The Kabuki-za is a fancy-pants theater in Ginza for the screening of Kabuki- a highly stylized and traditional (read ‘boring to most people’) form of storied stage performance. The Kabuki-za is famous as the principal theater for this kind of show in Tokyo- with a long and varied history dating all the way back to 1924.
I’ve been to Kabuki once, at this theater, around 5 years ago. As with sumo, I found the whole affair terribly dull and uncomfortable. As with sumo, I think the only way to appreciate Kabuki is to gradually, over years, inure oneself to what at first seems like dullness but upon reflection is revealed to be centuries of intricately refined and re-refined practise. Sumo is a long haul sport, like Test Match cricket; tuning in to watch for a few hours will have little meaning and not be especially interesting, whereas keeping an eye on the whole multi-day affair and watching strategic matches in bite-size gulps can be intensely exciting. Kabuki is an even longer-haul. You need to watch the extreme long game, going back decades, centuries even, back to the days of the Floating World when it really got up a head of steam.
Most young Japanese have not been to Kabuki. It is a relic, fossilized- the settings always medieval, the stories and themes always revolving around the same traditional aspects- honor of the master, duty to family and feudal lord, self-sacrifice, doomed love. It’s generally very bleak stuff. Add to that the extreme ritualisation of every movement and action designed to slow the flow of the story, archaic language, and story structures we would not recognize as ‘stories’ in the West, and you’ve got a recipe for falling asleep. Though they do the best they can to keep you from sleeping, as all the chairs are incredibly tight and uncomfortable. If you have long legs, it’s doubtful you’ll even be able to fit.
These are old wine or sake drums, stacked up to celebrate something or other.
The Kabuki-za was intended to come off both Baroque and similar to a traditional Japanese castle. This heavy tiled and carved roof contributes to both impressions.
The Shochiku crest- the only family/company of actors who perform in the Kabuki-za.
Location – Ginza
Entry – Every day there are shows, entrance price varies, from around 4,000 yen upwards.
Facts – 1924, before that 1889.
Highlights – Railing against kabuki.
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