Five Modern Noh Plays

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Five Modern Nō Plays
Written by Yukio Mishima
Original language Japanese

Five Modern Nō Plays is a collection of plays written by Japanese writer Yukio Mishima. Mishima wrote these plays between 1950 and 1955 and presented them as modern plays in Tokyo. Of these five, only The Damask Drum was expressed in the traditional Nō fashion. The Lady Aoi was expressed as a Western-style Opera. The plays take older Nō plots or traditional and foreign fairy tales and bring them to a modern setting.

Famed Japan scholar Donald Keene translated "Five Modern Nō Plays."


A poet meets Komachi, a repulsive-looking old woman, at a Tokyo park in the night. She expresses the memory of when she had been lovely 80 years ago. She reminisces on a night in the 1880s, and together with the help of the poet (who acts the part of the Military Officer with whom she fell in love), they relive that night. The poet realizes that she is still beautiful, and sees past her ragged clothes and wretched body. But expressing her beauty can only result in death.

  • The Damask Drum:

An old man becomes enamored with a neighbor. The neighbor and her associates play a trick on the man by challenging him to sound a drum. If he can make the drum sound, he will earn a kiss. However, this drum is made of damask, and is only a prop, incapable of making any sound.

  • Kantan:

A youth who see no meaning in anything, wonders what will happen if he sleeps on a magical pillow which makes the dreamer realize what he already understands, the futility of existence.


Mishima received the illustrious Kishida Prize for Drama from Shinchosha Publishing, 1955.

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