The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Artist Interview
Pioneering a new realm of creative design   The world of costume artist Kodue Hibino
3rd NODA MAP production TABOO
(April – May, 1996 at Bunkamura Theatre Cocoon)
Written and directed by Hideki Noda
Costume designed by Kodue Naito (Hibino's maiden name)
Photo: Tsukasa Aoki
NODA MAP extra production
Isao Hasuzume vs Hideki Noda
two-person play Shi

(December, 1995 at Roppongi Jiyu Gekijo Theatre)
Composition and directed by Hideki Noda
Costume designed by Kodue Naito (Hibino's maiden name)
10th NODA MAP production Hashire Merusu
(December, 2004 – January, 2005 at Bunkamura Theatre Cocoon)
Written and directed by Hideki Noda
Costume designed by Kodue Hibino
Hashire Merusu
Photo: Tadayuki Minamoto
Hashire Merusu
Togitatsu no Utare Noda version
(August, 2001 at Kabuki-za)
Written and directed by Hideki Noda
Costume designed by Kodue Hibino
Togitatsu no Utare
Togitatsu no Utare
Hideki Noda is the playwright and director you have done the most work with, since 1990 when you first did the costume designs for the Toho production of [his play] Karasawagi. What is the process like when you work with Noda?
First, he gives me the script for the play, and I read it several times. But Noda’s plays are so complex that simply reading the script is not enough to fully understand them, so I meet with him and try to get him to explain them. But, he is one who doesn’t really like to explain things and I end up having to fill out the images myself (laughs).

Does Noda not give you any specific images of what he wants for the costumes?
At first he did. For Karasawagi I was very nervous because it was my first time working with Noda-san and the play was going to be done at a very big theater, the Nissei Theater, and for a big production company, Toho. So, I was being overly careful to make designs that I thought would be acceptable to everyone. But, when I took my first set of sketches to Noda-san, he looked at them and said, “Kodue-san, these aren’t like you. They are much too ordinary.”
I took another week and redid all the designs and this time he liked them a lot. He told me, “You should always work freely and boldly like this.” The support he gave me with those words is something that I feel very fortunate to have received at that point in my career. Noda-san is a person who is always full of interest for things he sees and he has never given me any instructions or made demands concerning the things I create. Instead, he always thinks of ways to make the best possible use of my designs when staging and directing a work.

You have continued to work with Noda until the present. Have there been any changes in the working process over the years?
I have changed. And since Noda-san’s plays have also changed, with the themes becoming more straight-forward in terms of the realities they deal with, and thus easier to read, there are an increasing number of cases in his recent works where a certain type of “reality” is necessary in the costumes. While I have felt some pressure stemming from the fact that expressing those realities may not be my strong point, I also feel that I have come to understand Noda-san’s ideas more fully.

With your costume designs—and not just those done for Noda’s plays—we feel that you bring in creative and formative design elements that transcend the usual aspects of “reality,” such as a character’s life-style, environment or job. Do these elements usually come from interpretation of the play or the director’s staging plans?
Sometimes the hints that give birth to the creative ideas come from my stock of designs or my imagination and sometimes they come from elements within the play or the director’s image. In the case of Noda plays, there is often no clear period or country where they are set. In that case, I want to create new costumes like nothing people have seen before, and I make dress the actors in costumes that are beautiful and fun for the audience to enjoy.

Is there a particular element, such as color, form or material that your designs usually originate from?
It may be that these elements don’t come to mind separately. When I am doing sketches for a costume, the form naturally comes first and then I color it in, but in some cases there is a “key color” that has been decided on prior to the start of the costume design stage. Because I often use unusual materials, some people assume that the designs are material-based. In the world of fashion there are cases where new materials are created from scratch, but in most of my work there is neither the time nor the budget necessary to create new materials, so I go out and search for existing materials that fit the design’s image.

Besides your work with Noda, you are also known for your creative challenge to design costumes for the Cocoon Kabuki series of new-age Kabuki stage in a regular theater by the director Kazuyoshi Kushida and starring the Kabuki actor Kankuro (now Kanzaburo) Nakamura.
I really enjoyed working in Kabuki. I never expected that my Kabuki would fit my style of design so well. I found that my sense of color fit beautifully with Kabuki. You could say that contemporary “reality” is not my strong point, but in Kabuki costume design there is no need for such reality.
But actually, when I was first asked to work on Kabuki costumes I had always thought of my work as avant-garde and basically Western in approach. So, I was asking why they had come to me of all people with this offer to work on Kabuki. But when I actually started working on it, I was surprised to discover just how Japanese I really am. Take the color of the sky for example. It is clearly different in Japan and France, isn’t it? When the two colors are placed side by side the one I choose is the color of the Japanese sky. Working on Kabuki I rediscovered how deeply the Japanese air and light are ingrained in me.
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