Zeami". This exhibition is made possible through the cooperation of related parties such as the Yoshida Collection of Niigata City, which possesses a large collection of Dr. Yoshida's older works. The exhibition honors the achievements of Dr. Yoshida while also reflecting upon the evolution of Noh research until this time. Of particular interest are the materials of the Yoshida Collection, which will be exhibited for the first time in Japan. Also available for viewing are works of Zeami possessed by entities such as Hozanji Temple on Mt. Ikoma in Nara Prefecture, the Hosei University Nogami Memorial Noh Theatre Research Institute, the National Diet Library, and the National Archives of Japan. I hope that you will visit the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum this spring and reflect upon the figure of Zeami from 600 years ago.

Exhibition of the Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum: 100th Anniversary of the Discovery of Zeami-Togo Yoshida and the Journey of Noh Research-
March 1st to March 25th, 2009 (free entrance)

Waseda University Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum


Kazumichi Sato
Research Associate, Waseda University Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum

Born in 1980. Specialty in Noh.