Photo/IllutrationA shot from a CGI animation of the Kurokawa Noh theater (Provided by Hideo Tamamoto, a special guest researcher at Tohoku University of Community Service and Science)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

TSURUOKA, Yamagata Prefecture--To help preserve the tradition of the Kurokawa Noh theater for posterity, a researcher has produced a 3-D CGI animation re-creating the actual movements of the centuries-old performing art.

Hideo Tamamoto, 69, a special guest researcher at Tohoku University of Community Service and Science (Koeki University), used a motion capture system to record the Noh movements to re-create the performance in animation so that the dance routines can be checked from all angles.

Designated as an important intangible folk cultural property by the central government, the Kurokawa Noh theater has been handed down in the city’s Kurokawa district.

Tamamoto has been studying ways to create an environment to pass down folk arts using virtual reality technologies. He started working on preserving the Kurokawa Noh theater in spring last year.

“I want to preserve the acts that haven’t been performed in a long while on a priority basis,” he said.

Tamamoto had a performer wear 17 motion capture sensors and dance “Takasago” and other acts. Based on the data, the researcher captured subtle movements of the arms and legs, as well as the position of the center of gravity, before re-creating the movements in 3-D.

The Kurokawa Noh theater has been performed by shrine parishioners and others for more than 500 years as a Shinto ritual. Two groups called “kamiza” and “shimoza” have repertoires different from one another. A total of about 500 acts are apparently performed by the two groups.

Because some of the acts haven’t been performed in a long time, there are also concerns about keeping the tradition going due to the falling birthrate.

Some acts are preserved on film, but the movements can only be seen from the angle from which they were shot. With the CGI anime, the performance can be seen from the side or the back.

However, Tamamoto’s anime is only a trial version. More work needs to be done to re-create the foot movements, but the researcher thinks he can fix the problem.

“It can be solved by using a more full-fledged motion capture system,” he said.

It was Yoshibu Ueno, 65, the “Noh dayu” chief actor of the shimoza group, who performed for the motion capture session to help Tamamoto create the 3-D CGI anime.

“It is also helpful for me to see how I dance when I watch it as an actor,” said Ueno, who also serves as director of the Kurokawa Noh Ogikaikan Museum.

A personal computer containing the trial edition of the CGI anime is scheduled to be set up at the museum to provide an opportunity for visitors to watch it, he added.