Nov. 12, 2018 UPDATE

A great Noh play at Heian Jingu Shrine with bonfires

Sharing Kyoto's writers went to Heian Jingu Shrine and saw a Noh play and bonfires! It was fun!
Mika[ Sharing Kyoto Staff ]

Kyoto Takigi-noh is an annual event held in Heian Jingu Shrine which was built in 1100 and is famous for beautiful gardens with seasonal flowers. Jidai Matsuri Festival which is one of the three main festivals is also taken place in this shrine. Kyoto Takigi-noh is held every year in the evening on June 1st and 2nd, and it is quite splendid to watch the Noh play with a bonfire in the cool evening. I also explored Heian Jingu Shrine area before the Kyoto Takigi-noh event, and found a cozy cafe around there. So please also enjoy strolling around this area!

▼Click here for more details about Heian Jingu

According to the official Kyoto Takigi-noh website, the tradition of Takigi-noh, or outdoor firelight Noh, dates back over a thousand years to performances associated with the Shunigatsu-e religious ceremonies held at the temple of Kofuku-ji in Nara during the second month of the year. Performances called Takigi-sarugaku were given at this time and the tradition of takigi-noh developed along with that of Noh as a theatre art. Takigi-noh reached the height of its popularity in the Edo Period. Discontinued after the Imperial Restoration in 1868, it was revived in its present form after the Second World War. I’m honestly not very familiar with Noh play, but truly enjoyed it in such a wonderful atmosphere. So let’s take a look at this event!

It takes only about 30 minutes from Kyoto Station, we arrived in front of the huge Torii gate! Around there, there are many important landmarks such as National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art and Kyoto City Zoo etc. The weather was very nice, so the orange colored Torii gate shined beautifully to the blue sky.

Getting close to Heian Jingu Shrine. The road is very wide and easy to walk.

This is the venue before the opening. The sky is clear and the stage is set close to the seats for the audience. Getting excited!

If you have visited Japan already, you may have noticed that there is an area with water and ladles in a shrine. This is for purifying your mouth and hands before entering the shrine precinct. If you don’t mind, it may be a good experience to follow the custom in Heian Jingu Shrine!

After checking the venue, we went out of the shrine and started strolling around the shrine. This photo was taken right in the bottom of the Torii gate. Can you feel how huge it is? :o

Heian Jingu Shrine area is the best place to stroll as there are many cozy cafes and beautiful streets.

After strolling for a while around Heian Jingu Shrine, we visited our favorite cafe “& noma cafe” ( It is located right next to the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto and offers a cozy atmosphere.

As it was a hot day, we ordered a mint and grapefruit smoothie. It was refreshing!

And here we go! Our favorite homemade scone with carrot and cinnamon with whipped cream.

This is the view from the cafe… Very cozy. You can have a patio outside of the cafe as well.

We’ll come back soon! :)

Heading back to Heian Jingu Shrine for Kyoto Takigi-noh event. By the way, we used our Wi-Fi router on this day with our mobile phone. It worked perfectly well!

So now it’s about 5:30pm and guests started to have their seats (seats are all unreserved). The sky was still bright but the temperature has started to go down.

As the shrine precinct is paved with small pebbles, it is better to wear low heel shoes.

Before the Noh play begins, Shinto priest purifies the stage with Ohnusa (special streamers made of paper attached to a long pole).

After the purification ceremony, the Noh players come slowly to the stage by making a long line in the solemn atmosphere.

So the Kyoto Takigi-noh has started! There are four kinds of instruments normally used in Noh play. They are: Japanese flute and three kinds of Japanese drums. Drums are used both by hands and sticks. This time, players used their hands.

It seems like that the venue is almost full!

The theme of the Noh play of this year is “A Prayer for Recovery and Peace for the Olympic Year”, and the noh play has started in the solemn atmosphere.

According to Japan Guide, Noh (能) is a form of theater involving music, dance and drama, originating in the 14th century. It was developed together with Kyogen, which are comical pieces performed during interludes of the main noh performance. The dual art of Noh and Kyogen is known as Nogaku, and was listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.

You can see several movements with a fan and facial expressions of Noh players.

His movement was rather uplifting and we enjoyed how he moves and shows facial expressions with several voice tones.

And now he puts a mask and holds a fan and bells.

Another Noh player has come to the stage. We all enjoyed the gorgeous clothes they wear as well.

Now this Noh player is giving the performance while other player is staying next to him.

After the 1st stage, we had a short break before the 2nd stage. Although we cannot go to the main hall of Heian Jingu Shrine due to this event, we could walk around the entrance gate area and found this wish board. You can write your wishes on this board and hang on this orange color shelf.

Before the 2nd stage begins, there was a small play for bonfire.

It's about 7:30pm and now the fire has finally been put on the firewood.

The sky is getting darker and the lamps are beautifully lit.

This is the whole view of Kyoto Takigi-noh venue in Heian Jingu Shrine. The lights of the shrine and lamps are lit visionary.

Before the 2nd stage begins, small speech has been given to the audience.

It was such a wonderful time to watch Noh play in the beautifully lit shrine with bonfire.

Finally, the 2nd stage has finished. As an evening is still cool in early June, it is recommended that you bring a sweater or light jacket.

Entrance of the shrine at 8:15pm

A comment from the staff
I really enjoyed Kyoto Takigi-noh with the beautiful bonfire in the calm evening in Heian Jingu Shrine. I recommend that you take a stroll in Okazaki area where many cozy and stylish cafes and restaurants are around. As the official brochure written in English and Japanese about Kyoto Takigi-noh is available at the venue (¥1,000/each), I suggest that you buy it to deepen your understanding of Noh play.

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