Kanze school

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  • Japanese: 観世流 (Kanze ryuu)

The Kanze school is the oldest of the five major schools of Noh theatre, and the one with the most direct lineage from Zeami Motokiyo, who is often said to be the founder of Noh. The school takes its name from the names of Zeami's father Kan'ami, and of Zeami himself (Kan[ami]+Ze[ami]).


The Kanze school, and indeed Noh itself, was developed by Kan'ami and Zeami out of Yamato sarugaku, the sarugaku tradition of Yamato province, in which both Kan'ami and Zeami were raised and trained. Zeami oversaw numerous innovations and experiments in style, adopting elements of the performance style of Ômi sarugaku as he transformed sarugaku into a new artform, which later came to be known as Noh.

Zeami passed on leadership of the school to his eldest son Kanze Motomasa in 1422 and took the tonsure; however, Zeami and Motomasa both lost favor with the Shogun shortly afterwards, and Zeami was exiled to Sado Island in 1434. Shogun Ashikaga Yoshinori, meanwhile, began patronizing Zeami's nephew On'ami, who became head of the Kanze school in 1433, and who is today considering the third head of the school, skipping over Motomasa.


In 1571, the Kanze school relocated to Tokugawa Ieyasu's castle town at Hamamatsu.

Heads of the Kanze school


  • Andrew Tsubaki, "The Performing Arts of Sixteenth-Century Japan: A Prelude to Kabuki," Educational Theatre Journal 29:3 (1977), 299-309.