Category Archives: Performance

Pictures from Sanka’s Autumn Ritual by Ensō Watt


I am now officially a fan of Ensō Watt! Last Friday’s performance was excellent and I enjoyed every minute of it. With musicians posted in various corners of Urbanguild, and Yannick Paget both conducting and performing with hypnotic percussion from the center, we were fully immersed in a landscape of sound. Simultaneously the live video art of Andy Couzens and Masato Tokumaru cast images upon the walls while poet Chris Mosdell cast images in our minds. I really was quite lost in it all, and am looking forward to their next Winter performance. Long live Ensō Watt!


Samuel André (Soundscape, Field recording)


Ryotaro (Accordion & effects)


Chris Mosdell (lyricist/poet) gave a stirring reading…


Yuki Nakagawa (Cello & effects)

IMG_6961 (Medium)

Taisuke Enami (piano & synth effect)


Yannick Paget (conductor, composer and percussionist)





For more details on this performance please refer to the previous post: Sanka’s Autumn Ritual by Ensō Watt
Follow Ensō Watt on Facebook or on their website here:

Sanka’s Autumn Ritual by Ensō Watt – Mixed Media Experimental Event @ UrbanGuild; October 10th

Well, this looks like something…

ensō Watt Sanka’s Autmn Ritual from PollenRec on Vimeo.

Thanks to Marguerite Paget for sending the following information:

Kyoto Experiment Fringe program 2014 presents the artist collective: Ensō Watt at UrbanGuild from 7.30 pm, October 10th

Initiated in 2014 by the sound designer Samuel André, the Ensō Watt artist collective is born in Kyoto from the encounter of artists coming from different countries and raised in entirely different artistic universe, from classical music to electro, improvisation and sound design.

For Kyoto Experiment Fringe program 2014, Ensō Watt ensemble

A hundred years after Stravinsky’s revolutionary “Rites of Spring,” the members of this artistic collaboration pursues the experience-cum-experiment by focusing on Japan’s seasonal cycles, especially celebrated by the little-known mountainous tribe, the Sanka.

SANKA, can be translated from Japanese by “Mountain Cave” or “the one who
come down the mountain”. They are a mysterious, some say magical group of
people, who retreated, wandering in small bands through the mountainous regions of Honshu when the rice farmers arrived from the Asian continent in the third century. The Sanka are sometimes called the Japanese Gypsies. Little is known of their history. Although they are mentioned in Japanese chronicles from the 11th century, much of the information about them is vague.“Being a secluded community their cultural development grew far outside the social framework of the rest of the country. They developed their own language
based on natural sounds ie: the hum of the cicada, and their daily lives became dominated by rituals and esoteric rites.” Chris Mosdell

For SANKA’S AUTUMN RITUAL, Ensō Watt celebrates, autumn season in three acts. The music is inspired by the poetry of Chris Mosdell; it navigates between improvisation and conducted improvisation live by Yannick Paget, based on scored music’s elements. The performers, positioned in the audience, generate an immersive, musical surround-experience (broadcast on 4 speakers). More than just a musical experiment, the event is also shot live via a series of 6 cameras, and is processed and projected on 2 screens during the performance.

The exploration of the season’s cycle started this summer with the SANKA’S
SUMMER RITUAL (2014 July 18th at Urban Guild) :
Act I : rites of dragon fly, driving the dream machine. Act II, rites of the hundred
wind chimes, rites to refresh the earth, rites of the great fire dance. Act III the insect « hum » of humanity ritual, dance of the sacred peach.

Ensō Watt will conclude the cycle next year with winter and spring. A cycle that is meant to continue through years…

Why Ensō Watt ?
Ensō: 円相, in Zen Buddhism, an ensō is a circle that is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create. The ensō symbolizes absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and mu (the void). It is characterised by a minimalism born of Japanese aesthetics.

えんそう (演奏) means also in Japanese: concert or performance

Watt: reflects the electric energy impulsed by the musicians and the artists of this collective.

Ensō Watt is a space of experiment and overture where frontiers between
musics, classical, electro or sound design melt, where scored music meets
improvisation, where arts (music, image and poetry) enters a free dialogue, where the melting pot of culture is a strength. And so what? with this unique spirit breathed by Kyoto city everything’s possible, isn’t it?

Ensō Watt collective’s members are:
Samuel André (Soundscape, Field recording),
Yannick Paget (classical music conductor, composer and percussionist),
Taisuke Enami (piano & synth effect),
Yuki Nakagawa (Cello & effects),
Ryotaro (Accordion & effects)
Chris Mosdell (lyricist/poet),
Andy Couzens ( live vidéo),
Masato Tokumaru (live vidéo)
Hirisha Metha (Sanka’s Symbols Design)

For more information:
Press contact: Marguerite Paget: mgtpaget[at] / 090 6556 1974
Event coordination: Samuel André: sandre.constellation[at]

鸚鵡小町 – Ōmu Komachi at the Ōe Noh Theatre on Sept 15th

Today we have a guest post from Itsuko Nakamura,

Noh flyer (Medium)
Meet Ono-no-Komachi, one of the Six Poetic Geniuses who lived in 8th century Kyoto, brought back to life by the most highly acclaimed Noh actors of today on Kyoto’s oldest Noh stage!

Noh, the oldest musical drama of Japan, has been continuously performed for over 650 years (and has been designated as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage” by UNESCO.) Enjoy its sophisticated aesthetics, stunning masks, gorgeous costumes, lyric dance and breathtakingly intense musical accompaniment.

Ōmu Komachi (Komachi’s Parrot-Answer Poem)

September 15th, 2014 at the Ōe Noh Stage
(on Oshikoji street between Tominokoji and Yanaginobanba streets)
Doors: 1:30 p.m.
Show: 2:00 p.m. ~ 5:00 p.m. (approximately 3 hours)

Tickets: 8,000 yen (B-seats); 7,000 (C-seats); 6,000 (D-seats, non-reserved seats)
For the seating diagram, please refer to:
For reservations and more information contact: 5th[at]

In her old age, the famous Heian poet Ono no Komachi lives in Sekidera, a temple at the border-pass between the capital and Otsu on Lake Biwa. Emperor Yōzei sends Major Counselor Yukiie to enquire sympathetically how she is. His poem ends: “mishi tamadare no uchi ya yukashisa” (Was not life enchanting there / within the jewelled curtains?). Yukiie delivers the Emperor’s poem, but Komachi tells him that she will answer with just one word. To the courtier’s astonishment, she explains how this is possible by changing “ya” to “zo,” so that the answer reads: “How enchanting life was there!” [Roy E. Teele translation]. This, she explains is an “ōmu-gaeshi” (“parrot-answer poem”). The rest of the play touches on the comments made about Komachi’s poetry in the preface to the Kokinwakashū. She describes a dance by the poet Ariwara no Narihira, then dances herself. Yukiie takes his leave and Komachi returns to her simple brushwood dwelling by the temple, her sleeves wet with tears.
Global Performing Arts Database, Cornell University

Noh by Torchlight – Takigi Noh

I just got tickets for the torchlight Takigi Noh performance at Heian Jingu this Sunday. Since March Mewby and I have been occasionally attending Noh performances at the Kanze Kaikan. Noh is of course notorious for sending people off to sleep, but our experience is that if you have a script to read along then it can be enthralling. Fortunately I was able to find the scripts for three of Sunday’s plays, Takasago, Matsukaze, and Shakkyō on the能.com. This will be our first time to try Takigi Noh so I’m quite excited!

Here’s what John Dougill wrote about Takigi Noh on this very blog back in 2010:

For many people Noh is a turn-off. The plays have no conflict, no humour and no facial expression. Actors move at a snail’s pace, the language is arcane and the music archaic. To its detractors it’s simply an outmoded relic of medieval times. Noh way, Noh thank you.

There are regular performances in Kyoto, and if you attend you’ll find a good number of the audience asleep. One top performer told me he would do the same if he were watching rather than on stage! It’s very much an acquired taste, for knowledge is needed of the crafts and skills to truly appreciate them. The types of play and their ethereal nature, for example. The stately movement of the actors. The exquisite quality of the costumes. The almost sacred nature of the masks. The musical form. It’s an art form for connoisseurs.

Once a year, however, Kyoto offers an opportunity to enjoy Noh in a different light, when an outdoor show in the atmospheric surrounds of the Heian Shrine brings the plays to life in spectacular style. With over 3000 expectant people packed into the courtyard, the event begins in daylight with robed figures gliding towards an open stage accompanied by the peculiar ‘ya-oh’ chants of a drummer and the piercing sound of a flute.

At 6.30 priests emerge to light the braziers and as darkness descends, the illuminated shrine buildings provide a decorative backdrop. A rustling of the curtain and a masked figure enters, dressed in the most gorgeous of robes. In the deepening darkness the effect is eerie. The visual splendour, the ethereal music, the rising moon over the eastern hills combine to produce a sense of theatrical wonder.

With its masks, chorus, music and all-male cast, Noh is sometimes compared to the drama of ancient Greece. Viewed at the Heian Shrine, however, it has something of the great religious dramas of South-east Asia, such as the Balinese beach performances of the Ramayana. The event started as a revival of an older tradition and has been held every year since 1949. It proved such a success that it spawned some two hundred similar events around Japan. Why not give it a go? You might have thought you weren’t the type to go to Noh, but I can guarantee this is one performance you won’t be sleeping through.

Location: Heian Jingu Shrine (may be postponed in case of rain)
Dates: June 1 (Sun), June 2 (Mon) from 5.30 to around 8:45 (Gate opens at 4.30)
Cost: Y4000 at the gate (Y3000 in advance)
Recommended to take a sweater or light jacket for later in the evening
Schedule: Different plays are scheduled for each day – you can see the schedule here:
Inquiries (in Japanese): The Kyoto Takigi-noh Office 075-771-6114

Diego Pellechia has some more details about the performances up on his site The Noh Diaries.

John Dougill is professor of British Studies at Kyoto’s Ryukoku University and the author of Kyoto: A Cultural History and In Search of the Hidden Christians. He is also a contributor to our book, Deep Kyoto: Walks.

Learn more:
Japanese Noh: Performances for the Gods
the 能.com probably has pretty much everything you need to get started with Noh drama…

Charity Noh Performance for Tohoku Disaster Relief at Kyoto Kanze Kaikan 3/11

Next week Kyoto Kanze Kaikan is holding two charity Noh performances to raise funds for victims of the 2011 Tohoku Disaster. They will be held on the morning and evening of March 11th – the anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami.



If you aren’t familiar with Noh, it’s best to take a script with you. There is a lot of talking in Noh plays, they are speaking medieval Japanese, and the speech patterns are very stylized, so even for native Japanese they can be hard to understand. Mewby and I went to see a couple of Noh plays at the Kanze Kaikan last weekend, but we only had a script for one of the plays. Let me tell you it makes a big difference when watching Noh, if you have a script with you to follow along with. Fortunately, translations of the scripts for both of the plays next week are available on the excellent the能.com site, with both English and modern Japanese.

Date and Times: Tuesday March 11th

10:30-12:30: The main performance  is of the Noh play Tsunemasa. You can download a translated script here: 経正

18:30-20:30: The main performance is of the Noh play Shōjō Midare. You can download a translated script here: 猩々乱

Location: Kyoto Kanze Kaikan is on the south side of Niomon Street between Higashioji and Jingu-michi. It is a 10 minute walk north from from Higashiyama Subway Station. Here is a map.

IMG_7847 (Medium)Both performances cost 1,500. They can be booked in advance at this number: 075-771-6114075-771-6114 (Japanese). However, specific seats cannot be reserved.

More details of the performances can be seen here (Japanese):

Traditional Theater Training Summer Program in Kyoto

Continuing the theatrical theme from my last post, here’s something I found via As it’s a summer program and in Kyoto, the part about “air-conditioned studios” is VERY important.

mission_logo02The Traditional Theater Training Program (T.T.T.) at Kyoto Art Center invites applications to its 30th annual program, July 18-20 (orientation and overview of performing arts) and training (Jul 21-Aug 8). Master-teachers of the Kanze school noh, Okura school kyogen, and Wakayagi school of nihonbuyo classical dance offer an immersive, authentic experience to artists and scholars. Classes are in the air-conditioned studios of the Kyoto Art Center, with a costumed recital on the Oe Noh Stage. Please find information in Japanese and English.ttt_photo_00

There are early bird and and student/artist discounts, and special rates on hotels, hopefully making this affordable to participants, Japanese and non-, from around the world.

Jonah Salz jonah[at] Program director

the能.com probably has pretty much everything you need to get started with Noh drama…

Noh masks

I have been following Diego Pellecchia’s Noh blog for a couple of months now,. Diego is training with the Kongō school of Noh, here in Kyoto and his blog offers a kind of portal into that world. Wanting to learn more, last week I asked him if he could recommend any beginner’s texts as an introduction to the world of Noh. Rather than a text he recommended this website, and I have to say it’s amazing! Not only do they have a wealth of instructional materials and essays on there, not only do they have performance schedules for all of Japan, not only do they have printable texts of the plays in both English & Japanese (new ones added each month!) which you can bring to performances, not only do they have a database of the masks used in performances, but (!) as I have just discovered, they also have photo-stories. Photo-Stories!
I have to say a big thank you, Diego! the能.com is a treasure!

Noh photostories

See also:
Japanese Noh Theater – An introductory essay by Ian Ropke
Takigi Noh (Noh by Firelight) – An annual June event at Heian Jingu Shrine
Diego Pellechia’s blog:
The International Noh Institute:


off-beat-chaHere’s another FREE event, that some friends of mine are involved in, featuring very pleasant guitar music, a theremin player, genre-defying DJs + a mini flea market with records, old books and food on sale. The location: UrBANGUILD.

Thursday January 23rd -
Doors Open: 18.30
Show Starts: 19:30

- “John and Paul” – Guitarists from Hiroshima. You can hear a couple of their tunes on their MySpace page.
- Sayaka Takaku - A theremin enthusiast she will be singing sacred songs, arias and jazz standards accompanied by her unusual instrument.

Shinpei Noda 〈OFF BEAT〉
Takuya Matsuo 〈OFF BEAT〉
From Central America and back to Asia, Rock, Soul, Jazz, New Wave… What these records have in common defies explanation, yet somehow our DJs make the link. OFF BEAT o’er-leap times, genres and national borders to bring you the very best tunes from around the world.

●In the Flea Market
100,000Ton Alonetoco – (records)
Mund Shokudo – (food)
古書クロックワーク - (records and books)
And more!

★Early arrivers will receive a free compilation CD of select OFF BEAT tracks!

From Sanjo Dori go down Kiyamachi Dori. This is the narrow street running alongside Takase stream. Urbanguild is on the east side (left hand side as you walk down from Sanjo). Walk approximately 150 metres. Its on the 3rd floor of the New Kyoto Building – access by elevator or stairs. Here’s a map.

Aya Oto World at The Weller’s Club

IMG_4796On January 7th I went to see Aya Oto World play at The Weller’s Club on Takoyakushi Street. This is a regular free show they do on the first Tuesday of every month. I’ve been to see them there a fair few times now, and written about them on here too – and I cannot figure out why more people don’t go to see them play. The music is great. A kind of soaring psychedelic, electro-rock, ambient dance music that really gets you hopping. Keyboard player Satoko Okuda is also a singer-songwriter and sometimes sings a few of her own numbers, and last week guitarist Kota “Fresh” Yamamoto sang a song of his own too. To make the night perfect, my old friend DJ Shinpei Noda was playing some classic ’70s and 80’s tracks between sets to get us all in the mood. A really fun night, with fun people! Next time I’m bringing a posse to fill the place up and give them all the audience they deserve.

Here are a few videos from the night followed by photos. Some cracking tunes in here. Stick your headphones on and let Aya Oto World carry you away.

Aya Oto World are Kota “Fresh” Yamamoto “Fresh” on guitar, Satoko Okuda on keyboards and Teruhiko Kawamoto on drums.


DJ Shinpei Noda

IMG_4812Aya Oto World play a FREE show, usually with a guest DJ, at The Weller’s Club on the first Tuesday of every month. The next show is on February 4th. Please check the Aya Oto World website for the times. To find The Weller’s Club head west on Takoyakushi Dori from Kawaramachi. The Weller’s Club is on the north side of the street on the 5th floor between Fuyacho Dori and Tominokoji Dori. Look for the swirly purple Weller’s sign. Here’s a map.

In addition Kota and Satoko have some upcoming shows as the duo “Yamaoku”. On January 20th they will play at TakuTaku, as the third of four bands. And on February 28th they will play at Koenshokudo (公〇食堂) in a free event. Again, please check their website for details.

TEDxKyoto 2013 – My Top Five Talks


This picture courtesy of TEDxKyoto

Now that the videos are up I’m going to post my favorite talks from this year’s TEDx Kyoto event. First though a word about the event as a whole. A lot of praise is due to Jay Klaphake and his team of volunteers for organizing this again this year. It was on the whole a great success and most of last year’s teething troubles had been cleared away. The presentation was a lot smoother, technical hitches gone, and when I used it, the simultaneous interpretation service from Japanese to English was pretty good. Unfortunately though Mewby found the English to Japanese interpretation largely unusable… For me though I only have one remaining gripe. That guy with the beard who comes on every year and has everyone practice their standing ovations. I’d rather he didn’t do that. Continue reading