With large crowds becoming an impossibility due to the coronavirus, industries that rely on audiences like the performing arts have seen a continuous struggle. In Japan, there have been reports of historic events getting cancelled and traditional arts performers finding it hard to make ends meet, showing us that the effects of the pandemic truly does not discriminate.

It’s become a sink or swim situation where those who stay afloat are the ones who adapt and find new ways to reach their audience. Many have turned to online performances, which not only achieves that objective but also helps gain a fresher, wider reach.

Arts Council Tokyo is doing just that by filming a noh performance and making it publicly available for a limited time. Titled, ‘Noh Online: Funa Benkei, Legendary Hero, Riding the Wave from Tokyo to the World’, it is currently up on their Youtube channel and has full English subtitles.

© YouTube: 「オンライン能『船弁慶』 "Noh Online: Funa Benkei, Legendary Hero, Riding the Wave from Tokyo to the World"」

The film serves as an excellent introduction to the world of noh. Funa Benkei is a well-known noh play depicting important historical figures, such as Japan’s first shōgun, Minamoto no Yoritomo, and warrior monk Benkei, a frequent subject of Japanese literature. Since the performers use classical literary Japanese, the English subtitles are there to make sure everything is being interpreted.

The ‘Funa Benkei’ film is free to watch on Youtube until the end of March 2021. You can read more about the story and details on the play through Arts Council Tokyo’s event webpage.

By - Jen Laforteza.