Shiki Sanban (The three rituals) (式三番)

"Shiki Sanban" is one of the performing arts that form part of Nohgaku (the theatrical art of Noh), along with Noh (Noh plays) and Kyogen (a farce presented between Noh plays). It has been transformed from a program of Nohgaku. It has not only been incorporated into Kabuki and Japanese dancing, but it has also been preserved as a folk entertainment and a Shinto ritual around the country. It is a performing art that has a very broad presence. Incidentally, contemporary Nohgaku-shi (Noh actors) call it 'Okina' (the elder or an old man) or 'Kamiuta' (a song for god) (during su-utai, which is the chanting of a Noh text without music or dance).
They rarely call it 'Shiki Sanban.'

Shiki Sanban is the performing art that maintains the style of Okina Sarugaku (the original form of the present-day Okina patterned after an ancient ritualistic ceremony), which precedes the formation of Noh. According to Tetsu no jo KANZE the eighth, it was originally a farming community event to pray for a bountiful grain harvest, and Okina, Senzai, and Sanbaso respectively personified a village chief, a youth, and a farmer.

It is composed of Chichi no jo (the dance of the father elder), Okina (the celebratory words and dance of white Okina), Sanban Sarugaku (or Sanbaso written as 三番叟 and in the case of Okura-ryu (Okura school) as 三番三 in kanji (Chinese characters), which consists of the celebratory words and dance of black Okina), and Furyu (a program performed by Kyogen-kata in special stage performances). However, Chichi no Jo, Okina, and Sanban Sarugaku have been always put on the stage in a series and, as such, it has the common name of Shiki Sanban. Today Chichi no jo is skipped, and Okina and Sanbaso are played respectively by Nohgaku-shi and Kyogen-shi (Kyogen actors). Neither of them have anything like a plot. An old god appears and gives blessings for world peace, national tranquility, and a bountiful grain harvest. As just described, their contents are Shinto ritualistic. In the case of Gobandate (a five-play program), Shiki Sanban is performed as Shugen (which is the abbreviation for Shugen Noh, meaning celebratory Noh) for the entire performance before Waki Noh (which is the Noh that is positioned to the waki, or side, of the Okina and that is also known as Shobanme-mono (first-group plays) and Kami Noh (god Noh plays)).

Shiki Sanban requires the total of eight or nine actors who play the role of Okina (Shite-kata, which means the protagonist) which is performed by Tayu (the head of each school of Noh), the role of Senzai (Shite-kata in Kamigakari composed of the Kanze and Hosho schools of Noh sharing the same roots in Kyoto and Kyogen-kata, or Kyogen-shi, in Shimogakari comprising the Konparu, Kongo, and Kita schools of Noh sharing the same roots in Nara), the role of Sanbaso (Kyogen-kata), the role of Menbako-mochi (who makes an appearance as Kyogen-kata only in Kamigakari to play opposite in the dialogue of the Sanbaso section), Fue-kata (a flute player), three Kotsuzumi-kata (small hand-drum players), and Otsuzumi-kata (a large hand-drum player). In addition, there are Jiutai (a Noh chorus), Koken (a prompter), and so on. Three Kotsuzumi are played in a trio format.
(Kotsuzumi-kata who is Shite, or the protagonist, is called Todori, which means the chief, and the remaining two are named Waki-tsuzumi, which stands for side hand-drum players.)
Otsuzumi only joins Sanbaso. Otsuzumi-kata also appears on the stage. However, he participates in the performance only from Waki Noh, which is played after Shiki Sanban. He does not join Shiki Sanban itself.

Shiki Sanban is treated as an extremely sacred and heavy song in Nohgaku. Okina, Senzai, Sanbaso, and Hayashi (an ensemble) are considered Narai (performances that require the special permission of Iemoto, or the head of a school, for the performers to play). Although there is a variation across ryugi (schools), some restrictions apply to performances by both amateur and professional Noh actresses (including a denial to give performance permission to women and the establishment of age limits). In addition, there are peculiar traditions to be followed in preparation for the performance as below. Actors engage in Monoimi (purification through fasting and abstention) called Bekka (literally, "separate fire," during which they cook with sacred fire, avoiding unclean fire used by others, particularly women) for a period of time. On the day of the performance, an altar is set up in Kagami no ma (literally, the "mirror room" behind Agemaku, or the curtain separating it and the stage, in which the fully-dressed performers don their masks and gaze into a large mirror to concentrate on their roles while they wait to enter the stage), and each actor purifies himself through Sakazuki-goto (the drinking of Omiki, or sacred sake) and with Kiribi (sacred sparks produced by rubbing together two pieces of wood, generally Hinoki, which is chamaecyparis obtusa, or by striking a flint against iron) before going on the stage.
(Some ryugi throw out sparks on the stage before the curtain goes up.)

Incidentally, Zenchiku KONPARU's book on the theory of Nohgaku, "Meishuku-shu" which was discovered in 1964, includes some discussions of Okina. He seems to have perceived Okina as 'the existence that presides over the world of Noh of Saru Noh' (Sarugaku, which is a collective term for Noh and Kyogen that was used between the middle of the Kamakura Period and the beginning of the Meiji Period, and Nohgaku). It is the existence that has the appearance of Roya (an old man) and whose figure can be seen through human eyes only in the state of unconsciousness. Thus, it is the existence that cannot be seen when a conscious effort is made to see it. The same book also states that Okina is 'Shukujin' (a guardian god of arts), in other words, like Shoryo (the spirit of a dead person) connecting Konoyo (this life) and Anoyo (afterlife).

Performance Configuration

Today, the most commonly performed Shiki Sanban has the performance configuration as below.

Jodan (the first section)
Zatsuki (an entrance on the stage): The actors come onstage with a flute prelude.

Juka (an incantation song) for Sojo (the general opening): The Tayu of a troupe chants a celebratory Juka for the entire performance of Shiki Sanban.

The Okina section
Senzai no mai (the dance of Senzai): A youth dances as the opening performer of Okina.

Juka of Okina: Okina chants a celebratory Juka.

Okina no mai (the dance of Okina): Okina dances a celebratory dance.

The Sanbaso section
Momi no dan (the act of softening the audience through a kinetic dance involving foot stomping on the floor while chanting time): Sanbaso dances the dance of the opening performer himself.

Juka of Sanbaso: Sanbaso chants a celebratory Juka in the form of a dialogue with Senzai.

Suzu no mai (a bell dance): Sanbaso dances a celebratory dance.


Kogaki (literally, "small writing" indicating a special type of Noh or Kyogen performance) are for Shiki Noh (ritual Noh). They include Shonichi no Shiki (the first-day performance type), Futsuka no Shiki (the second-day performance type), Mikka no Shiki (the third-day performance type), Yokka no Shiki (the fourth-day performance type)), and Hoe no Shiki (the Buddhist service performance type). Various Kogaki were created to prevent the audience from being bored of Shiki Sanban, which was played first every day in the Gobandate Shiki Noh performance lasting several days in the Edo Period. Each Kogaki is used for the Noh performance played on the day in the title (Hokai no Shiki is for Hoe (Buddhist memorial services)). There are slight differences in Shisho (lyrics), and the contents do not vary much. The common form that is not accompanied by Kogaki is believed to be Shiki Sanban performed on the fourth day of the program. However, it is also said that essentially this was the legitimate version and the followers created the others to complement it.

Tachiai-mono (Pieces of Tachiai Noh, or Noh Performance Competitions)
Tachiai-mono include Yumiya no Tachiai (Tachiai of bows and arrows), Fune no Tachiai (Tachiai of the boat), and Junitsuki Orai (the comings and goings of months). The number of Okina is increased to three (in Yumiya no Tachiai and Fune no Tachiai). They dance Aimai (a dance that two or more dancers dance simultaneously on the same stage, in this case Kakeri, or an anguish dance, which refers to the movement indicating the deranged state of warriors who have fallen into the suffering of the Shura-do, or the world of eternal struggle, crazed women, or other delusional characters) while chanting a celebratory Noh text.
These Kogaki are unique programs that are performed together by the Tayu of different schools (Jiutai is mixed.)
Okina was dedicated to Tonomine Sarugaku (Sarugaku performed at the Danzan-jinja Shrine of Tonomine-dera Temple) in the form of Yoza Tachiai (Noh performance competitions, in which Noh actors of yoza, or four Za (troupes), namely Kanze, Hosho, Kanparu, and Kongo, perform Noh on the same stage on the same day in competition with each other) already in the Muromachi Period. Thus, its history is long and distinguished. Furthermore, Yumiya no Tachiai is a Noh song with a long and honorable history that was certainly played in the Utaizome-shiki (a New Year's ceremony for the first Noh singing of the year in the home of a shogun) of the Bakufu (the Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) during the Edo Period.

On rare occasions, Noh such as 'Takasago' (the dune), 'Yoro' (the care of the aged), 'Tsuru Kame' (the crane and the tortoise), and 'Oimatsu' (the old pine tree) are performed by the same set of Noh actors after 'Okina.'
These are called 'Okina-tsuki.'
Only auspicious programs are made 'Okina-tsuki.'
The Noh performances that take this form are treated as the most prestigious ones. Yet, they are also physically the most demanding ones, because some performers, such as Hayashi-kata (instrumental performers), have to be on the stage for about three hours.

Shiki Sanban as a Folk Entertainment
Some Sarugaku actors were assimilated and incorporated into Yamato Sarugaku (Sarugaku in Yamato Province) and became the bearers of the Shikigaku (the ceremonial art) of the Samurai, or warrior, society in the Edo Period. There were also many others who inherited Shiki Sanban as an indigenous form of entertainment across Japan. Such Shiki Sanban is performed as a folk entertainment today. Examples include Ozawa Shiki Sanban of Ozawa-kyo, Hinohara-mura, which is designated as a Tokyo intangible folk cultural asset, as well as Sasano Shiki Sanban of Sasano-kyo and Furumi Shiki Sanban, which has been handed down from generation to generation in the Hakusan-jinja Shrine of Hiraizumi-cho, Iwate Prefecture.

[Original Japanese]