If you’re researching, teaching, or simply a fan of Japanese performance arts, whether it’s Noh, kyōgen, or kabuki, then the Japanese Performing Arts Resource Center (JPARC) is an excellent way to find both basic and advanced information on a variety of topics. Administered as a part of GloPAC, the Global Performing Arts Consortium, JPARC is funded by grants from a number of foundations and moderated by contributing performance art scholars. JPARC includes sections for the analysis of certain topics, multimedia articles, and reference materials such as glossaries, bibliographies, browsing indexes, and timelines.
The wealth of information and the variety of mediums it uses is incredible. In fact, I’m almost at a loss as to how to approach discussing the content, because there’s just so much of it in so many areas that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Something that’s probably helpful to start with is to look at the Using JPARC section, which offers some helpful videos about how to navigate content on the site.
At its most basic navigation, JPARC is divided into Noh/Kyōgen, Puppetry/Kabuki, International, Playwrights/Texts, Theatre Prints and Illustrations, Stages/Scenery/Props, and Costumes/Masks/Makeup. Obviously, this covers a huge amount of ground. Not only that, but these sections all have several subsections of information individualized based on the art. For example, if we click on “Noh/Kyōgen,” we find seven more areas that include everything from performance history to a virtual Noh stage. This link leads to even more content, with diagrams of the stage, an interactive 3D tour of a Noh stage, and scrolling tour of the backstage area. Each section is handled differently depending on the content, so although you have these more interactive features in the noh section, for kabuki there’s video guides as well as full articles. Also, as you browse these pages, if you’re not familiar with the terminology being used, for example, if you’re clueless as to what a hashigakari is, the words are presented as links to glossary pages that have a wealth of information and images referring to the technical language.
Another benefit to JPARC is that all the images used originate from the GloPAD database, so anything you click you can find more information on. For example, if I’m in the Puppetry/Kabuki section and I click on an image that says “puppet manipulation” I’m immediately taken to the GloPAD database, which features all of the image’s info, including who’s in the picture, what it’s a picture of, the year, the performance, the place, and even the collection responsible for the picture. JPARC itself also has glossaries for each section (such as this one on puppetry and also has great multimedia features, like these audio clips of jōruri narrations of puppet plays.
The Bibliography section is another incredibly useful feature for those doing research, as it’s divided into “Translations” “Noh” “Puppetry” “Kyogen” “Kabuki” and “Other” and can be filtered by author, term, piece translation, performing art, year, title, OR type. So it’s excellent for browsing or looking up a specific item of interest. What’s also great is that filters are also done with links- so you don’t just browse by these broad categories blindly, but can click a specific person or title to get more materials through that filter.
The wealth of information on this site is staggering, and I couldn’t possibly touch on all of the articles, interviews, translations, glossaries, and multimedia resources included on the site in a single article. The sheer volume of content and the ability to cross-reference materials in numerous ways makes the Japanese Performing Arts Resource Center an unparalleled resource for the study of Japanese performance arts in the English language. If you have a serious or even passing interest in Japanese theatre, I highly recommend you lose yourself for a couple hours in the JPARC site and check out some of the fantastic materials they have to offer. Happy browsing!