Bangai Noh Introduction - 番外謡曲入門

What are bangai noh plays?1

In the first few decades of the sixteenth century, a number of encyclopedic works on noh were compiled from older records and oral traditions.[1] Altogether more than three hundred and fifty plays are listed, together with information about authorship and performance details. Plays mentioned in these works can confidently be dated to the early or mid Muromachi period-and it is worth noting that the number well exceeds the current repertoire of 254, plays that are still in the modern performance tradition, the so-called genkō yōkyoku 現行謡曲.[2] By the end of the Muromachi period, as many as 760 plays can be found listed in another work of this kind.[3] Texts survive for a large majority of the additional plays, as well as the great number produced from the late sixteenth century onwards. Estimates as to the total number of surviving plays has been revised upwards from 2500-ten times the number in the current repertoire-to a figure in excess of 3000.[4] By no means all or most of them were ever performed widely, many may in fact been written by or for amateurs who wanted plays on a given subject for su-utai 素謡い recitation, singing without costumes or accompaniment of drum and flute. 

There is thus a vast corpus of now largely unread plays that have fallen out of the performance tradition, or were never really part of it in the first place. Such plays are known as bangai yōkyoku 番外謡曲, "extra-repertory" (or "non-canonical") noh plays.

Here we offer several methods of looking into this body of literature and its history. To begin we offer two indexes of piece titles linked to further information: one to browse all noh plays on GloPAD by their performance status, and one to browse only bangai plays by the published collections in which they appear.

[1] Nōhon sakusha chūmon 能作者註文 (collophon dated 1524), Jika denshō 自家伝抄 (collophons dated 1414, 1489, and 1516), and Bugei rokurin shidai 舞芸六輪次第 (ca. 1510s).

[2] The current number of plays in the performance tradition of the five schools is some 254, give or take a few that are either brought back into the repertoire (fukkyoku 復曲) or dropped from active performance (haikyoku 廃曲). By comparison, as many as 548 are printed in the Meiji-period Hakubunkan edition (Haga and Sasaki 1913-1915), while the premodern encyclopedic Nōhon sakusha chūmon, Jika denshō, and Bugei rokurin shidai list 350, 346, and 207 plays respectively. Watanabe 1995, pp. 202-203.

[3] Iroha shakusha chūmon いろは作者註文 (before 1570), available in an annotated edition (Tanaka 1978).

[4] Nishino Haruo gives the figure of 2500 (Nishino and Hada 1997: 282), but now suggests that the total number is at least 3000 (personal correspondance, 2005).



  1. 1. The following explanation is taken from Michael Watson's AJLS essay introduction
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