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

Kamo from the album Nō Sugata

 Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Okina (January)

from the series  Twelve Months of Noh Pictures

by Matsuno Sōfū, 1970

Nōga taikan, Semimaru

IHL Cat. #2069

About This Print and Twelve Months of Noh Pictures

Depicted in this 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."1

For other prints 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.

Twelve Months of Noh Pictures

From a series of twelve prints depicting twelve Noh plays, one play for each month, published by Unsōdō Publishing in 1970. Six of the prints (for the months of January, February, June, September, November and December) were created by Matsuno Sōfū (1899-1963) and the other six (for the months of March, April, May, July, August and October) were created by his son Matsuno Hideyo (1936-2002) As Sōfū died in 1963, his prints must have been created from existing designs.

As originally issued, the prints were sold as a set with each print placed inside its own mat, which was overlayed with a commentary sheet on the play in Japanese and English.  The matted print and commentary were then placed inside an envelope (shown below, left) and all twelve envelopes were then placed into a cloth folio (shown below, right.)

Interestingly, the artist seals appearing on the prints, each one being different, seem to relate to the play being pictured, such as in the red seal in this print whose characters, according to the commentary sheet accompanying the print, mean "The Whole View of Green Hills in the Mind's Eye", referencing the boys blindness and the season of early spring during which the play takes place.

1 Scripps College Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery website http://web-kiosk.scrippscollege.edu/Obj20745?sid=171248&x=15207311

Right Column:
昭和四十五年九月日 [ Printing date: September 1, 1970]
昭和四十五年九月十日 [Publishing date: September 10, 1970]
十二佳月能雅摺  十二枚 [Twelve Months of Noh Pictures. Complete set of 12 prints]
Center Column:
不許複製 [All rights reserved]
作者 野奏風 秀世 [authors Matsuno Sōfū (and) Hideyo]
発行者 本田太郎 [publisher Honda Gitarō (reading of name uncertain]
彫師 長島道男 [carver Nagashima Mishio]
摺師 新味三郎 [printer Shinmi Saburō]
Left Column:
発行所 株式会社 芸艸堂 [Publishing House Unsōdō Corporation]
[address, etc.]

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.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #2069
 Okina (January) 翁
 Series/Album Twelve Months of Noh Pictures
 十二佳月能雅摺 Jūnikagetsu noh ga suri
 Matsuno Sōfū (1899-1963)
 Seal4 The commentary accompanying the print states "Characters inscribed in the seal (see above) mean: All's Right With the World"
 Date Publishing date: September 10, 1970 
 昭和四十五年九月十日 as printed on colophon
 Printing date: September 1, 1970 
 昭和四十五年九月日 as printed on colophon
 Edition unknown
Unsōdō Publishing 芸艸堂 版
hori Nagashima 彫 長島
suri Shinmi 摺 新味
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - light foxing throughout
 Genre nishiki-e; Nōgaku zue [Noh play picture]
 Format oban
 H x W Paper 16 1/8 x 10 3/4 in. (41 x 27.3 cm)
 H x W Image 14 1/4 x 9 1/2 in. (36.2 x 24.1 cm)
 Collections This Print The Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Scripps College 2006.1.47
 Reference Literature 
last revision:
11/17/2019 created