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Okina (January) from the series Twelve Months of Noh Tanzaku

Kamo from the album Nō Sugata

 Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Okina (January)

from the series Twelve Months of Noh Tanzaku

by Matsuno Sōfū, 1950-early 1960s

Nōga taikan, Semimaru

IHL Cat. #2403

About This Print and Twelve Months of Noh Tanzaku

Depicted in this tanzaku1 format print is the ritual dance Okina performed on January 4.

"Okina is the oldest and most sacred piece in the Noh repertoire, but unlike other pieces, Okina is more like a set of dances than a full play. The piece prays for good harvest and longevity, and it is based on the rituals of traditional Japanese ceremonies. It is even said that the principle actors of Okina are possessed by the presence of a god throughout the duration of the performance."2

For other prints in this collection depicting Okina see Nōgaku hyakuban, OkinaNoh Play Okina (Kanze-ke)Illustration of Townspeople Watching Noh Play “Okina” in Edo Castle from the series Flower of Edo in the Past and Crane and autumn grasses, peddler, Okina and autumn moon along the Sumida from the series Ryūsai manga and Okina (January) from the series Twelve Months of Noh Pictures.

Twelve Months of Noh Tanzaku

From an undated set of twelve prints depicting twelve Noh plays, one play for each month, published by Unsōdō Publishing.  This set likely preceded the set of prints with a similar name Twelve Months of Noh Pictures designed by Matsuno Sōfū (1899-1963) and his son Matsuno Hideyo (1936-2002). The print set, as stated in its title, was designed in the tanzaku format, a long and narrow pillar format originally used for poem cards and offerings. Each print presents the main character in a noh play in a truncated profile, allowing the viewer to complete the picture for each well known play.

In this set, reference image shown below, each print is mounted on a stiff board, the verso of which contains the prints title. The colophon for the set is shown below.

松野奏風画伯筆 能短冊十二月 版画
Twelve Months of Noh Tanzaku by Matsuno Sofu, Woodblock Prints 

一月 翁; 二月 羽衣; 三月 熊野; 四月 草子洗小町; 五月 杜若; 六月 雲雀山; 七月 班女; 八月 三井寺;九月 松風; 十月 花筐; 十一月 葛城; 十二月 猩々
January Okina; February Hagoromo; March Yuya; April Sōshi Arai Komachi; May Kakitsubata; June Hibariyama; July Hanjo; August Miidera; September Matsukaze; October Hanagatami; November Kazuraki; December Shōjō

株式会社 芸艸堂
東京都文京区湯島一目 3-6
Art Book Publishing
Unsōdō Public Company
Kyoto City address
Tokyo address

The Play - Okina

Source: A Guide to No, P.G. O'Neill, Hinoki Shoten, 1929, p.132-133.

All schools


Kanze and Hōshō schools: Bearer of the mask (kyōgen role); Okina, Senzai, Sambasō (kyōgen role)

Komparu, Kongō and Kita schools: Senzai, bearer of the mask (kyōgen role); Okina; Sambasō (kyōgen role)

Okina is a piece quite distinct in character from any other Nō play.  Consisting of little more than a group of dances which are said to have been in existence in the tenth century, its history is certainly much older than that of any other Nō.  Throughout its history it has had a religious significance which still exists today.  With words and dances designed to win the help of the gods in obtaining peace and prosperity in the land and long life for its people, Okina is performed only at times of special celebration or commemoration.  When it is given, it is always performed first and the part of Okina is usually played the iemoto, the head of the school.  Before the players come on to the stage a ceremony of purification is performed in the dressing-room from which women are strictly excluded.  The performance consists of four main parts:
1. Sung part by Okina and chorus
2. Dance by Senzai
3. Dance by Okina
4. Dance by Sambasō - First part, unmasked; Second part, with mask and bells.

1 Small vertical poem cards, approximately 36cm long x 6cm wide that may be decorated with colored designs, sprinkled with cut gold, silver or mica or covered with silk. The origins of this form may be connected to small slips of paper used for divining in ancient times. Another possible origin of tanzaku comes from the Heian period, when small rectangular pieces of paper, on which one poem was written, were used for poetry anthologies. The earliest extant examples from the 14c are of waka 和歌 poems on tanzaku white with no decoration. It was during the Muromachi period that tanzaku became highly decorated with cloud patterns overlaid with cut pieces of gold and silver. [source: Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System.]
2 Scripps College Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery website http://web-kiosk.scrippscollege.edu/Obj20745?sid=171248&x=15207311

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #2403
 Okina (January) 翁 (一月)
title printed verso
 Series/Album Twelve Months of Noh Tanzaku
 能短冊十二月 Noh tanzaku jūnikagetsu
 Matsuno Sōfū (1899-1963)
 Seal 奏 
 Date unknown, but likely 1950-early 1960s
 Edition unknown
 Unsōdō Publishing 芸艸堂 版
 Impression excellent
 Colors good
 Condition fair - extensive foxing
 Genre nishiki-e; Nōgaku zue [Noh play picture]
 Format tanzaku
 H x W Paper 14 1/4 x 2 7/8 in. (36.2 x 7.3 cm)
 Collections This Print 
 Reference Literature 
last revision:
12/7/2020 created