Noh is a sophisticated and mysterious type of traditional Japanese theatre where actors and musicians perform while wearing exquisite masks and ornate costumes. Tsumura Kimiko, a Japanese actor and playwright who was one of the earliest female figures in the world of Noh, is honoured in today’s Doodle and on her 120th birthday. Through her plays, she dismantled barriers in the once male-dominated art form and established new artistic values.
On this day in 1902, Tsumura was born in Akashi, Japan. Tsumura made the decision to pursue traditional theatre when she was a young woman after falling in love with playwriting. Since girls were not allowed in professional productions of Noh in Tokyo in the early 1900s, this was going to be difficult.
When Tsumura was seventeen years old, her life abruptly changed when she enrolled in Kanze Kasetsu’s acting class. Tsumura memorised all 200 of the traditional Noh plays throughout her time in school. She was subsequently given the chance to go to Korea’s Busan and teach there, where she eventually established herself as a capable teacher. She gave her first live appearance on stage at the age of nineteen.
The Nohgaku Association, which mediated and regulated all Noh performances in Japan, was astonished when word of her performance reached her native country. Tsumura’s teacher-student relationship with Kasetsu quickly came to an end when she was told not to get in touch with the association.
Tsumura, who was unable to give up on her dream, returned to Japan in 1925 and established her own school, Ryokusen-Kai, where she strived to perfect every facet of the art. She wrote and performed several of her own plays throughout the course of the following fifty years while alternating between Japan and Korea. Many of her students went on to achieve success as performers, carrying on her passion and enthusiasm for the profession. Tsumura pioneered the way for succeeding generations of female Noh actresses, and her achievements are still praised and honoured today.
Happy birthday, Kimiko Tsumura!