Noh theater is one of Japan's iconic classical theaters and recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage. The theater, consisting of Noh, stories told in song and dance form, and Kyogen, Noh comedies performed in skits, has been performed for more than 600 years, since the Muromachi period.
However, the language and melodies are from the Muromachi period, which require specific knowledge to be understood and appreciated. For this reason, most patrons of Noh theater have remained the same group of people, who are now growing old, endangering the succession of this art form. Against the background of prominent figures in Noh theater having passed away and the number of Noh performers dwindling, the market size, number of plays, and size of the audience has continued to decline each year. Also, according to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, it is clear that the fan base of traditional theater, including Noh, continued to decline.
Given the above, NTT Comware developed a new Noh theater viewing solution in order to address the need to attract more fans from different backgrounds, including the rapidly increasing number of foreign visitors to Japan, those who are new to Noh theater, and people with a hearing impairment.
This solution provides real time commentary during Noh theater performances in multiple languages using a wireless LAN connection. Features include large font sizes and illustrations, making it easy to understand the specialized terms used in a Noh theater. With this solution, anyone can easily enjoy a Noh theater performance, including foreigners, first time viewers, the elderly, and the hearing impaired.
This service was jointly developed by experts in Noh theater, specialty bookstores, universities, and research institutes, who each shared insight on content, wording, font size, as well as positioning of command buttons.
This solution was first provided on a trial basis in September 2015 for a performance held at Yarai Noh Stage in Tokyo. The trial received highly positive feedback from a survey, which included comments such as "I felt more familiar with Noh” and “It made the performance easy to understand for foreign visitors.”
Trials were held at a total of 12 performances across Japan up to January 2017, including at the Kyoto Kanze Nohplay Theater and the Yokohama Noh Theater. On July 2, 2017, NTT East and Hinoki Shoten, a book store specializing in Noh and Kyogen, jointly launched services at the Yokohama Noh Theater.
Going forward, we will continue to expand the number of Noh theater locations where this solution is available and plan on expanding it to include sporting events, famous tourist spots, and interactive tours, among other applications.