Noh (or Noh-gaku, the art of Noh) is a traditional theatrical art improved
and established by Kan'ami and Ze'ami (parent and child), and supported
by ASHIKAGA Yoshimitsu, the third shogun of the Muromachi-Shogunate. During
the Azuchi-Momoyama Era, the Noh-devotee TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi protected the
art. The prefabricated Noh stage, which Hideyosi took with him even to
the war fields, was awarded to MIZUNO Katsunari, the first lord of Fukuyama-han(-domain).
By constructing the stage, Katsunari was said to appreciate Noh plays within
and out of his castle at Fukuyama. You can find the stage, a National Important
Cultural Property, in the precincts of Numakuma Temple at the southern
tip of Fukuyama City.
Kita-ryu is the newest of the Five 'Shite Kata' schools; the others are Kanze-ryu, Konparu-ryu, Kongo-ryu and Hosho-ryu.
KITA Shichidayu established Kita-ryu at the beginning of the Edo Era, firmly authorized by TOKUGAWA Hidetada, the second shogun of the Tokugawa-Shogunate.
Noh became popular among the samurai class in Fukuyama under the patronage of the Mizunos. In the late 18th Century, the townspeople of Fukuyama also came to enjoy Noh.
Though the zeal for Noh ceased once with the end of Tokugawa-Shogunate, the entrance of the most renowned KITA Rokuheita the 14th raised the Kita-ryu school on stage again.
As its characteristics, Kita-ryu has a simple, magnificent and mighty form, and its 'utai' (the Noh chants) known as strong and sturdy in quality.
Under the name of Kita-ryu, along with the head Kita-family, there are twenty families which can hold shokubun (the title given to the professional Noh performers at the highest level).
As the Noh family line protected by Fukuyama-han became extinct soon after the Meiji Restoration, the pupil of its last master succeeded the Noh school. His name was OSHIMA Shichitaro, a vassal of Fukuyama-han and the grandfather to OSHIMA Hisami the third. Shichitaro, who was also apprenticed to the 14th head of Kita-ryu, made Noh popular throughout the Bingo region during the Meiji Era. OSHIMA Hisataro, the son of Sichitaro, built up a Noh stage in Fukuyama in 1914, and he created and performed Tomo-no-ura in 1917.
Since Hisami the third passed away in February of 2004, the fourth successor Masanobu has led the Oshima Family of Kita-ryu, while Teruhisa the fifth, Kinue the eldest daughter, and two other daughters have helped their father with the Noh activites.