What we do

Inanna’s descent to the nether world

  • Organization : Tenrai
  • Section : None
  • Type of Grant Program : Long
  • Art Forms : Interdisciplinary

Outline of the project

Project Outline
The production of “Inanna’s descent to the netherworld,” the world’s oldest known myth, in Sumerian, the world’s oldest known written language, in the style of Noh, the world’s oldest regularly staged dramatic form, is a three-year project. Noh actors like Noboru Yasuda and Kentaro Okutsu, life-sized puppets, dancers, reciter NanafukuTamagawa, flautist Satoshi Tsukitaku, lyres and other instruments, the production is a first-rank musical and visual spectacle with European performances in its third year. Along with annual small-venue performances of the work in process for general audiences in Tokyo, the project has also featured public lectures on such topics as mythology and the Sumerian language. In addition, over the three years of the project there have also been workshops on the physical expression of myth in such forms as Noh, song, dance, and recitation. A website makes information on the project available in Japan and abroad, and supertitles have been created for overseas performances.

Project Objectives
In the process of staging ancient myths, performers and audience members alike can rediscover and appreciate the formal, festive, and sacred characteristics of traditional Japanese arts, and develop new possibilities in their inheritance of traditional culture. With performances set for the British Museum in the UK and the Louvre Museum in France, both featuring significant collections of Sumerian artifacts, and in Lithuania, whose language is thought to be the closest to the Indo-European ancestor of most European languages today, the project transcends east and west to demonstrate a deepening of shared culture.
*British Museum performance, after discussion with local authorities, moved to London University. Louvre Museum performance cancelled under the influence of terrorist attack.

Outline of Project Year 1
Completion of first version of stage for “Inanna’s descent to the nether world,” small-hall public performance. Further performances held to coordinate Noh, recitation, and puppets. Workshops to polish Noh chorus, dancers, and singers. Results posted as occasion demands on website.
(1) “Inanna’s descent to the nether world” Tokyo small-hall performance
・Friday, November 13, 2015, Cerulean Tower Noh Theatre, Shibuya City, Tokyo (2 performances)
・Tuesday, February 16, 2016, POLYLOGUE, Nihon Design Center 13thFloor, Chuo City, Tokyo (1 performance)
(2) Noh, recital, and puppet performance
・Monday, August 3, 2015 POLYLOGUE, Nihon Design Center 13thFloor, Chuo City, Tokyo (1 performance)
(3) Workshops
7 workshops on Noh, Sumerian language, recital, dance, and singing.

Outline of Project Year 2
・Creation and performance of 2 productions: script, direction, cast, and stage changed from the “Ancient Version” of Year 1 to the “Future Version,” along with creation of a “Revised Ancient Version.” Principal Noh, Kyogen, and recitation cast unchanged.
・In preparation for the next year’s performance, the Sumerian lyre is recreated, with production entrusted to British and American specialists.
(1) “Inanna’s descent to the nether world: Ancient Version” 2015 Year 1 Edition performances
・Wednesday, April 13, 2016 Saitokuji, Taito City, Tokyo (1 performance)
(2) “Inanna’s descent to the nether world: Ancient Version” 2016 New Edition production and performances (2)
・Tuesday, December 27, 2016 Cerulean Tower Noh Theatre, Shibuya City, Tokyo (1 performance)
(3) “Gathering to Convey the Power of Classic Noh” lecture and performance to further the understanding of classic Noh theater
・Tuesday, February 21, 2017 Toko-ji, Shibuya City, Tokyo (1 performance)
(4) “Rokyoku, Kyogen, and Sumerian,” 7 production workshops
(5) Inspection of European performance venues, meeting, workshops
(6) Production of Sumerian lyre
※Planned Year 2 performance of “Inanna’s descent to the nether world: Future Version” postponed to Year 3 owing to unavailability of principal performer (guest performer).

Outline of Project Year 3
・New productions of “Inanna’s descent to the nether world: Ancient Version” and “Inanna’s descent to the nether world: Future Version” performed in Tokyo Noh theaters.
・Script and direction finalized for European tour, and performances in England (London University) and Lithuania (Vilnius University)
・Production of English subtitles for European tour, and distribution of English-language script.
・Website renewed with wider range of information, and English as occasion demands.
(1) Same-time performance of “Inanna’s descent to the nether world: Ancient Version” (2017 Edition) and “Future Version.”
・Friday, June 23, 2017Cerulean Tower Noh Theatre, Shibuya City, Tokyo (1 performance)
 *“Ancient Version” 2016 Edition revised, new
 *“Future Version”:new edition with addition of Ema Yuasa contemporary dance and recitation by Seiko Ito
(2) European tour
・February 2018, England, Lithuania (total of 2 performances)
*European tour new version
(3) Production workshops (recitation)
(4) Website renewal, English


Noboru Yasuda
Noboru Yasuda is a Noh artist of the Shimogakari Housho school, and the organizer of “Tenrai Noh.” He also presents performances featuring Noh recitation techniques, collaborating with various artists. Representative productions include “Ma” (Grand Forum commemorating the 1300th anniversary of the capital relocation to Heijo-kyo [Nara]); “Water Dream” (opening performance of Waterras in Ochanomizu); “‘Narrow Road to the Deep North’ Illusions,” “Izanagi’s Descent to the Netherworld,” “Orpheus’s Descent to the Netherworld,” and “The Wedding (Stravinsky)” (all at Schule im Berg). He is also the author of numerous books.


Noboru Yasuda