Temporary flowers and genuine flowers

(from the printed program, March 23, 2014)

The Olympic Games, a sports festival occurring once every four years, have come to a spectacular conclusion.
People used to say that it was meaningful simply to participate in the Olympics, but it seems to me that that has changed these days, so that what is meaningful is winning medals.
Countries invest in the development of athletes in order to gain national prestige by capturing medals. The Olympics seem to have deviated from amateurism, but they still delight us because the Games represent a pure, noble-minded sports festival of young athletes.
In the world of artistic skills, it is, on the other hand, difficult to reach a high level of maturity during one’s youth, despite devoting oneself to practicing and rehearsing from childhood. That is a difference between the skills of sports and artistic performance.
Zeami, the famous late-14th century playwright who created the Noh theater, distinguished “temporary flowers” and “genuine flowers” in his treatise on Noh drama, Fushi Kaden (The Book of the Flower), in which he used flowers as a metaphor for the sophisticated skills needed by performers and, more broadly, in people’s lives.
Zeami contrasted temporary glamour, such as a sweet voice and beautiful appearance, which he considered to be the flowers (or artistic skill) of youth, from genuine flowers, that is, artistry that continues at a high level even in aged persons, resulting from years of practicing.
In other words, it is necessary for young people to be objective about their own artistic skill, and not be misled by achieving a level of “temporary flowers”. It is important for them to be aware of this.
Performers should continuously practice when they are young, in spite of the allure of temporary beauty.
Support from the Agency for Cultural Affairs has made possible today’s recital by young performers who are seriously practicing in order to carry shinnai into the future. We at the Shinnai Association, and many other people as well, expect a great deal from them. We hope that this will be an opportunity for them to improve their artistic skill and develop shinnai, and that it will be the foundation for the blooming of genuine flowers.

Tsuruga Wakasanojo

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