Behind the Mask of the World's Oldest Surviving Dramatic Art

Noh theater, or Nohgaku (能楽), is one of the world’s most ancient stage traditions still being actively performed today. Known for its use of elaborate masks known as nohmen, Noh performances weave together supernatural elements and Buddhist philosophies along with music and dance.

Master performer Michishige Udaka has been a practitioner of Noh for more than 60 years. Although the traditional art form has declined in Japan, Udaka carries on the tradition by carving his own masks—the only person who still does so today. In The Spirit of Noh by filmmaker Edwin Lee, join Udaka as he prepares for his next performance and reflects on the future of his art form in modern-day Japan.

Follow Edwin Lee on Vimeo and visit Fallout Media here. To learn more, visit The International Institute of Noh.

This short film is produced with the support of Japan Curator, a bespoke travel company that promotes the revitalization of traditional cultures and craftsmanship in Japan.

The Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers from around the world and selected by National Geographic editors. We look for work that affirms National Geographic's belief in the power of science, exploration, and storytelling to change the world. To submit a film for consideration, please email sfs@natgeo.com. The filmmakers created the content presented, and the opinions expressed are their own, not those of National Geographic Partners.

Behind the Mask of the World's Oldest Surviving Dramatic Art

Noh theater, or Nohgaku (能楽), is one of the world’s most ancient stage traditions still being actively performed today. Known for its use of elaborate masks known as nohmen, Noh performances weave together supernatural elements and Buddhist philosophies along with music and dance.

Master performer Michishige Udaka has been a practitioner of Noh for more than 60 years. Although the traditional art form has declined in Japan, Udaka carries on the tradition by carving his own masks—the only person who still does so today. In The Spirit of Noh by filmmaker Edwin Lee, join Udaka as he prepares for his next performance and reflects on the future of his art form in modern-day Japan.

Follow Edwin Lee on Vimeo and visit Fallout Media here. To learn more, visit The International Institute of Noh.

This short film is produced with the support of Japan Curator, a bespoke travel company that promotes the revitalization of traditional cultures and craftsmanship in Japan.

The Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers from around the world and selected by National Geographic editors. We look for work that affirms National Geographic's belief in the power of science, exploration, and storytelling to change the world. To submit a film for consideration, please email sfs@natgeo.com. The filmmakers created the content presented, and the opinions expressed are their own, not those of National Geographic Partners.