The Nanto Negi school was a minor school of kyôgen performance, active in the late 16th through the 17th century. Operating outside of those kyôgen schools attached to the four major schools of Noh performance, the Nanto Negi are known for more purely comedic styles of performance, and are associated with the early development of kabuki.
The school is said to have been founded by a pair of actors named Toppa and Sôsuke who were hired to perform at Kasuga Shrine in Nara. Temples and shrines began to decline in power in the late 16th century, however, and were no longer necessarily able to support such an acting troupe; thus, the Negi actors went out into the community, and became popular performers (i.e. for commoner audiences). They continued to be patronized by elite audiences, however, as well, performing regularly for example at the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, accompanying dancers of a particular form known as yayako odori or kouta odori.
The Negi are mentioned a number of times in the 1651 Waranbe-gusa by professional kyôgen actor Ôkura Toraaki, who points to the Negi school as examples of a degraded, wrong-headed, form of kyôgen, to his mind. He emphasizes the elite quality and noble history of his art, its associations with Noh, its focus on the aesthetics of yûgen, and its intelligent use of comedy to comment on the human experience; this, in contrast to the Negi approach, which in his view focused on pure humor and amusement, reducing the kyôgen actors to mere clowns, and the kyôgen itself to no better than the lewd women's dances then known as kabuki.
- Andrew Tsubaki, "The Performing Arts of Sixteenth-Century Japan: A Prelude to Kabuki," Educational Theatre Journal 29:3 (1977), 303.
- The school takes its name in part from this geographical origin, Nara being the "southern capital," or Nanto 南都.
- Tsubaki, 307.