Friday, April 27, 2007

kabuki theater


Kabuki Theater :

Kabuki, one of Japan's traditional entertainments, originated in the 17th century. It was developed by merchants during Edo Era as a way to express their emotions. Although many women played female roles in early times, the Tokugawa Shogun banned appearance of women in Kabuki plays in the early 17th century. As a result, all female roles are played by male actors called Onna-gata and the beauty of the Onna-gata became one of the most distinctive features in Kabuki performances.

Part of the excitement of watching Kabuki comes from the audience. During a play, the audience shouts the names of actors during short pauses. The timing of the shout must be just right. It's an interesting phenomena. Other interesting things to notice during Kabuki are the colorful and gorgeous costumes and make-up which the actors wear. Also, you might want to pay attention to how the stage is equipped. When shifting scenes in a play, the stage revolves. This is called Mawari-butai and is one of the famous characteristics of Kabuki theater.

You will also see people dressed all in black on the stage. They are called Kuroko, and their jobs are to take care of props and actors. When they appears on the stage, the audience is supposed to treat them as invisible. Also, the traditional Japanese music that accompanies Kabuki performances might interests you. The musicians rotate in and out of sight on the stage, which carries them.

Most of all Kabuki plays were written during 17th-18th century, so the language is hard to understand, even for Japanese people. There are about 300 plays in the conventional kabuki repertoire. In the Kabuki-za theater, you can buy English programs or rent earphones with which you can listen to the explanations of shows in English.

Kabuki-za is the best theater. It is located in Ginza, Tokyo. (03-3541-3131) Kabuki performance are held year around in the Kabuki-za, except for August. You can buy tickets at the theater box office or reserve them on the phone.

Kabuki performances are usually very long and consist of many acts. If you are new to Kabuki, or don't have much time, you can view one act from the 4th floor. This area is available for people who can't stay through the whole performance, so they can leave during the break between acts without disturbing other people. The tickets for one act are called Makumi. These tickets are not sold in advance, but are available 20 min before each act. For visitors who want to save time and money, it might be a good idea to buy this ticket. (The earphone guide is not available here though.)

Here is a list of other theaters in which kabuki performances are held:

Kokuritsu Gekijo (National Theater of Japan)
Tokyo Shinbashi Enbu-jo (Japanese version)
Osaka Shochiku-za (Japanese version)
Also, Tokyo Hato Bus Kabuki Tour holds a 4-hour evening tour to visit Kabuki-za.

Enjoy!

No comments: