Noh, Zen and Now

Author Information

Kim Rockell,
Komazawa University, Japan

DOI: 10.47298/cala2022.4-3
The GLOCAL Proceedings:  The GLOCAL Conference in Asia 2022


As part of the broader research project ‘Linking Japan to the world through the Performing Arts’ [JP20K01193], this paper explores the symbolic worldview evoked by the Japanese Noh theatre, Zen Buddhism, together with a contemporary iteration of Noh, set in cyberspace. This research draws on historical sources, and ethnomusicological perspectives gained through firsthand experience in learning to perform traditional Noh in Japan, and in producing contemporary, educational English language Noh-style plays in Fukushima and Tokyo between 2018–2021. I consider the complex semiotic resources combined in Noh as semiotic clusters (SC), to understand how such signs of imagination, identity, and experience connect people to their lifeworlds (Turino 1999). Concurrently, an English language production of Noh in cyberspace also points towards more dystopian aspects of the digital turn, exacerbated during COVID-19, such as sensorial multimedia floods and resultant ‘technological unconsciousness,’ for which Noh, Zen, and ‘now,’ understood as heightened consciousness in the present, may offer a curative offline alternative in the search for new symbolisms in a contemporary Asia.

Keywords: Noh, Zen, ethnomusicology, semiotics, theater-based education, performance-assisted learning


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